In my university's musics and fine arts department, all the instrument courses have some sort of interview for the students from the other departments.For example, for violin courses, they played 4 different notes on piano and after each note, I have asked to sing "aaaa". After that, they gave me some rhythm by clapping their hands, and I was asked to repeat that rhythm with clapping my hands.

So my question is, what can a musician, or a lecturer on music, determine from these kind of examinations about the student, and how ?

  • 1
    At uni. level this seems way too easy. It's the sort of thing that gets asked at grade 3 or 4 music exams. It's really to ascertain how good a candidate's ear is to pitch and rhythm. Some can do this naturally, others have to learn how, and practice doing it. A few never get there, so maybe it weeds them out, although I can't think why someone lacking in this area would want to be on a uni. course.
    – Tim
    Sep 11, 2017 at 8:32
  • This sounds like a very basic diagnostic exam that would be used to determine whether you can start at the normal starting point for an Aural Skills sequence instead of beginning with something a bit more remedial than that. A prospective student that failed to do the things you talked about would probably not be able to handle Aural Skills I (or whatever it's called at your university) without falling behind. Sep 11, 2017 at 17:50
  • At some schools, practical music courses for performance, joining music school orchestras and bands, etc, are (in theory) open to all students - but just because you were accepted for a degree course by the Law or History faculties, for example, doesn't say anything about your practical ability as a musician - whether or not you have any formal musical training.
    – user19146
    Sep 11, 2017 at 19:27

1 Answer 1


Literally those two questions test pitch sense and pitch imitation and rhythm sense and imitation. You have to at least be able to hear the differences between pitches and rhythms to be able to be taught music. Supposedly some people are not able to discern the difference in pitches ("tone deafness"), but I've never met anyone like that in real life.

Like Tim, I'm a little surprised. I remember being taught to recognize and clap rhythms at age 8, in the general music class that all students went to for about an hour every day.

  • 3
    Unfortunately, we're seeing more and more students entering college that have zero skills training. This is often a test to see who can enter the "regular" curriculum and which students need to be placed in a remedial curriculum.
    – Richard
    Sep 11, 2017 at 12:05
  • @Richard and Todd, please see my edit.
    – Our
    Sep 11, 2017 at 13:33
  • By the way, for the first test, i.e saying "aaa" with note, how should the student make the "aaa" sound so that it is understood that s/he has the sense of pitch ?
    – Our
    Sep 11, 2017 at 13:35
  • @Richard - sadly quite true. Even when I went was training to be a teacher, 50 odd yrs ago, there were students of 18 yrs old who needed extra lessons to get them up to 11+ standard,(an exam for grammar school, at 11), in maths. Frightening!
    – Tim
    Sep 11, 2017 at 15:09
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    @onurcanbektas I think Todd's answer holds true even with your edit. As for the "ah" sound, most schools are less interested in the tone quality of the singing and more interested in whether you match the pitch. So think less about "how to make the 'ah' sound" and more about matching the pitch the give you.
    – Richard
    Sep 11, 2017 at 16:56

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