Piano Studies Are Essential For All Music Majors

Piano Studies Are Essential For All Music Majors

Piano Studies

Most good music schools will require all students to take piano as a second study instrument if piano is not their main instrument.

This requirement is often called "Piano Proficiency". This often comes as a surprise to many music students who do not expect that they will need to play piano when they go to music school.

Students often find that taking additional piano classes adds more pressure to their studies and means they have less time at music school to focus on their primary goals. I would advise any music student considering going on to study music at a good music school to be prepared and to take piano classes before enrolling in the school. Plan ahead. If there is a particular music school that you may be interested in attending, find out as soon as possible what the piano requirements are. There are several reasons that piano is so often a requirement for all music majors. One of the most important reasons is that a basic ability on the piano will help with theory, musicianship, harmony and composition classes.

The "National Association for Music Education" has the following advice on its website under the title What it Takes To Be a Music Major Students must develop basic keyboard skills, which are helpful in studying scores, teaching harmony, and providing basic accompaniment. As a matter of fact, a non-keyboard person can never get enough time at the keyboard. At the very minimum, students should acquire fundamental keyboard skills. To do so, all students should take applied piano instruction even if it is not required for ones particular major. Even if piano is not a requirement it is often advisable to have some piano skills before auditioning for music school as there will certainly be areas of the curriculum that the student with good keyboard skills will find easier." The below quotes are taken from the audition and entry requirements from a number of good music schools.

University of Missouri-Columbia

Bachelor of Music (BM) in Music - Click Here Group Piano Requirement: Four semesters of group piano are required for all BM students, except piano majors, and these courses are normally taken in the freshman and sophomore years. Non-piano majors with piano skills may audition for advanced standing in this sequence of classes.

Secondary Education - Click Here Additional Courses Required for Admission to Phase II by Program Area-Music Education: Piano 2610 (or piano proficiency)

Truman State University - Click Here BA Music Degree In order to graduate with the BA degree and apply for admission to the MAE program all music majors are required to demonstrate basic piano proficiency in one of three ways: 1) pass the Piano Competency Exam 2) complete Keyboard Skills IV, or 3) complete the eight-week Advanced Keyboard Skills Class.

St. Louis University - Click Here Bachelor of Arts in Music: Performance Emphasis MUSC 250 Piano III: Intermediate MUSC 251 Piano IV: Upper Intermediate Many music majors may need to take Piano I and II (MUSC 126 and 127) before enrolling in Piano III and Piano IV.

Drury - Click Here Piano Proficiency All music majors must pass a piano proficiency exam, and will enroll in applied piano lessons until it is passed. Admission Policy (Students must) Pass a piano proficiency examination (and guitar proficiencies for music therapy majors). Student Portfolio - Admissions Music majors are required to assemble a portfolio of their work for self-evaluation and review by the music faculty. This includes; "Documentation of piano proficiency achievement." Sophomore Review Students must also have passed level 2 of Applied Levels and major scales of Piano Proficiency. Page 79 of the linked document above states that students must do Applied Piano "Until Piano Proficiency Examination is passed."

University of Rochester (Eastman School of Music) - Click Here. The music education program entry procedure requires students to harmonize a passage of music on the piano. See the document "Music Education Skills Assessment Sample" on the above website.

Indiana University-Bloomington - Click Here Secondary Piano and Keyboard Proficiency. All students must pass the P105 Keyboard Proficiency Examination or I105 Keyboard Proficiency Equivalency

Penn State University - Click Here Becoming a Penn State Major What should I be doing to prepare to become a successful music major? We also encourage you to begin piano lessons (either privately or in a class) as all Penn State music majors are required to play the piano at a proficient level prior to graduation.

Arizona State University - Click Here Piano Diagnostic Exam All entering freshman and transfer music majors (except keyboard majors) must take a Piano Diagnostic Exam. The purpose of this exam is to assess your current level of keyboard facility and to determine which level of class piano you need to be in to complete your degree requirements. You may place into any of the levels of the class piano curricula, or may be sufficiently advanced to have all of the class piano requirements waived.

North Central College - IL - Click Here Do I have to play piano to be a music major?  All music majors study private piano and must pass a sophomore proficiency.

Stanford - Click Here The Piano Proficiency Test is an important aspect of the Music Major. For information about what is expected, please download the Piano Proficiency Test. You will need a SUNet ID and password to access this document.

Centenary College of Louisiana - Click Here How do I become a music major? The Piano Placement test takes place in one of the piano studios. You will be asked to show your knowledge of the keyboard in some scales and sight-reading.

School of Music University of Wisconsin - Madison - Click Here Piano Placement Auditions  All music majors (except piano majors) must fulfill a piano proficiency requirement to complete their degree.

Chapman University - Click Here Proficiency Changes for Music Majors All music majors must pass your proficiency by the end of the second year of piano.

University of North Texas - Click Here Entrance Exams for Music Majors Piano Placement (for non-piano majors): all students will be placed in appropriate level for class piano study as a music major.

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor - Click Here Page 27 of the new student guide says; All applicants must perform an audition on their principal instrument or voice and complete a placement evaluation on piano.

The Catholic University of America Piano Proficiency Requirements are listed here.

Vanguard Department of Music - Click Here Basic piano proficiency skills are required of all Music and Music and Worship Arts majors for graduation.

Lee University - Click Here The Piano Proficiency requirement is part of a continuing effort to prepare music graduates for their respective careers in the best and most thorough manner possible. We require it because the development of basic, functional keyboard skills is considered essential to success in all music careers.

Lewis & Clark College of Arts and Sciences> - Click Here All music majors must pass the piano proficiency examination by the second semester of their junior year, without exception.

Idaho State University - Click Here All music majors are required to pass the functional piano proficiency examination as one of the graduation requirements for any music degree.

Bowling Green State University - Click Here Will I be required to take piano as a music major? Yes, taking piano is part of the curriculum. You will be placed in a group piano class according to your level. A piano placement exam takes place during summer orientation and registration. Functional keyboard requirements  Music education majors are required to pass three functional piano proficiency examinations. Proficiency examinations must be passed to fulfill the requirements of the corresponding piano class course. The following skills are required for each proficiency examination:

  • Proficiency I: (freshman level) scales, chord progressions, beginning harmonization, and sight reading.
  • Proficiency II: (sophomore level) improvisation of keyboard accompanying styles, harmonization, score reading, and instrument transposition.
  • Proficiency III: (sophomore level) classroom, ensemble, and solo accompanying.

All entering freshmen are placed according to their keyboard skills.

Occidental College Piano Proficiency Requirements for Music Majors - Requirements for non-pianists on the piano.

Oberlin College Conservatory - Click Here Music Education Degree Applicants will demonstrate their skills (i.e., keyboard proficiency, harmonization, sight-singing, and rhythm-reading).

Berkeley School of Music - Click Here Do you need piano skills to be in the music program? If not, what options are there for you to learn how to play the piano?  You do not necessarily need prior piano experience, although having some will make the work a lot easier for you.

Curtis Institute of Music - Click Here The above page shows that most courses offered in the bachelor of music programs require "supplementary piano" to be taken.

University of Oregon - Click Here Students whose primary performance medium is voice must pass a minimum of three terms of voice performance studies at the MUP 344 level or above. They must also pass a minimum of three terms of piano performance studies at the MUP 141 level or above and pass a music education piano proficiency examination.


This is just a small sample of the piano proficiency requirements for a handful of good music schools. There are hundreds if not thousands of similar pages with the same advice from music schools across the country available for review on the internet. Go to Google and do a search for "music majors piano proficiency requirements" or contact the music school you are interested in directly to ask about their piano proficiency requirements.

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