Courses for Music Majors: Music Theory and Musicianship Explained


At the core of all Mt. SAC music degrees and certificates is the Music Theory and Musicianship sequence.  If you are a music major, it is critical that you complete these courses, in order to prepare yourself for transfer to a university program in any music discipline.

The sequence spans four semesters:
Semester 1 - Fundamentals (MUS 110A)Semester 2 - Level I (MUS 120 and MUS 125)Semester 3 - Level II (MUS 130 and MUS 135)Semester 4 - Level III (MUS 140 and MUS 145)

In each semester, students enroll in a 3-unit music theory lecture and 1-unit musicianship lab. These lectures and labs are split into separate courses in the second, third, and fourth semester. In the first semester, the lecture and lab have been combined into a single 4-unit course. 

To progress from one semester to the next, a grade of C or better is required. For semesters two, three, and four, this means a grade of C or better is required for both courses.


  • The sequence is scheduled so that a student who takes semester 1 in the fall can complete the sequence without interruption:Music Theory and Musician Sequence, 2-year Plan

  • Students also have the option of taking semester 1 in the spring. However, these students must wait till the following spring to continue on to  semester 2:
    Music Theory and Musician Sequence, 3-year Plan

The Purpose of the Sequence in a Musician's Education

Courses are always scheduled in the same time slots. For semesters 1 and 2, the slot is MW 8:00am till 9:25am for the lecture and MW 9:45am till 11:10am for the lab. For semesters 3 and 4, the times are the same, but the days are Tuesdays and Thursdays. The morning times prevent conflicts with ensembles and individual instruction, the other courses required of all music degrees and certificates. 

Music theory is the study of how music works. Musicianship is general musical ability, including both the skill of making music and the ability to recognize musical details by ear. The two are intertwined. Music theory provides explanations for what we hear and perform, and this heightened understanding elevates us to greater heights in musical perception and music production.

Music theory and musicianship training makes for better performers, composers, conductors, educators, and listeners. It's for this reason the sequence forms the core of musical training at Mt. SAC. But Mt. SAC isn't the only collegiate music department to do this. They all do. For this reason, there's also a practical reason musicians study the sequence at Mt. SAC: Wherever a musician transfers, he'll be expected to demonstrate proficiency in music theory and musicianship, either through a transcript, a placement exam, or both. 

The Music Theory and Musicianship sequence is required for all music degrees and certificates at Mt. SAC. These include:

  • AA-T Music (Semesters 1, 2, 3, and 4*)
  • Music Studies - Level 1 Certificate (Semesters 1 and 2)
  • Music Education - Level 2 Certificate (Semesters 3 and 4) [expected to enter catalog in 2023-24]
  • Music Performance - Level 2 Certificate (Semesters 3 and 4) [expected to enter catalog in 2023-24]
  • Music Therapy - Level 2 Certificate (Semesters 3 and 4) [expected to enter catalog in 2023-24]

One or more courses from the sequence are also required for music-related degrees and certificates. These include:

  • Audio Arts - Level I Certificate (Semester 1) [expected to enter catalog in 2023-24]
  • Audio Arts AS (Semester 1)
  • Commercial Music AS (Semesters 1 and 2) [expected to enter catalog in 2023-24]
  • Commercial Music Certificate (Semesters 1 and 2) [expected to enter catalog in 2023-24]

*For the first semester of the AA-T Music, you may substitute MUS 110 for MUS 110A. However, we strongly discourage students from doing so. MUS 110 contains no musicianship training. Without musicianship training, students will be completely unprepared for MUS 125.