The AP Music Theory Development Committee has sought the advice of both high school and college faculties to define the scope of work that would be equivalent to first-year college courses in music theory. Because the theory curriculum varies considerably from college to college, the Development Committee has chosen to provide general course guidelines rather than a precise course description. The AP Music Theory Teacher’s Guide contains several sample syllabi of actual AP and college theory courses. Additional resources for teachers include workshops offered by the College Board Regional Offices and advice from members of the Development Committee. Committee members welcome hearing from AP teachers who wish to consult with them.* The guidelines contained in this Course Description reflect a range of skills typically developed during introductory college courses in music theory. Each AP teacher is encouraged to keep these guidelines in mind while planning a course that best fits his or her specific situation and training. The foundation of knowledge presented in the year-long AP Music Theory course during high school provides students with the opportunity to develop, practice, and master music theory skills essential to success in post-secondary music theory course work.

The AP Music Theory Exam is intended for secondary school students who have completed music theory studies comparable to introductory college courses in music theory. Because college curricula vary for beginning music theory courses, scores for the AP Music Theory Exam are reported in composite form and as aural and nonaural subscores. These subscores inform placement decisions, especially for music departments offering separate courses for written theory and aural skills.

I. Musical Terminology

A. Terms for intervals, triads, seventh chords, scales, and modes

B. Terms pertaining to rhythm and meter, melodic construction and variation, harmonic function, cadences and phrase structure, texture, small forms, and musical performance

II. Notational Skills

A. Rhythms and meters

B. Clefs and pitches

C. Key signatures, scales, and modes

D. Intervals and chords

E. Melodic transposition

III. Basic Compositional Skills

A. Four-voice realization of figured-bass symbols and Roman numerals

B. Composition of a bass line (with chord symbols) for a given melody

IV. Score Analysis (with or without aural stimulus)

A. Small-scale and large-scale harmonic procedures, including:

1. identification of cadence types

2. Roman-numeral and figured-bass analysis, including nonharmonic tones, seventh chords, and secondary-dominant chords

3. identification of key centers and key relationships; recognition of modulation to closely related keys

B. Melodic organization and developmental procedures

1. scales (e.g., major, minor, pentatonic, whole-tone, modal)

2. motivic development and relationships (e.g., inversion, retrograde, sequence, imitation)

C. Rhythmic/metric organization

1. meter type (e.g., duple, triple, quadruple, irregular) and beat type (e.g., simple, compound)

2. rhythmic devices and procedures (e.g., augmentation, diminution, hemiola)

D. Texture

1. types (e.g., monophony, homophony, polyphony)

2. devices (e.g., imitation, canon)

E. Formal devices and/or procedures

1. phrase structure

2. phrases in combination (e.g., period, double period, phrase group)

3. small forms

V. Aural Skills

A. Sight-singing (major and minor modes, treble and bass clefs, diatonic and chromatic melodies, simple and compound meters)

B. Melodic dictation (major and minor modes, treble and bass clefs, diatonic and chromatic melodies, simple and compound meters)

C. Harmonic dictation (notation of soprano and bass lines and harmonic analysis in a four-voice texture)

D. Identification of isolated pitch and rhythmic patterns

E. Detection of errors in pitch and rhythm in one- and two-voice examples

F. Identification of processes and materials in the context of music literature representing a broad spectrum of genres, media, and styles

1. melodic organization (e.g., scale-degree function of specified tones, scale types, mode, contour, sequences, motivic development)

2. harmonic organization (e.g., chord function, inversion, quality)

3. tonal organization (e.g., cadence types, key relationships)

4. meter and rhythmic patterns

5. instrumentation (i.e., identification of timbre)

6. texture (e.g., number and position of voices, degree of independence, presence of imitation, density)

7. formal procedures (e.g., phrase structure; distinctions among literal repetition, varied repetition, and contrast; small forms)