AP Music Theory Class

The ultimate goal of an AP Music Theory course is to develop a student's ability to recognize, understand, and describe the basic materials and processes of music that are heard or presented in a score. The achievement of these goals may best be approached by initially addressing fundamental aural, analytical, and compositional skills using both listening and written exercises. Building on this foundation, the course should progress to include more creative tasks, such as the harmonization of a melody by selecting appropriate chords, composing a musical bass line to provide two-voice counterpoint, or the realization of figured-bass notation.

Click here to download the AP Music Theory Course Description.

The AP Music Theory exam tests your understanding of musical structure and compositional procedures through recorded and notated examples. Strong emphasis is given to listening skills, particularly those involving recognition and comprehension of melodic and rhythmic patterns, harmonic functions, small forms, and compositional techniques. Most of the musical examples are taken from standard repertoire, although some examples of contemporary, jazz, or vernacular music, or music beyond the Western tradition are included for testing basic concepts. The examination assumes fluency in reading musical notation and a strong grounding in music fundamentals, terminology, and analysis.

How does studying theory makes you a better instrumentalist, singer, conductor, musician, etc.? Let's ask Mr. Olin...

"A beneficial use for studying theory in my undergraduate career was first its relation to my piano skills class and then through my performance as a trumpeter. Through studying theory and applying what I learned on the piano, I started to better understand my role as a trumpet player in the orchestra. As a trumpet player, I usually have the melody, but not always. I found my theory studies to assist with my understanding of what note of the chord I was playing (vertical harmony) and or what section of the music I was playing (form). Theory is a common language for describing concepts. With a basic understaning of theory I was better equipped to perform and discuss music with my colleagues/peers.

Studying theory gives us the knowledge of how music is structured, how it follows the rules and how it breaks the rules. Most importantly it helps us to understand why it follows the rules and why it breaks them. Theory is one of the most valuable assets that we can understand as musicians because it allows us to communicate with other musicians both verbally through conversation and musically through performance." -Mr. Olin

The exam includes five types of questions:

1. Multiple-choice questions based on recorded music played within the examination
2. Multiple-choice questions without aural stimulus
3. Written free-response questions with aural stimulus
4. Written free-response questions without aural stimulus
5. Sight-singing

Examination Grade % of Students Earning Grade
5 - Extremely Well Qualified19.2
4 - Well Qualified18.7
3 - Qualified28.6
2 - Possibly Qualified23.7
1 - No Recommendation9.8
Additional Statistics
Mean Grade3.14
Standard Deviation1.25
Total Number of Students11,809
Number of Schools Administering this AP Exam2,074
Number of Colleges Receiving AP Grades in this Subject1,018

Information on this page was quoted from www.collegeboard.com (accessed May 2006)