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Important Updates

AP Music Theory Updates and New Resources for 2019-20
To help more students prepare for—and succeed on—the AP Music Theory Exam, we’ve clarified the course’s focus starting with the 2019-20 school year and are introducing new resources for your classroom. We’ve also moved exam registration to the fall, a best practice that improves students’ chances of earning college credit and placement.

Download the new course and exam description (CED)

New AP Resources
AP Classroom is now available. Designed with AP educators, it helps you provide students daily practice and personalized feedback throughout the year. Sign in to access AP unit guides with aligned resources, topic questions, personal progress checks, the progress dashboard, and your question bank.

Sign In to AP Classroom

Course Overview

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.

Course Content

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

Course Skills

The updated 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.

 Skill  Description
 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.