AP Music Theory

Learn all about the course and exam.

About the Course

Learn to recognize, understand, and describe the basic materials and processes of music. You’ll develop skills by listening to, reading, writing, and performing a wide variety of music.

Skills You'll Learn

  • Identifying features of pitch, interval, scales and keys, chords, meter, rhythm, and other musical concepts in performed and notated music

  • Singing a notated melody on sight

  • Notating music that you hear

  • Completing music based on cues, following common-practice style

Equivalency and Prerequisites

College Course Equivalent

A one- or two-semester college introductory music theory course

Recommended Prerequisites

Ability to read and write musical notation and basic voice or instrument performance skills

Exam Dates

  • Wed, May 13, 2020,
    12 PM Local

    AP Music Theory Exam

    This is the regularly scheduled date for the AP Music Theory Exam.

About the Units

The course content outlined below is organized into commonly taught units of study that provide one possible sequence for the course. Your teacher may choose to organize the course content differently based on local priorities and preferences.

Course Content

You’ll learn how pitch and rhythm work together to become melody and meter and build musical compositions.

Topics may include:

  • Pitch and pitch notation
  • Notes and rests
  • Major scales
  • Major keys
  • Beat division and meter type
  • Tempo
  • Dynamics

You’ll build on what you learned in Unit 1 about pitch patterns and relationships in major scales, and apply that knowledge to minor scales.

Topics may include:

  • Natural, harmonic, and melodic forms of the minor scale
  • Key relationships
  • Intervals
  • Melodic features such as contour, register, and range
  • Texture types such as monophony, homophony, and heterophony
  • Rhythmic devices such as syncopation and cross-rhythm

You’ll build on your understanding of pitch relationships and begin learning the fundamentals of harmony.

Topics may include:

  • Diatonic chords
  • Chord inversions
  • The qualities of 7th chords

You’ll expand your knowledge of harmonic materials and processes and explore the procedures of 18th-century style voice leading.

Topics may include:

  • Soprano–bass counterpoint
  • 4-part (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) voice leading
  • The conventions of 18th-century chord spelling, doubling, voicing, and spacing
  • Harmonic progression, functional harmony, and cadences
  • Voice leading with 7th chords

You’ll learn to describe, analyze, and create more complex harmonic progressions in the form of four-part (SATB: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) voice leading.

Topics may include:

  • The use of predominant chords in a harmonic progression
  • Specific predominant chords and their uses
  • Cadences and predominant function

You’ll continue to explore the skills and concepts of harmony and voice leading.

Topics may include:

  • Types of embellishing tones and their use in a chordal framework
  • Motives and motivic transformation
  • Melodic sequence
  • Harmonic sequence

You’ll build on what you’ve learned about harmonic relationships and procedures and deepen your understanding of keys, scale degrees, and chords.

Topics may include:

  • Tonicization and the ways to achieve it
  • Part writing secondary dominant chords
  • Part writing secondary leading-tone chords

You’ll study the use of conventions that affect the character of music such as modes, phrase relationships, and forms.

Topics may include:

  • The seven types of modes
  • Melodic relationships between phrases
  • Commonly used sections of music such as introduction, interlude, bridge, verse, refrain, chorus, coda, and codetta

Search AP Credit Policies

Find colleges that grant credit and/or placement for AP Exam scores in this and other AP courses.

See Where AP Can Take You

AP Music Theory can lead to a wide range of careers and college majors

Career Areas 65
Majors 15

Not a student?

Go to AP Central for resources for educators