After you Apply: Next Steps

Once you have submitted your application to the Music Composition M.Mus. program, an acknowledgement will be sent to the email address you have included in your application.

Track your application status

  • You can track the status of your application online using uApply.
  • If you have questions about your application, contact the admissions office through the uApply communication tool. We will also contact you through uApply if we need more information from you.
  • If you are unable to get in touch with us through uApply, contact us by email or telephone.

Waiting for news?

After we have reviewed of everyone's applications, we send out decision notifications. You will likely hear from us between mid-February and April 15th.

  • We make every effort to notify all applicants as soon as we can.  In return, we ask for the courtesy of a response, usually within three weeks of receiving an official acceptance. A prompt response from you allows us to make decisions about candidates on our waiting list.
  • First round scholarship offers are typically made within three weeks of receiving an official acceptance; subsequent rounds are offered as they become available.  Deadline to accept the offers are final.

Already accepted? 

Welcome to our school! As a new student at McGill University, you may have a lot of questions on the resources available on campus to support your academic and personal success. You can contact our Graduate Studies staff anytime. 

Start preparing for placement exams

All students beginning graduate studies in Composition are required to take placement examinations in order to determine that their academic preparation in Music is sufficient. On the basis of the results of these examinations, incoming students may be required to take certain remedial courses in Music History and Theory and, depending on their area of specialization, other undergraduate courses as well. All of these then form an additional part of the students’ program of study.

Students who are notified of their acceptance into graduate studies in Music are encouraged to prepare for the placement examinations by perusing the following general descriptions of the examinations. The placement exams will be sent to you approximately one month after this date. You will have three weeks to complete and return them. You are not required to have an invigilator, but are expected to write these examinations unaided, without the use of text books and within the allocated time for each question. A list of books useful in preparation for the examinations can be found in the Supplemental Reading List below.

You can start preparing now by following these guidelines:

General descriptions

COMPOSITION [Total duration of COMPOSITION examinations: 8-9 hours]

Music Theory

Part 1 Form and Analysis [2 hours]:

A: The 19th-century analysis exam [1 hour] is an analysis of a large-scale form (usually one movement of a sonata), with discussion of its normative and non-normative aspects as defined in Part IV of Caplin, Classical Form, and its motivic materials, as well as identification of chromatic harmonies as presented in Chs. 26-31 of Aldwell/Schachter/Cadwallader, Harmony and Voice Leading or a similar theory textbook (applied chords, extended and altered chords, Neapolitan sixth chords, and augmented sixth chords). The chapters include relevant exercises.

Example questions:

Johannes Brahms, Sonata for clarinet and piano in F minor, op. 120 no. 1, mvt. 1

I. Keys, cadences, harmony. Annotate the score, using the symbols you are used to, the following two passages: mm. 1-24 and 77-89. Label all cadences and clearly indicate any modulations.

II. Form. Answer the following questions pertaining to the form.

1. In what measure does the main theme end? Why?

2. What are the boundaries of the transition?

3. In what measure does the subordinate theme group begin? Why?

4. To what extent does the tonal organization of the subordinate theme group conform to Classical norms (i.e., the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven)?

5. What is unusual about the tonal organization of the subordinate theme group in relation to Classical norms?

6. In what measure does the recapitulation begin? Why?

7. To what extent does the tonal organization of the recapitulation conform to Classical norms?

8. What is unusual about the tonal organization of the recapitulation in relation to Classical norms?

B: The post-tonal analysis exam [1 hour] is a consideration of the pitch structures in a work, using set theory or twelve-tone theory where appropriate, discussion of motivic relationships, and structural shifts in rhythm, texture, register and timbre. Chs. 1, 3, 7 and 10 of Roig-Francoli, Understanding Post-Tonal Music are recommended for study and include sample questions.

Example questions:
Charles Ives, “The Cage”

1. Analyze the pitch structures within the work, their potential for combinatorial and complement relationships, and the realization of such relationships, and/or lack thereof.

2. Discuss the phrase structure, rhythmic organization, texture within the piano part, relationship of piano and vocal parts, and use of register.

3. How do the musical elements discussed above relate to the title or text of the song?

4. Comment on which aspects of this song are typical of Ives’ compositional oeuvre, and which are not.

Part 2: Harmony and Counterpoint [2-3 hours]

A: The exam involves the addition of three voices to a given melody, in a mid- to late-nineteenth century harmonic idiom, for a total of 14-16 measures – the opening measures will be given as in the following example:

Example question:
Add parts for Violin II, Viola and Cello to the part for Violin I in the following passage for string quartet.

music composition

music composition worksheet

Master’s students complete the modal counterpoint question (B1) only.
Doctoral students complete both modal and tonal counterpoint questions (B1 and B2).

B1: Modal counterpoint - an exercise in three voice modal counterpoint on a cantus firmus (given: CF and opening motivic material):

Example question:
Continue the following in three voices for 16-20 measures.

image of music scale

B2: Tonal counterpoint – an exercise including the completion of a short two-part keyboard invention, based on given material.

Example question:
Write the first 10-12 measures of a two-part keyboard invention on the basis of the following material:

image of music worksheet

Part 3 Orchestration [2 hours]

-- Orchestration of a given excerpt.

Example question:
Score the following passage for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings

image of music theory worksheet

History [2 hours]

A. Write an essay on a topic to be chosen from a list of questions, to test knowledge of significant compositions, composers, historical trends, etc., from 1600 to the present. Topics build on answers to questions found at the end of chapters on texts such as Grout, Burkholder and Palisca’s A History of Western Music.

Example questions:

1. Discuss the interaction of drama and musical form in the operas of Richard Wagner.

2. Discuss approaches to sonata form in the 19th century; include examples from the literature for orchestra and for piano and/or chamber music.

3. Discuss the interaction of text and form in the Lieder of Clara Wieck Schumann.

4. Discuss the origins, evolution and main characteristics of the music of a post-tonal composer of your choice; cite specific examples whenever possible.

5. Compare Haydn and Mozart as innovators.

B. Identification of musical excerpts (scores will be provided) to test knowledge of historical and stylistic trends.

Briefly discuss the following excerpts. Suggest a composer, genre and date of composition for each, giving reasons for your answer. Where possible, indicate the probable form or approach to form in the excerpt, and identify where in the form the excerpt comes.


1. A passage from Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps.

2. A passage from a Beethoven symphony.

3. A motet by Josquin.

4. A passage from a tenor aria from Verdi’s Aida.

Supplemental reading list


Modal Counterpoint:
Peter Schubert. Modal Counterpoint, Renaissance Style. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Tonal Counterpoint:
Peter Schubert and Christoph Neidhöfer. Baroque Counterpoint. Prentice Hall, 2006.

Music History:
Donald Grout and Claude Palisca. A History of Western Music, sixth edition. New York: Norton, 2001;


Claude Palisca Norton Anthology of Western Music, fourth edition. New York: Norton, 2001.
(Other editions are also fine).

19th-Century Analysis:
E. Aldwell, C. Schachter, and A. Cadwallader, Harmony and Voice Leading, 4th ed. chaps. 28-33
S. Kostka, D. Payne, and B. Almen, Tonal Harmony, 7th ed., chaps. 21-25
William Caplin. Analyzing Classical Form. New York: Oxford University Press, May 2013.

Post-tonal Analysis:
Joel Lester. Analytic Approaches to Twentieth-Century Music. New York: W.W. Norton, 1989.
Joseph N. Straus. Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2004.
Miguel Roig-Francoli. Understanding Post-Tonal Music. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.


Orientation and advising takes place at the beginning of the Fall semester.

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