-The Honors Music Theory and Advanced Placement Music classes are a necessity for any student who wishes to continue music study after high school graduation. These classes are offered as yearlong courses. Successful completion of Music Theory 1 and 2 is a prerequisite. Some students choose to take the Honors and Advanced Placement Music class both in eleventh and twelfth grade. In the students' first year, Honors Music Theory begins with a comprehensive review of essential elements in music theory: pitches on the staff and keyboard, note and rest values, simple and compound time, beaming of notes, triplets and duplets, intervals and their transpositions including compound intervals, scale degree names, major and minor key signatures, the circle of fifths, chords, triads, triads in a key, seventh chords, inversions of chords, and figured bass.
The Honors Music Theory class continues with harmonic cadences with the tonic, subdominant, and dominant triads. Authentic, plagal, and half cadences are discussed here. Students will be able to understand the difference between perfect and imperfect. We will discuss minor keys and the Picardy third. This section finishes with part-writing procedures and problems dealing with parallel motion and augmented seconds and fourths in melodic lines. From here the class begins discussing concepts of the melodic line. The concepts covered include: form, pitch, rhythm, meter, and harmonic implications. In the discussion of harmonic implications, the concept of triad inversion is deliberated. Students will understand how to read, write, analyze, and hear triads in various inversions in a four-part texture. This includes the various implications with the doubling of pitches in certain situations.
Once confidence is gained in four-part writing, the Honors Music Theory class moves into a unit involving nonharmonic tones. Passing tones, neighboring tones, retardations, anticipations, appoggiaturas, escaped tones, pedal tones, and suspensions. When suspensions are discussed, students will learn to numerically classify them based on figured bass. The class then moves into other chord chapters. Dominant sevenths, Supertonic sevenths, Submediant and Mediant triads are discussed. Phrygian and deceptive cadences are covered here too. When students are comfortable, the class engages the latter concepts and applies them to melody. Melodic extensions, phrases, motivic development, sequences, and harmonization are all discussed. The final unit Honors Music Theory class students encounter is modulation. Students will learn how to perform elementary modulation through the use of secondary dominants.
Students who elect to take Advanced Placement Music class in their senior year begin with a short review of all material covered in the first year. After the review, students explore many seventh chords diminished and diatonic sevenths. From here, students learn more complex and interesting ways to modulate including the use of diminished seventh chords. Then students spend time learning binary and ternary forms and apply them to part-writing procedures for instrumental music. Once students understand the basic principals for instrumental writing, our learning turns towards chromatically altered chords. Neapolitan sixths, Italian sixths, German sixths, and French sixths are all discussed. Students will be able to describe, analyze, hear, and write these chords that have made Romantic and Early Twentieth Century music so popular and enjoyable.
As students learn to add chromatics to their compositions, they will also learn characteristics of melody, rhythm, and harmony in Twentieth-century music along with serial techniques. The final units advanced placement music students encounter is counterpoint. Here students take a step in another direction and learn how to read, write, describe, and listen to music of the Baroque Era.
The material described for the Honors Music Theory and Advanced Placement Music classes are integrated with history units so students can relate their learning to periods in time. Along with these history units, Honors Music Theory and Advanced Placement Music students deal with developing their ear. These listening units are also integrated with the theory units. These aural units begin with improving students’ awareness of sound. A music teacher’s goal for students should include being able to write what they hear. To help achieve this goal, some of these units engage the students in singing of humming activities. These activities start with a single pitch and progress to complex melodies. This will help to strengthen their tonal memory. From here we begin discussing intervals and their sound. In the interval discussion, students will be using Guido d’Arezzo’s solfege. Honors Music Theory and Advanced Placement Music students use the movable Do method. They will progress through octaves and unisons to fifths and fourhs. This is both ascending and descending. From here, students will work with ascending and descending thirds. Special consideration is given to tonality and span. After thirds, students will work with the whole tone and half tone. Various exercises will be encountered that will help students visualize and internalize these intervals. The tritone is the next interval to work with. From here students learn to listen to sevenths and then sixths. Brief discussion will be given to compound intervals.
From intervals, the ear training portion progresses into tetrachords. Each tetrachord uses a series of half and whole-step pattern. These tetrachords are then arranged into modes. These modes can be used as tools when compairing to major and minor scales. To further train the ear, pentatonic scales, sequences, and chromatics are discussed. After long practice, students will begin to identify melodies. Interval recognition, tonal relationship, scale degree, chord tone, and tonal memory all play important parts in the transcription of melodies. Some time is spent on rhythms dependant and independent of melody. When rhythms become comfortable, students will practice transcribing familiar and traditional songs from memory first determining the starting pitch. Then, the basic melody pitches are written taking special care to intervals and how the written piece may of may not sound the same as the original. After the melody is sketched out, students will analyze for rhythm. When students are able to complete this exercise, they are asked to check their work using solfege. This will give them the ability to check the intervals. The finalized project is then transposed to various keys. The transcription of familiar and traditional songs from memory exercise is repeated several times to strengthen skills.
The next section in ear training involves melodies that aren’t familiar to the students. Determining the first note is the difficult first step. Key and tonality are important steps in helping to determine that first note. Once the first note is established, there are a few options in figuring out the next note: identify the interval from the previous note, identify the interval between the new note and tonic, identify the tone as a diatonic tone, identify the tone as a chord-tone, or associate it with a previous tone of the same pitch. This process can start with simple melodies and progress to difficult solos that are either recorded or live. The next step is hearing and writing two or more lines. Around this time, students in advanced placement music class are asked to hear and write chords and chord progressions. These chords can be in either root position or inversions and sound by themselves of in a song with other parts. Practice is given to the writing of chord symbols through analysis of chords and melodies. Various exercises of transcribing orchestrations and lead sheets are given to students. Ear-training units begin with first year advanced placement music students and continue with students who elect to take advanced placement music a second year.
The theory units are done through the Robert W. Ottman texts Elementary Harmony and Advanced Harmony. Information and lesson work is done on computer web browsers. Each unit has a composition assignment (MENC National Standard 3 and 4) that clearly establishes workable knowledge of the topic. These assignments are done exclusively on Finale. The use of notation software continues the building of note reading skills (MENC National Standard 5). As in multimedia arts, students submit through email critiques and analysis (MENC National Standard 6 and 7) for selected works posted on the Internet. Ear-training is practiced through Ron Gorow's text Hearing and Writing Music and hearing and performing recognition (MENC National Standard 1 and 2) is accomplished through lessons and guided practice on the computer thruogh ear training units. There are also history units (MENC National Standard 8 and 9) that are web based so students can access them from school or home.
The tests for the theory, history, and ear-training units are web-based. Some combine paper and computer. Web-based tests are graded by the teacher and by the computer.
Student grades for Honors Music Theory and A.P. Music will be based on:
Internet questions - each assignment grades itself
Internet "Finale" exercises
Internet Eartraining - each grades itself
One original composition per chapter
A research paper, presentation, and web site on a Composer or Performer
Tests on the chapters
Last Modified on November 12, 2012