Theory and Ear Training

Theory and Ear Training

Theory and Ear Training courses are important components of musical training that contribute significantly to a student's understanding, enjoyment and performance of music. For children and adults alike, learning to play an instrument may seem a rather lonely experience in that instruction is usually given individually. In addition, the student is expected to practice alone. Learning Theory and Ear Training skills in a classroom setting provides the opportunity for interaction with other music students and enhances the student's musical learning experience. Our Theory and Ear Training classes are offered in English.

Children courses

Elementary courses are offered for students aged 8 to 11 years inclusive. In these classes, the emphasis is placed on the teaching of basic theory, music appreciation, and aural skills such as group singing, part-singing and rhythmic exercises. The courses are offered at a number of levels, beginning with Elementary IV. While there is no formal placement test required for Elementary courses, each new student will be assigned to a class based on an individual interview with the Coordinator.

The payment of a non-refundable deposit fee is required to sit the placement interview. Please call the McGill Conservatory Office to register for the placement interview and arrange to pay the deposit fee.

Classes meet Saturdays, from 10:30 to 11:30 am or 11:30 am to 12:30 pm
Two levels per year:

Elementary IV (Fall) and
Elementary V (Winter-Spring)

Elementary VI (Fall) and
Secondary I (Winter-Spring)

Music History I (Fall) and
Secondary II (Winter-Spring)

Secondary III (Children's Section) (Full Year) 

Youth courses

Junior courses (for students aged 12 to 17) are offered at three different levels: Secondary III (for students with no formal training in this area), Secondary IV and Secondary V. Students who began Theory and Ear Training in the Elementary stream will move into the Junior levels at Secondary IV, changing from a one-hour class to a two-hour class. A placement test is required for new students.

Each junior secondary level begins in the Fall Term and ends in the Spring Term. Students may take the course on Saturday mornings or Wednesday evenings for 2 hours per week.

Adult courses

Adult courses are offered at the Secondary III, IV and V levels. A placement test is required for new students.

Each adult secondary level is offered in the Fall, Winter-Spring Term. Classes take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 to 8:30 pm during the Fall Term and from 6:00 to 8:00 pm during the Winter-Spring Term. Students can also take Adult secondary levels that begin in the Fall Term and end in the Spring Term. These classes meet on Wednesdays from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

Collegial level courses

Collegial level courses are open to all students who have completed Secondary V. Collegial courses are offered at levels I and II. In addition to the Theory and Dictation classes, there is also a Choral Solfege Lab component in which students reinforce and advance their sight-singing skills. A placement test is required for new students.

Students registered in collegial level courses are also entitled to a tax reciept (T2202A) for their tuition paid against this course.

Collegial courses begin in the Fall and end in the Spring Term. Classes are offered on Saturdays for 3 hours a week.

Placement tests

Students entering the Junior, Adult or Collegial level courses who have not taken McGill Conservatory Theory and Ear Training examinations are required to take a placement test to assess their level. They will then be assigned to the appropriate class. The placement test can only be taken once and is not an alternative to passing an examination.

The payment of a non-refundable deposit fee is required to sit the placement test. Please call the McGill Conservatory Office to register for the placement test and arrange to pay the deposit fee.

Please refer to the Placement Test Schedule for dates and times.


Certificates will be issued for each level successfully completed. For more information regarding McGill's examination system, please refer to the section on Examinations. In addition, the Secondary V Theory and Ear Training courses fulfill the minimum Theory and Ear Training requirements for the McGill University undergraduate music programs.

Course materials

Students will be required to purchase general class material. CD and Assignment Sheet purchase also is required at the Junior and Adult levels. The latter material is available from the McGill Conservatory Office.


For students who show a special interest in creating their own music, the McGill Conservatory offers composition lessons on the basis of private tutorial lessons. The fees and structure of the course are the same as for instrumental lessons. Emphasis is on individual development, understanding of styles as well as study of a variety of musical forms.

History of Music

The Music History Survey Course Secondary I, is designed to deepen knowledge of basic music concepts such as melody, harmony, texture, dynamics, among others.  Also, the student will be exploring the instruments of the orchestra, the different musical periods, their composers and music styles.

For more information on Term Dates and Course Fees, please visit the Dates and Fees page of our website.