Course Outline AP Music Theory in the Digital Age

AP Music Theory is a year-long course and prepares the student for the College Board AP Exam.  However, it should be noted that the course does not merely "teach to a test".  All portions of study are directly applicable to the student's musicianship.  Beginning with the fundamentals of tone, intervals, and scale and triad construction, the course proceeds through phrase analysis and construction, roman numeral harmonic analysis, non-chord tones, two voiced species counterpoint, four part chorale-style composition, the dominant and non-dominant sevenths, viio7 and their inversions, analysis of segments of the standard repertoire, and analysis of binary and ternary forms.  It should also be noted that ear training comprises nearly fifty percent of the exam and is covered extensively in this course.  Sight singing, melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic dictation, and listening analysis of orchestral literature comprise a sizeable (approximately forty percent) of the curriculum. Students also have the option to attend musical events, such as trips to the Met opera and orchestral concerts
Instructor: Mr. Spinelli

Due to the near constant hands-on nature of the course, it is highly recommended (though not necessarily mandatory) that students have at least one year of piano studies prior to beginning. However, exceptions are readily made in the case of instrumentalists with an intermediate or better level of proficiency on their instrument. Below these levels of proficiency it is not recommended that students take the course.

Goals of the Course

To instill in the student a solid foundation of musicianship, the above-mentioned disciplines are key to the establishment of this foundation. Students will be able to compose in four parts, compose phrases of various formal structures, completely analyze any composition written from about 1700 through the late 1800's, i.e., the body of literature that is composed in functional harmony. This will include harmonic analysis, phrase relationships, form, and all non-chord tones. Students will gain a solid proficiency in solfege (moveable do), and be able to identify the instruments of the orchestra and to listen to orchestral excerpts and provide a written analysis of intervals, harmonic function, and phrase structure. Students will be able to copy melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic dictation that will include all intervals to the tenth, all harmonies through the viio7 (i.e., it will not include the Neapolitan or flatted II chords, or analysis of twentieth century literature, nor will it include advanced practices in melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic dictation (polymeters, atonal passages, non-functioning harmony, etc.)

Course Outline

The course is structured around the technical proficiencies as listed above. The detailed outline is available upon request. As each of the objectives is met, the students will be ready for more complex endeavors.

Trimester I: 
Wk 1, Ch 1 Notation, p. 3
Wk 2 &3, Ch 2 Scales, p. 25
Wk 4, Ch 3 Intervals and Transposition, p. 51
Wk 5, Ch 4 Chords, p. 67
Wk 6, Ch 5, Cadences and Non-harmonic tones, p. 89
Wk 7&8, Ch 6, Melodic Organization, p. 109
Wk 9, Ch 7, Texture and Textural Reduction, p. 131

Trimester II:
Wk 1, Ch 8, Voice Leading in Two Voices, p. 149
Wk 2&3,  Ch 9, Voice Leading in Four Voices, p. 159
Wk 4, Ch 10, Harmonic Progression, p. 177
Wk 5 - AP Exam (1993), in-class study and practice
Wk 6, Ch 11, Dominant 7th Chord, p. 199
Wk 7&8, AP Exam (1998), in-class study and practice
Wk 9, Ch 12, Leading Tone 7ths, p. 217

Trimester III:
Wk 1, Ch 13 LeadingTone 7th, p. 217
Wk 2, Ch 14, Non-dominant 7th chords, p. 229
Wk 3, Ch 15, Secondary Dominants and Leading Tone chords, p. 267
Wk 4, Ch's 16&17 brief overview Binary and Tirnary form (p. 295)
Wk 5, Review for AP Exam
Wk 6-8 - Compositions, Final Project
Wk 9 - Composition in-class performances

Methods of Instruction

The typical Theory class has three main elements. First, the class practices its aural skills which may include but all or some portions of: sight singing, melodic, harmonic, melodic, rhythmic dictation, and scores analysis. Then follows a review of material assigned in the previous class. This may also include performing (in class) small ensemble compositions. Students are then given individual attention and comments based on their performance. Secondly, the class is given group instruction on new material. The instructor frequently demonstrates concepts and techniques. They are individually checked for understanding and given time to practice the new techniques. Lastly, the instructor checks overall comprehension through a series of drills on the new material. Finally, an assignment is given for the next class.

Methods of Evaluation

Quizzes: An average of three quizzes per trimester (content: on anything studied to date). At least one of the quizzes will include ear training or sight singing.

Homework: Students should expect to be assigned homework at the end of each class.  Homework is due at the beginning of the next scheduled class day.  Any homework submitted after the beginning of class is considered one day late and will receive a penalty of a 10-point drop in the grade.  For each additional day late there is a 10-point drop in grade.  Late homework is due the next day and not the next scheduled class day (for seniors, Wednesday will not be counted as a class day, so that an assignment due Tuesday and submitted Thursday will be counted as one day late).

Note: the lowest grade in each category - dictation, sight singing, quizzes, homework - will be dropped, except zeroes, that is, work that is not submitted.  Work not submitted will receive a zero and that grade will not be dropped.

Dictation (ear training: Students will be given some form of ear training exercise almost every class. These will include the ear training exercises cited above. _

Class Participation: Students are expected to participate in the numerous in-class drills and discussions.  Grading: Letter Grades in this class correspond to the number-to-letter grade table in the student handbook. Unique to this class are the scores for ear training, which are usually four bars in length and so are given a score of 1-9, and convert to number grades as follows:

Melodic/Rhythmic/Progressions Dictation
Four bars long: one point per half measure correct in pitch&rhythm. Add one point. Ergo, nine possible points per exercise. Point will be given for correct pitch and rhythm even if scored over the bar line.

9=A   (100%)

8=A-  (91%)

7=B+  (88%)

6=B    (84%)

5=B-   (81%)

4=C    (74%)

3=C-   (71%)

2=D    (67%)

Points will not be taken off for incorrect notational practice _ Finally, the total:

AP Grade Weights

▪   Homework: 30%

▪   Quizzes: 30%

▪   Dictation: 20%

▪   S. Singing:15%

▪   Class Participation: 5%

Students who begin to show signs of earning a grade lower than a B- will have a conference with teacher. Additionally, the instructor will have a teleconference with the parents.

Instructional Material

Theory in Concept and Practice by Bruce Benward