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Getting to Know the AP Music Theory Course

The key document for each AP course is the course and exam description. Start by reviewing it to understand the objectives and expectations of the course and exam.

AP Music Theory Course and Exam Description


Your course must fulfill these requirements

AP Music Theory curricular requirements:

  • The teacher and students have access to college-level music theory and sight-singing textbooks in print or electronic format.
  • The teacher and students have access to equipment or devices for audio playback and recording, as well as a piano or electronic keyboard.
  • The course provides opportunities to develop student understanding of the required content outlined in each of the unit guides of the course and exam description (CED).
  • The course provides opportunities for students to develop the skills in the following skill categories:
    • Skill Category 1: Analyze Performed Music
    • Skill Category 2: Analyze Notated Music
    • Skill Category 3: Convert Between Performed and Notated Music
    • Skill Category 4: Complete Based on Cues

AP Music Theory resource requirements:

  • The school ensures that each student has access to his or her own copy of a recently published college-level music theory textbook supplemented when necessary to meet the curricular requirements.
  • The school provides access to audio equipment and materials that facilitate listening practice for the students throughout the course.
  • The school ensures that each AP Music Theory classroom includes a piano or electronic keyboard and sound reproduction equipment. Please note that music played on a computer may not enable students to hear the bass, so such sound reproduction may not be ideal for this course. For recording, students can use iPads, computers, or handheld digital recorders. iPads and Chromebooks may be used for recording exam responses only if using the Digital Audio Capture (DAC) app.

The list below represents examples of textbooks that meet the curricular requirements of AP Music Theory. The list is not exhaustive and the texts listed should not be regarded as endorsed, authorized, recommended, or approved by College Board. Not using a book from this list does not mean that a course will not receive authorization. Syllabi submitted as part of the AP Course Audit process will be evaluated holistically, with textbooks considered along with supplementary resources to confirm that the course as a whole provides students with the content delineated in the curricular requirements of the AP Course Audit.

The current editions of the following textbooks meet the AP Course Audit curricular requirements. Earlier editions of these texts or other textbooks not listed here may meet the AP Course Audit curricular requirements if supplemented with appropriate college-level instructional resources. While every effort is made to keep this list current, it can take a few months for newly published titles and revised editions to be reviewed.

For discussions regarding the usefulness of these texts and other teaching materials, please consult the AP Music Theory Teacher Community.

 Written Theory: Harmony and Comprehensive Texts

  • Aldwell, Edward, Carl Schachter, and Allen Cadwallader. Harmony and Voice Leading. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
  • Benjamin, Thomas, Michael Horvit, Robert Nelson, and Timothy Koozin. Techniques and Materials of Music: From the Common Practice Period Through the Twentieth Century. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
  • Benward, Bruce, and Marilyn Saker. Music in Theory and Practice. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Burstein, L. Poundie, and Joseph N. Straus. Concise Introduction to Tonal Harmony. New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Clendinning, Jane Piper, Elizabeth West Marvin, and Joel Phillips. The Musician’s Guide to Fundamentals. New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Clendinning, Jane Piper, and Elizabeth West Marvin. The Musician's Guide to Theory and Analysis. New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Gauldin, Robert. Harmonic Practice in Tonal Music. New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Henry, Earl, and Michael Rogers. Tonality and Design in Music Theory, Vols. 1 & 2. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
  • Kostka, Stefan, Dorothy Payne, and Byron Almen. Tonal Harmony. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Laitz, Steven G. The Complete Musician: An Integrated Approach to Theory, Analysis, and Listening. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Mayfield, Connie E. Theory Essentials: An Integrated Approach to Harmony, Ear Training, and Keyboard Skills. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
  • Roig-Francoli, Miguel. Harmony in Context. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Shaffer, Kris, Bryn Hughes, and Brian Moseley. Open Music Theory. Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing, 2014.
  • Spencer, Peter, and Barbara Bennett. The Practice of Harmony. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
  • Steinke, Greg A. Harmonic Materials in Tonal Music: A Programmed Course, Parts 1 and 2. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
  • Straus, Joseph N. Elements of Music. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Anthologies for Music Analysis and Study

  • Benjamin, Thomas, Michael Horvit, and Robert Nelson. Music for Analysis: Examples From the Common Practice Period and the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Burkhart, Charles, and William Rothstein. Anthology for Musical Analysis. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
  • Clendinning, Jane Piper, and Elizabeth West Marvin. Anthology for The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis. New York: W. W. Norton.

Aural Skills: Sight Singing, Ear Training, Keyboard, and Rhythmic Reading Texts

  • Benjamin, Thomas E., Michael Horvit, and Robert S. Nelson. Music for Sight Singing. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
  • Benward, Bruce, and J. Timothy Kolosick. Ear Training: A Technique for Listening. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Benward, Bruce, and Maureen Carr. Sight Singing Complete. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Berkowitz, Sol, Gabriel Frontrier, and Leo Kraft. A New Approach to Sight Singing. 4th edition, 1997. W.W. Norton.
  • Durham, Thomas L. Beginning Tonal Dictation. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.
  • Hall, Anne Carothers. Studying Rhythm. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Pearson.
  • Karpinski, Gary S., and Richard Kram. Anthology for Sight Singing. New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Karpinski, Gary S. Manual for Ear Training and Sight Singing. New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Krueger, Carol. Progressive Sight Singing. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Marcozzi, Rudy. Strategies and Patterns for Ear Training. London: Routledge.
  • Ottman, Robert W., and Nancy Rogers. Music for Sight Singing. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
  • Phillips, Joel, Jane Piper Clendinning, Elizabeth West Marvin, and Paul Murphy. The Musician's Guide to Aural Skills, Vols. 1 & 2. New York: W. W. Norton.

This annotated sample AP Music Theory syllabus shows how the curricular requirements can be demonstrated in a syllabus and what level of detail you’ll need to include.

AP Music Theory Sample Syllabus 1 (.pdf/664KB)

Review this document for help creating your syllabus.

Syllabus Development Guide: Music Theory (.pdf/162.61 KB)

This resource includes the guidelines reviewers use to evaluate syllabi along with three samples of evidence for each requirement. This guide also specifies the level of detail required in the syllabus to receive course authorization.

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