Music Theory

What is Music Fundamentals Online (MFO)?

MFO is an online platform for learning the basics of music theory. Developed for incoming music majors at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music (JSoM), MFO provides online instruction during the summer before students enroll to prepare them for the core music theory sequence.

Getting started: evaluation and placement

Before beginning MFO, students take an adaptive, online placement test that evaluates their current competencies. A student’s placement test results serve to personalize his/her MFO experience: he/she must only complete MFO topics where additional instruction and practice is needed. Students can and do “pass out of” anywhere from none to all of MFO.

MFO content

Unique in the discipline, MFO provides guided feedback as students are led through both written theory and aural skills fundamentals. At present, MFO covers the following topics:

Unit 1: Pitch
  • The Staff
  • Keyboard
  • Accidentals
  • Treble and Bass Clefs
  • C Clefs
  • Pitch Notation
Unit 3: Scales
  • Introduction to Scales
  • Major Scales
  • Minor Scales
  • Scale Degree Listening
Unit 5: Intervals
  • Interval Size
  • Interval Quality: 2nds and 3rds
  • Ear Training for 2nds and 3rds
  • Interval Quality: 6ths and 7ths
  • Ear Training for 6ths and 7ths
  • Interval Quality: 4ths and 5ths
  • Ear Training for 4ths and 5ths
  • Advanced Interval Topics
Unit 2: Rhythm
  • Basic Durations
  • Ties and Augmentation Dots
  • Rests
  • Rhythm Notation
Unit 4: Key Signatures
  • Major Key Signatures
  • Minor Key Signatures
  • Relations between Keys
Unit 6: Chords
  • Triads
  • Triad Scoring
  • Triadic Inversion
  • Seventh Chords
  • Seventh Chord Inversions

Unit modules (e.g., “Keyboard" in Unit 1) comprise several “Lessons” and “Activities”. Each Lesson introduces students to a concept and models the skills targeted by an Activity. To complete an Activity, a student must display competency by meeting a clearly articulated Goal (e.g., Correctly identify the octave number of five out of six notes in a row with an average time of 6 seconds or less per note).

Here is a screenshot from the MFO Keyboard module (Activity: Note Identification 2):

Screenshot of Music Fundamentals Online activity

Is MFO available outside of Indiana Unversity?

Institutional licenses for MFO are now available for purchase. mfoinfo [at] indiana [dot] edu (Contact us) for more details.

Additional Information

The following provides an overview of the role of MFO in music theory instruction at JSoM.

Success rate among incoming JSoM music majors

In 2012 and 2013, the first two years that MFO was available, approximately 85 to 90 percent of entering music majors successfully completed MFO and were placed in the first core theory course.

Hardware and software requirements

MFO should work properly on most computers manufactured in the last few years. Users need an Internet connection, a web browser, and Flash Player version 11.2 or later. (You can check and update your version of Flash Player here.) Users also need a way to hear MFO's audio output (e.g., speakers, headphones).

While MFO does not, at present, work on iPads or other devices that do not support Flash, the next release will (anticipated mid 2016).

Time to complete the pretest

The pretest usually takes between 20 and 60 minutes. Users should plan to complete the entire pretest in one sitting.

After the pretest

Once the pretest is completed, logging into MFO brings up the main course menu. Here users can work on incomplete modules, or return to completed modules for additional practice. MFO automatically saves user progress, so you can log out at any time and complete the modules in multiple sittings (strongly recommended).

Time to complete the modules

This depends on how many MFO modules remain to be completed (based on the pretest results). Many hours of work could be involved.