Piano Proficiency Exam Guidelines


All music majors are required to take and pass the piano proficiency exam. Commonly, music majors prepare for the Piano Proficiency Exam by taking MUAP 2162 Piano Proficiency 4, which is offered during the spring semester. Music majors who are non-pianists are strongly encouraged to enroll in Piano Proficiency 1 – 4 (MUAP 1161, 1162, 2161, 2162) as preparation for the Piano Proficiency Exam. Any questions about the Piano Proficiency Exam should be directed to Dr. Naoki Hakutani.

Initially, all five portions of the examination must be taken in one examination hearing. If the student passes all five portions, the instructor completes a form verifying this, which is turned in to the music department chairperson. The exam is then complete, which satisfies the music major graduation requirement for Piano Proficiency. Any failed portion(s) must be repeated, and these may be repeated no sooner than the scheduled examination time the following semester.

Piano proficiency examinations are scheduled for the last Friday of classes during the spring and fall semesters and are held in Dr. Hakutani’s studio. Anyone who will be unable to take the examination at that time should contact Dr. Hakutani by the fifth week of classes during the semester in which they plan on taking the examination to request an alternate exam time. It is important to plan ahead.

Exam Requirements

The exam incudes five portions:


  1. All Major Scales (2 octaves, hands together)
  2. All Harmonic Minor Scales (2 octaves, hands together)

Students will be required to play any scales(s), requested by the examiner, from the list above. All scales must be played in eighth notes with a minimum tempo of quarter note = 60. Standard fingering is expected. More than one incorrect note in three attempts will constitute failure in this area. Students must pass parts A and B for successful completion of this category.


  1. All major and minor triads (from the keys listed above), in root position, 1st , and 2nd inversions. Hands together.
  2. Basic I-IV 6/4 -I-V 6/5 -I or i – iv 6/4 -i-V 6/5 -i in all major and relative minor keys. Hands separate. 
  3. Diatonic Chord Identification: Play all diatonic chords (including all inversions) in all major and minor keys.
  4. Dominant Chord Identification: Play all dominant chords (including all inversions) in all major and minor keys.


The student will be expected to harmonize a given melody with blocked chords. The student may practice the melody for up to 5 minutes before harmonizing it. No more than three mistakes will be permitted in two attempts per accompaniment style.


Perform, from memory, a piano composition that has been prepared. The composition should be between a level 5-7. See Jane Magrath’s The Pianist’s Guide to the Standard Teaching and Performance Literature (or see Dr. Hakutani) for specific guidelines and suggestions on the appropriate level of repertoire.

Students will be graded “Pass/Fail” by the examiner on correct notes, rhythmic accuracy, appropriate style, dynamics, tempo, articulation, memory, and other appropriate aspects of musicianship during the piano performance.

Sight Reading:

Students must play a selection, chosen by the examiner, at sight. Students may take a maximum of 5 minutes to silently examine the score. They must play the piece successfully in a steady tempo. Examples showing the approximate level of difficulty may be found below. Students will be graded “Pass/Fail” by the examiner on correct notes, rhythmic accuracy, and steady tempo.

Sight Reading Examples
Sight Reading Examples
Sight Reading Example 2