How to Use the Tools to Learn the Music Basics - Coastal Carolina University
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How to Use the Tools to Learn the Music Basics

Standards: Rather than overwhelm you with the entire range of music fundamentals, we suggest a portion of them, using the most commonly found examples. You should try to get familiarity with the following musical objects:

  • Note Reading: both treble and bass clef, up to one ledger line above and below each staff. When you get better at this, add an extra ledger line in either direction.
  • Key Signatures: Be able to identify or write major and minor keys from 3 flats to 3 sharps. Know the order of sharps or flats.
  • Intervals: all major, minor and perfect intervals up to a 5th, as well as the tritone (augmented 4th or diminished 5th). These are all intervals found naturally in major or minor scales. Use both clefs.
  • Scales: Be able to identify or construct major or natural minor scales between 3 flats and 3 sharps, both clefs.
  • Chords: Be able to identify or construct minor or minor triads, both clefs.
  • Keyboard: Be able to identify or play individual notes on the keyboard.

Using or Tenuto: The exercises on or the iOS app Tenuto are intended to give you practice leading to an assessment of your skills. The chart shows you what settings to use for each exercise. The two timings on the chart are to achieve familiarity or proficiency with each exercise. On your way to learning the materials, you can use the settings to reduce to range of what you are practicing, so that you may start with what is most familiar to you, adding more types of examples as you get better.

How to practice: Watch the videos for any areas where you are not yet proficient. You can use or Tenuto exercises to drill for each skill. When you are still learning and practicing, turn the “Challenge” button in each setting off. It will still tell you how many you are getting right or wrong, but there is no timer or set of required examples to get through.

How to assess how you are doing: The chart includes settings for each exercise, including timings for familiarity (the first level of learning), then proficiency. We would like you to achieve familiarity in each of these levels upon entry to the theory and musicianship sequences, with proficiency (and a broader range of musical objects) coming later. Turn the “Challenge” button ON and set a time. If you don’t want the clock to run out, or the first time you try this, set the timer for 10 minutes, then when you get through the total number of examples set by the exercise, see how long it took you. Work your way down until you achieve familiarity at least. 

Let us know how you are doing: For each exercise, take your best score and email the results to Dr. Andrew Fowler at, or bring the printed result sheets to the first day of classes.


Other questions you may have:

Do I need to do all of this to get in the first-year music classes? No, but although we will review the concepts in class, things will move rather quickly. The more you can familiarize yourself with these concepts, the less you will struggle keeping up with the class material.

I’m having trouble getting one or more concepts even after watching the video or looking at the music lessons on What can I do?: We can make ourselves available on email or even a Zoom meeting to answer any questions and get you straightened out. Contact us, Dr. Donald Sloan ( or Dr. Andrew Fowler (

I already know most of this. Do I have to take the assessments? Why not? You need to demonstrate this proficiency when you get to class, so try it to see how you do. When you show us the results, we will have confidence that you are prepared.

I don’t have an iPhone or iPad. Can I still use this software? If this is the case, you need to work online at the website. The site is free, the apps have a small cost.

Are there other apps that can help me practice this material? Whether you have an iOS or Android device, go to your app store and explore. Many apps are free, but only give a limited number of exercises and want you to subscribe to their service. We chose one that will cost less.


Any other questions? Email us or