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Montclair High School
Principal: James N. Earle
100 Chestnut Street, Montclair, NJ 07042
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Music Theory Advanced Placement

Course #                        507

Length:                   One Year

Prerequisite:          Music training/Performance

Grade Level:          10-12

Credit:                   5

Fulfills:                   Performing and practical arts requirement, and computer studies requirement

Advanced Placement Music Theory is a college-level course for serious music students. The course is equivalent to a first-year music theory course for music majors, introducing the student to musicianship, theory, musical materials, and procedures. Musicianship skills such as dictation, sight-singing, and keyboard harmony are an important part of the course. The student’s ability to read and write musical notation is fundamental to the course, and it is assumed that the student has adequate performance skills in voice or on a musical instrument.

The Advanced Placement Examination in Music Theory tests the student’s understanding of musical structure and compositional procedures through recorded and notated examples. Strong emphasis is given to listening skills, particularly those involving recognition and comprehension of melodic and rhythmic patterns, harmonic functions, small forms, and compositional techniques. Most of the musical examples are taken from standard repertoire, although some examples of contemporary, jazz, popular music or music beyond the Western tradition are included for testing basic concepts. The examination assumes fluency in reading musical notation and a strong grounding in music fundamentals, terminology, and analysis.

Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

Fundamental Terminology and Fundamental Notational Skills:

  • Notate and identify pitch in three clefs: G, F and C.
  • Notate, hear, and identify simple and compound meters.
  • Notate and identify all major and minor key signatures.
  • Notate, hear, and identify the following scales: chromatic, major, and the three forms of the minor.
  • Name and recognize scale degree terms, e.g., tonic, supertonic, etc.
  • Notate, hear, and transpose the following modes: Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, and Mixolydian (authentic forms only).
  • Notate, hear, and identify whole tone and pentatonic scales.
  • Notate, hear, and identify all major, minor, diminished, and augmented intervals inclusive of an octave.
  • Notate, hear, and identify triads including inversions.
  • Define and identify common tempo and expression markings.

Compositional Skills:

  • Compose a bass line for a given melody to create simple two-part counterpoint in seventeenth- and/or eighteenth-century style; analyze the implied harmonies.
  • Realize a figured bass according to the rules of eighteenth-century chorale style, major or minor key, using any or all of the following devices: diatonic triads and seventh chords, inversions, nonharmonic tones, and secondary-dominant and dominant seventh chords.
  • Realize a four-part chorale-style progression from Roman and Arabic numerals.

Score Analysis:

  • Notate, hear, and identify authentic, plagal, half, Phrygian half, and deceptive cadences in major and minor keys.
  • Identify in score the following nonharmonic tones: passing tone (accented and unaccented), neighboring tone, anticipation, suspension, retardation, appoggiatura, escape tone, changing tone (cambiata), and pedal tone.
  • Small-scale and large-scale harmonic procedures, including:
  • identification of cadence types
  • Roman-numeral and figured-bass analysis, including nonharmonic tones, seventh chords, and secondary-dominant chords
  • identification of key centers and key relationships; recognition of modulation to closely related keys
  • Melodic organization and developmental procedures:
  • scale types; modes, melodic patterning
  • motivic development and relationships (e.g., inversion, retrograde, sequence, imitation)
  • Rhythmic/metric organization:
  • meter type (e.g., duple, triple, quadruple) and beat type (e.g., simple, compound)
  • rhythmic devices and procedures (e.g., augmentation, diminution, hemiola)
  • Texture:
  • types (e.g., monophony, homophony, polyphony)
  • devices (e.g., textural inversion, imitation)

Aural Skills:

  • Detect pitch and rhythm errors in written music from given aural excerpts.
  • Notate a melody from dictation, 6 to 8 bars, MAJOR key, mostly diatonic pitches, simple or compound time, treble or bass clef, 3 to 4 playings.
  • Notate a melody from dictation, 6 to 8 bars, MINOR key, chromatic alteration from harmonic/melodic scales, simple or compound time, treble or bass clef, 3 to 4 playings.
  • Sight sing a melody, 4 to 8 bars long, major or minor key, duple or triple meter, simple or compound time, treble or bass clef, using solfege, pitch names, numbers, or any comfortable vocal syllable(s).
  • Hear the following non-harmonic tones: passing tone (accented and unaccented), neighboring tone, anticipation, suspension, retardation, appoggiatura, escape tone, changing tone (cambiata), and pedal tone.
  • Notate the soprano and bass pitches and Roman and Arabic numeral analysis of a harmonic dictation, in eighteenth-century chorale style. Features may include seventh chords, secondary dominants, major or minor key, 3 to 4 playings.
  • Identify processes and materials in the context of music literature representing a broad spectrum of genres, media, and styles:
  • melodic organization (e.g., scale-degree function of specified tones, scale types, mode, melodic patterning, sequences, motivic development)
  • harmonic organization (e.g., chord function, inversion, quality)
  • tonal organization (e.g., cadence types, key relationships)
  • meter and rhythmic patterns
  • instrumentation (i.e., identification of timbre)
  • texture (e.g., number and position of voices, amount of independence, presence of imitation, density)
  • formal procedures (e.g., phrase structure; distinctions among literal repetition, varied repetition, and contrast; small forms)

Text and Reference

  • Benward, Bruce and Saker. Marilyn Music in Theory and Practice. 8th Vol 1. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill, 2009 ISBN 978-0-07-310187-3
  • Spencer, Peter. The Practice of Harmony. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004
  • Benjamin, Thomas. Techniques and Materials of Music. 6th Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning, 2003
  • Burkhart, Charles. Anthology for Musical Analysis. 5th Forth Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, 1994
  • Phillips, Joel. The Musician’s Guide to Aural Skills. 1st New York, NY:W. W. Norton and Company, 2005
  • Russo, William, Composing Music, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1983


 Computer Programs

  • Ricci Adams’, Ricci Adams,
  • Music Lessons I, MiBAC Music Software, Inc, Northfield, MN, 1991
  • Music Lessons II, MiBAC Music Software, Inc., Northfield, MN, 1993
  • Sibelius 6 Music Writing Software


  • Howard Goodall’s Big Bangs: Turning Points in Music History, Video-Cassette, Films for Humanities and Sciences, 2003
    • Notation: The Thin Red Line
    • Even Temperament
    • Piano: King of Instruments
    • Recorded Sound: The Dream Becomes Reality

Classroom Materials

  • Pencils
  • Music manuscript paper
  • Ringed Binder or Spiral notebook and storage folder
  • Plastic ruler or straight edge
  • Transportable data storage device – 2G minimum
  • Computer workstation with MIDI Controller

Suggested Activities

Each class will consist of multiple learning strategies to introduce or reinforce concepts and skills. The use of the computer to effectively increase skills and produce music is an integral part of daily class activities. The performance aspects connect to the practical application and real time evaluation of musical skills.

  • Musical concepts presented in a logical manner using multiple learning strategies: aural skills, modeling and demonstration, performance, immediate evaluation, composition
  • Reference text book with practical application activities
  • Access to internet sites for skill development, music performance and knowledge skills
  • Aural Skills – class activities and individual computer activities
  • Singing and Sight-singing, dictation, error recognition
  • Listening skills, historical connections and ethno-musicological relationships
  • Computer programs and internet sites to develop skill development of musical concepts
  • Music written by hand manuscript and computer music writing software
  • Real time or computer generated performance for immediate self and peer critique
  • Written or performance evaluation of skills, knowledge and progress.
  • AP Music Theory examination subject practice


Students’ progress and success can be measured in several simultaneous ways. The nature of music lends itself to immediate evaluation of the quality of work through performance. The performance will provide students with the results of their written work. Overall quality and success can be measured by the quality of examinations and musical projects. Measurement of the success of the skills learned is immediate upon aural performance.

Success of the course can be measured in the understanding of concepts exhibited in major projects, the grading of the class and the overall interest of the students. The Advanced Placement Examination can be the measure of the success of the course, class and student. More importantly, the knowledge and skills gained by each student for their level and interest and ability will be the true measure of success.

  • Student
    1. Daily performances
    2. Application assignments
    3. Examinations
    4. Self and Peer evaluation
    5. Music composition projects and practical applications
    6. Advanced Placement Examination
  • Course
    1. Student success and performance
    2. Relevance to student’s interest and ability
    3. Examination and performance grades
    4. Quality of music composition projects and practical applications


ASSIGNMENTS, PROJECTS:       100% -homework, class work, projects, written/performance exams


Updated: 2/7/2017