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AP Music Theory is an introductory college-level music theory course. Students cultivate their understanding of music theory through analyzing performed and notated music as they explore concepts like pitch, rhythm, form, and musical design.
AP Music Theory Course at a Glance
Excerpted from the AP Music Theory Course and Exam Description, the Course at a Glance document outlines the topics and skills covered in the AP Music Theory course, along with suggestions for sequencing.
AP Music Theory Course and Exam Description
This is the core document for this course. Unit guides clearly lay out the course content and skills and recommend sequencing and pacing for them throughout the year. The CED was updated in the summer of 2020 to include scoring guidelines for the example questions.
AP Music Theory CED Scoring Guidelines
This document details how each of the sample free-response questions in the course and exam description (CED) would be scored. This information is now in the online CED but was not included in the binders teachers received in 2019.
Based on the Understanding by Design® (Wiggins and McTighe) model of curriculum development, this course framework provides a clear and detailed description of the knowledge and skills necessary for student success in AP Music Theory, evaluated in the context of the AP Music Theory Exam, and aligned with college expectations. The framework specifies what students must know, be able to do, and understand, with a focus on big ideas that encompass core principles and processes of the discipline. The framework also encourages instruction that prepares students for advanced music theory coursework, as well as lifelong musical engagement and practice.
The AP Music Theory framework is organized into eight commonly taught units of study that provide
one possible sequence for the course. As always, you have the flexibility to organize the course content as you like.
|Unit 1: Music Fundamentals I: Pitch, Major Scales and Key Signatures, Rhythm, Meter, and Expressive Elements|
|Unit 2: Music Fundamentals II: Minor Scales and Key Signatures, Melody, Timbre, and Texture|
|Unit 3: Music Fundamentals III: Triads and Seventh Chords|
|Unit 4: Harmony and Voice Leading I: Chord Function, Cadence, and Phrase|
|Unit 5: Harmony and Voice Leading II: Chord Progressions and Predominant Function|
|Unit 6: Harmony and Voice Leading III: Embellishments, Motives, and Melodic Devices|
|Unit 7: Harmony and Voice Leading IV: Secondary Function|
|Unit 8: Modes and Form|
The AP Music Theory framework included in the course and exam description outlines distinct skills that students should practice throughout the year—skills that will help them learn to think and act like musicians.
|1. Analyze Performed Music||Apply musical terms, concepts, and relationships to performed music (aural).|
|2. Analyze Notated Music||Apply musical terms, concepts, and relationships to notated music (written).|
|3. Convert Between Performed and Notated Music||Apply conventions of musical notation and performance in converting music between aural and written forms.|
|4. Complete Based on Cues||Complete music based on cues, following 18th-century stylistic norms.|
AP and Higher Education
Higher education professionals play a key role developing AP courses and exams, setting credit and placement policies, and scoring student work. The AP Higher Education site features information on recruitment and admission, advising and placement, and more.
This chart shows recommended scores for granting credit, and how much credit should be awarded, for each AP course. Your students can look up credit and placement policies for colleges and universities on the AP Credit Policy Search.
Meet the Development Committee for AP Music Theory.