TO: All New Students

FROM: Mary Van De Loo

Professor Biringer's letter introduces you to the music theory portion of our freshman year music curriculum.   We will be helping you to develop a basic level of keyboard proficiency as part of that core curriculum.  Keyboard skills will be related to and will reinforce your theory and aural skills work.  It is very important for you to be able to "translate" theoretical concepts -- intervals, chords, scales, etc. -- into sounds at the keyboard.  In Basic Keyboard Skills (MURP 201, 202, 203), we concentrate on functional skills such as harmonization, transposition, and sightreading at the keyboard.  No previous keyboard experience is required, but if you have studied piano or have an opportunity to study this summer, it will be very helpful.

There are a few things you MUST do this summer to help with your acquisition of keyboard skills.

  • Learn to read notation in both treble and bass clefs
  • Be able to read pitches over the entire grand staff
  • Understand basic rhythmic notation
  • Learn major and minor key signatures and the formation of major and minor scales.

In addition, anything you can learn about major and minor triads will be extremely valuable.  We move very quickly through this information in class.  A little reading and study this summer will make your first months as a music major easier.

Basic Keyboard Skills is a sequenced three-term proficiency level course; you must pass a departmental exam to complete the requirement.  Most students are able to finish the requirement within three terms of study.  Some students who enter Lawrence without prior keyboard experience and who read notation in only one clef need four terms of study.  Other students who have studied some piano and have a grasp of basic music theory concepts are able to satisfy the requirement in less than three terms.  If you are not studying piano, but have access to a keyboard, you may find it helpful to order the keyboard skills textbook early.  The book is Alfred’s Group Piano for Adults, Book 1, Second Edition, ISBN#0-7390-3526-6, by Lancaster and Renfrow.  It can be purchased from several sources online, including Amazon and the publisher (Alfred). If you are studying piano, your teacher should be able to help you prepare for our piano proficiency exam.

Basic Keyboard Skill Exams (PDF)

On the above link, you will find an outline of the final exam content for each level of Basic Keyboard Skills.  If you are able to pass the final exam for one or more levels when you arrive on campus in the fall, you will be allowed to skip those levels.  This type of advanced placement can open up a significant amount of valuable time in your schedule; it is definitely worth your while to study and practice this summer in order to satisfy the keyboard proficiency requirement as early in your career at Lawrence as possible.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  You can reach me at the Conservatory by telephone at 920-832-6637 or via e-mail at

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