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Department of Music

MUSZ140 – Intro. To Musical Expression

Course:  MUS Z140 – Introduction to Musical Expression       Semester:  Fall 2006
Professor: Laura Lydy Office:  CM 33  Phone:  (260) 481-0479

Class meeting time and location: Sat. 9:00 – 11:50, CM 35A

Course Description:  Introduction to the fundamentals of music and their application in the process of writing and performing music.  Students will learn to read musical notation, become familiar with the guitar and its use in playing melodies, and develop skills in playing guitar as an accompaniment instrument.  Emphasis is on learning fundamental concepts of music theory, such as, learning to spell chords, to play chord progressions, to understand musical form, and to use songwriting as a creative expression technique.

Course Goals:  The fundamental objective of Z140 is the fulfillment of the general education requirement area V: Creative and Artistic Expression.  The goals of general education are as follows:  to write and speak with clarity and precision, to understand the important modes of human thought that are the foundations for science and philosophy and art and social behavior, and to understand the traditions that have informed one’s own and other cultures of the world are broad and abstract.  They are best achieved by ensuring that all students will complete a structured, yet flexible program consisting primarily of courses that are outside their major discipline.  The following requirements, definitions, and criteria are proposed with this principle in mind.    

More specifically, Area V: Creative and Artistic Expression requires practicing the visual, the performing, the literary, the popular, or the applied arts as a means of exploring and enlarging human sensibilities.  The goals will be pursued in the following manner.
1)         Each student will demonstrate understanding of the creative process by creating and performing a work of personal expression.

  1. The course will show how the creative process develops from the idea stage to production; how elements of the particular medium are synthesized into the final work; and how applicable skills and techniques are used to bring the work to fruition.
  2. Students will be exposed to the processes of observation, reflection, and critical evaluation of their creative efforts, and will involve students in written and oral communication of the analysis of their work.

Prerequisites:  No prior musical experience is expected of the student.

Required Texts: 

  1. Surmani, Andrew. Essentials of MusicTheory – Complete. Alfred Publishing Co.
  1. One book of blank manuscript paper.


Other required materials:

  1. Acoustic, classical or electric guitar, in good repair and working order.
  2. A binder for organizing class handouts.


It is imperative that students bring all required texts and materials to each class meeting.

Course content:  at the conclusion of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Read musical notation in treble clef.
  2. Read and tap out rhythmic patterns of varying difficulties, in 4/4, ¾, 2/4, 2/2, 6/8 time.
  3. Play simple melodies in the first position of the guitar with correct rhythm and pitches.
  4. Learn basic accompanying skills on the guitar.  Various strumming and finger-picking patterns will be introduced.
  5. Learn fundamental concepts of music theory, such as, key identification, function of chords within a given key and chord “spelling.”  The keys of C, D, G, A, F, Am, Em, Dm will be our primary focus.
  6. Identify written and aural examples of basic formal types such as:  sentence, binary, tertiary and 12 bar blues form.
  7. Demonstrate limited aural skills through written dictation and “sight-singing” examples.
  8. Complete a composition project, including the writing of a melody, and harmony in one of the musical forms listed above.  Original lyrics or a poem may be featured in the project.
  9. Perform composition project as a final “performance” expression.

Classroom assignments:  Assignments will consist of written assignments and playing assignments on the guitar.

Attendance:  The student is expected to be at all classes.  More than two absences in the class will lower the final grade one letter per absence.  If the student shows up for the class unprepared or without all the required materials the student will receive a failing grade for that class meeting.  Excessive tardiness or leaving the class early will be accrued as an absence.  If a student must miss a class it is not necessary to contact the instructor.  The instructor will not be available to go over an entire missed class session with the student.  It is advisable to arrange with another classmate to get the notes for the unattended session.

All exams will be held on announced dates.  If the student cannot attend an exam, the instructor must be notified prior to the exam date.  Only students who have an excused absence will be allowed to reschedule an exam.  Only doctor’s excuses or emergencies will constitute an excused absence.

Practice:  When treated as a serious instrument, as it will be in the class, the guitar demands consistent, conscientious study.  To make adequate progress, the Z140 student must practice a minimum of four hours per week.  More may be necessary depending on the student’s background and aptitude.  Material should be played slowly a first.  The tempo should be increased only when the student has achieved a high degree of technical security.           

Final project:  Each student will complete a simple songwriting project that will be performed for the class as a final “performance” expression. In addition to the performance of the project, the student will prepare a written analysis of their work. (Criteria for this report will be handed out at a later date.)   The student must choose from one of the following options for the project:

Option 1:  The student may elect to compose a song where the student writes original lyrics, sets the lyrics to an original melody and accompanies himself/herself on guitar while singing.  The song must meet the following notational criteria:

  1. The song must have a title
  2. Indicate meter and key signature
  3. Written out lyrics
  4. Proper placement of bar lines in reference to the lyrics
  5. Chord symbols must be placed over the lyrics, corresponding with what is being played and sung.
  6. Rhythmic indication of strumming or finger-picking pattern used.
  7. The melody for the song need not be notated in standard notation.  Extra credit will be given if the student chooses to notate the melody.
  8. Minimum of 16 measures in length.

Option 2:  The student may elect to write a piece for two guitars.  If the student chooses this approach they must collaborate with another student in the class.  Each student must have their own project they may not share one.  Collaboration only applies to the performance portion of the project.  This choice will best suit the student who does not want to sing.  The piece must meet the following notation criteria:

  1. The piece must have a title.
  2. Indicate meter and key signature
  3. Written out melody using standard notation.
  4. Chord symbols placed above the melody for the accompaniment portion of the piece.
  5. Rhythmic indication of strumming or finger-picking pattern used
  6. Minimum of 16 measures in length.


Examples of both of these approaches will be covered in class.




Grading procedure:
            1)         Written tests                                         15% each x 2   = 30%
            2)         Performance skills tests             15% each x 2               = 30%
            3)         Attendance, class assignments                                       = 10%
            4)         Final project                                                                 = 30%
Grading scale:
90 –100           = A
89 – 80            = B
79 – 70            = C
69 – 60            = D
59 –below        = F

Test and project schedule:
Performance skill test  - Feb. 17
Written test – Feb. 17
Performance skill test    - April 14
Written test –April 14
Rough draft of project due – April 21
Final project presentations – May 5

Class will not meet on the following
March 10 - Spring Break
March 24 - Mid-America Gutiar Ensemble Festival

April - Easter Break


Syllabus Changes: The instructor reserves the right to make changes in the syllabus if necessary due to time constraints or other unforeseen events.   If this is necessary, members of the class will be notified as soon as possible.