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MUSC160 Introduction to Writing and Reading Music

Unit rationale, description and aim

To grow as musicians who can work independently at a high level of expertise, tertiary music students need to develop knowledge, skills, and artistic sensitivities required to perform and create music.

This introductory-level music unit is accessible to students with or without prior music theory knowledge and includes participation in activities to develop music literacy, aural acuity, and inner hearing. Students engage with fundamental concepts of elemental relationships, materials and structures of music, and the integration of music technology in the realisation of musical sound, symbol and gesture.

The aim of MUSC161 is to provide a comprehensive introduction to the conventions of music literacy that form the foundations of its practice.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Employ a basic vocabulary of standard Western musical terminology (GA5, GA9)

LO2 - Demonstrate skills in the aural perception, notation and performance of rhythm and pitch (GA4, GA5, GA7)

LO3 - Improvise, notate and perform elementary musical compositions using traditional and technology-based tools (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - Think critically and reflectively

GA5 - Demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession

GA7 - Work both autonomously and collaboratively

GA8 - Locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information

GA9 - Demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media

GA10 - Utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively


Topics will include:

  • an introduction to and exploration of the fundamental concepts of beat, meter, rhythm, tempo, pitch, intervals, tonality, dynamics, texture, articulation and timbre
  • an investigation of the basic materials and structure of music as a basis for creating melody and harmony for performance
  • basic Western music notation considered from diverse perspectives: creator (notation), performer (realisation and inner hearing); analyst (understanding)
  • melody-writing using a range of tonal and modal materials drawn from diverse musical styles and cultures
  • an introduction to and investigation of some common practices in harmonisation
  • the application of music technologies to notate, create, perform and/or record music
  • the development of skills in aural perception, analysis and performance.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This introductory level unit is designed to introduce students to the basic knowledge, skills and artistic sensitivities required to perform and create music. The activities of the unit have a practical bias as it is important that students practise and demonstrate their growing music literacy, aural acuity, and executant skills. The teaching strategies work to articulate with the diverse skills and experiences that students bring to tertiary music study. Early activities map students' skill profiles and inform the mechanisms used to support further learning. The lecture series introduces central concepts that are expanded upon in subsequent related workshops. The workshops provide the context for the practise and development of the musical skills and knowledge required of successful musicians.

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. The following table gives examples of the types of assessment that may apply to this unit.

Assignment tasks one and two are practically based and are designed to allow students to learn and develop specific music knowledge and skills. Assignment one comprises a series of small-scale tasks that build in complexity over a series of weeks. These tasks allow students to monitor their own progress within the first six weeks of the semester. Assignment two gives students the opportunity to develop and express skills in music writing, and performance involvement is encouraged. Assignment three is an example of a summative task requiring students to synthesise known information to answer questions. The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for students to demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Aural Exercises and Worksheets: A series of small-scale tasks that require students to demonstrate developing music literacy and aural acuity.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8

Ensemble and Performance Tasks: Requires students to apply knowledge and skills to the creation and performance of original musical material.


LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Examination: A summative task (written paper) that requires synthesis and application of music knowledge to answer questions related to the elements of music. 


LO1, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Benjamin, Thomas B., Michael Horvit, Timothy Koozin, and Robert S. Nelson. Music for Sight Singing. 7th ed. Melbourne, AU: Cengage, 2022. Benward, Bruce, and Marilyn Nadine Saker. Music in Theory and Practice. Vol 1, 10th ed., Sydney: McGraw Hill, 2021.

Clendinning, Jane Piper, and Elizabeth West Marvin. The Musician's Guide to Theory and Analysis. New York: WW Norton, 2020. Coppenbarger, Brent. Music Theory Secrets: 94 Strategies for the Starting Musician. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Duckworth, William. A Creative Approach to Music Fundamentals. 11th ed., Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2015.

Endris, R. Ryan, and Joe Lee. Music Theory for Beginners. Danbury, CT: For Beginners, 2015.

Horvit, Michael, Robert Nelson, and Timothy Koozin. Music for Ear Training. 4th ed., Melbourne, AU: Cengage, 2020. 

Kostka, Stefan M., Dorothy Payne, and Byron Almén. Tonal Harmony, 8th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2018.

Miller, Michael. Music Theory. 3rd ed., Indianapolis, IN: Alpha, 2016.

Phillips, Joel, Paul Murphy, Jane Piper Clendinning and Elizabeth West Marvin. Musicians Guide to Aural Skills. New York, NY: WW Norton, 2021.

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