Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What is the difference between a Department of Music and a School of Music?
A Department of Music is likely to be a smaller academic unit, situated within a liberal arts educational environment. A School of Music is essentially a conservatory (i.e.., focused on training professional performers) that is situated within a University A Department of Music such as ours, for example, offers a Bachelor of Arts degree while a School of Music may offer both a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Music degree.

What is the relationship between admissions to the University and declaration of the major?
The Undergraduate Admissions Office handles admission to the College of Letters and Science. For information, see admissions information.
Students can declare the major when they have enrolled in 49B and 49C. In order to enroll in these courses, the student must have taken the Placement Exam and placed into 49B.

What is the balance between theoretical knowledge and experiential knowledge in the Department of Music’s program?

There are many opportunities to apply both. Connections are constantly made between the theory of music and our experiences of it in sound either as a listener or practitioner. Musicianship training (learning to hear and notate, to sing from notation at sight, to listen analytically) comes into use in harmony courses, in history and culture courses, and in performance study. Study of harmony involves musical creativity as well as analysis, often of repertoire that is being performed in our context. Theory, listening skills, analytical skills are important no matter what musical repertoires are being studied.

What are some extracurricular music opportunities at the university?

The Undergraduate Composers organize concerts each semester in which Cal students perform pieces by students.
Free noon concerts take place in Hertz Hall every Wednesday. Performers must be affiliated with UC Berkeley, and audition during the semester preceding their proposed concert. Student recitals are also presented in 125 Morrison Hall.
There are many DeCal classes that have to do with music. In order to supplement your classical and theory knowledge, it is a good idea to check out the DeCal classes for hip-hop, funk, or spoken poetry that are usually offered. The list of classes changes, but make sure to take a look at the classes every semester. Their website is:


Music Major

When and how can I declare the major?

See Major Declaration.

Can I declare a concentration in composition, ethnomusicology, musicology, or performance?
The only “declaration” process is the declaration of the music major.. All music majors receive a B.A. in Music. If they wish, students may design a concentration or specialization based on individual interests, but this is an informal process. Upper division courses in each of the fields listed above are offered every semester. Consult undergraduate careers for planning suggestions, or meet with a faculty member to discuss options. Students are encouraged to select a faculty mentor who will help guide them along the chosen path. This is particularly important for students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies or considering a career in music.

How big are the major classes in the Department of Music?
Music major courses in musicianship and theory are restricted to fewer than twenty students. Upper division major seminars are smaller. History and culture courses range from 30 to 100 students. Enrollment in performance ensembles is appropriate to the repertoire that be performed and its instrumentation. Our teachers know the students and vice versa. We are a relatively intimate department within the large university.

Is it possible to double major, and still graduate in four years?
Yes, many music majors successfully complete a second major in four years. It often takes careful planning, because the music major has many lower division requirements. Be sure to check in with the Undergraduate Advisor in the Music Department and in L&S as you choose your courses each semester.

What are the degree requirements and policies of the major and the university?
The music department is part of the College of Letters and Science and awards Bachelor’s of Arts degrees (B.A.’s) to undergraduate students. There are four sets of requirements: those required by all campuses of the University of California, those required specifically at UC Berkeley, those of the College of Letters and Science, and those of the music department. To earn your degree, you must successfully complete the music major requirements as well as the the university, Berkeley campus, and College of Letters & Science requirements. For the first of three sets of requirements, please consult:

Do you need piano skills to be a music major? If not, what options are there for you to learn how to play the piano?
You do not necessarily need prior piano experience, although having some will make the work a lot easier for you. There is a piano class, Music 405, that gives music majors the opportunity to learn basic piano technique in a group lesson setting. This class is highly recommended for those with little or no piano experience.

If I want to take private lessons as music major, how do I do that?
Private instruction is provided for the most skilled musicians among our majors under the course number Music 150. Music 150 is a personalized performance program for the intermediate to advanced performer. Each student works individually with a private instructor while participating in one of the performance ensembles listed above. To enroll, students must be declared music majors.

How can majors participate in the governance of the Department of Music?
There is an opportunity as an undergraduates to serve as the Undergraduate Representative on the Undergraduate Committee. This committee holds monthly meetings to discuss issues that directly affect the undergraduate music program. It is made up of a few student representatives as well as staff and faculty members. This is a good place to let your voice be heard and to discuss the opportunities available to undergraduate music students.


Music Minor

What is the process to waive Music 20A/B? 

See “Exemption from lower division requirements” under the Music Minor Program.

Should I pre-enroll in Music 20A before scheduling the waiver exam?

Music 20A classes are usually enrolled in capacity with a substantial waitlist. Students should pre-enroll in the class even if they attempt to waive the requirement.

Will I be able to waive Music 20A/B?

Students should review the Music 20A sample syllabus to see if they have already mastered the content covered in the course, thereby assessing their ability to obtain the waiver.

Are performance courses in the 140 series repeatable? Can I repeat one for the minor requirement?

Performance courses (Music 140-149, 164, 165) are repeatable without restrictions, meaning that you can repeat it as many times as you with. Students can, and should, review the repeat rule of each course in the Berkeley Academic Guide.

Students may count a repeatable course toward the minor a maximum of 3 times, regardless of how many times they repeat the course.


Performance & Performance Courses

What performance opportunities are available in the Department of Music?
The Department offers ensemble courses (the Music 140 series) that are available to all students on the campus, both majors and non-majors alike. Music majors can perform individually or as part of larger ensembles for course credit. All majors must complete three semesters of performance ensemble requirement, but are encouraged to do more. For-credit ensembles are African Music Ensemble, Contemporary Improvisation Ensemble, Gospel Choir, Javanese Gamelan, University Baroque Ensemble, University Chorus, University Symphony, and University Wind Ensemble. Other major courses that involve performance are Jazz Theory and Performance (116AM/BM), Conducting (161A/B), Improvisation (164), Baroque Music Performance (171D), composer or genre studies that include performance of the music (180 series), and world music courses that include 11 weeks of performance lab (131-9).

I’m interested in joining an ensemble or enrolling in a performance course. Do I have to audition?

Enrollment in the Music 140 series and 150 are audition-based. See Audition Information for more information. Information on the upcoming auditions is usually updated on the webpage in early August for Fall semesters and early January for Spring semesters.

With the exception of Music 148, students may choose to pre-enroll in a class in the Music 140 series before auditioning, or add the class after they pass the audition. In either scenario, students are responsible for adjusting their enrollment accordingly by the student enrollment deadlines. It is imperative that students observe these deadlines as they are strictly enforced. Students interested in taking Music 148 are advised to pre-enroll in the course.


Placement Procedures and Auditions

What does the Musicianship Placement Exam require?
The written and practical exam determines the courses that will be the best fit for you in your first semester. You will display your background in music theory, musicianship and performance, and piano. See Placement Procedures.

I will be taking the Musicianship Placement Exam for the first time this upcoming semester. What classes should I sign up for during my enrollment appointment?

You should pre-enroll in Music 52A (Musicianship I) and Music 53A (Harmony I) prior to taking the exam. If you read the musicianship placement criteria and harmony placement criteria and are reasonably confident that you may place above either, pre-enroll in the course that you believe you would place in. You will be able to adjust you enrollment when placement results become available.

Note that you are responsible for making changes to your class schedule and adhering to the student enrollment deadlines. Never assume that you would be automatically added to or dropped from a class.

Can I repeat the Musicianship Placement Exam?

Yes, the Musicianship Placement Exam is a diagnostic test and students can repeat it in the following semester. However, if you do not place into a desired level of after two attempts, please consult the Undergraduate Advisor and a musicianship faculty regarding the best course of action to pursue your educational goals.


Course Information and Enrollment

I’m interested in taking this undergraduate Music course but it’s not listed in the Class Schedule. Will it be offered?

Not all courses are offered in a given semester. If a class is not listed in the Class Schedule for a given semester, it is not offered in that semester.