Music Theory AP

Hello all!

My son, a new high school junior, attends a music school for vocal performance and they have recently offered the opportunity to take the Steve Laitz Music Theory class, which prepares for the AP Music Theory exam. Our son is intending a double business music major, and has high stats, both academically and musically. I admit to being a bit ignorant, his high school offers nothing like this. Is it worth the almost $200 a month price tag?

Is this the only music theory they offer at this school? Taking theory is a good idea for any musician, but opportunities to learn may vary. Conservatory preparatory schools generally have good theory classes. Is this a good music school and does it offer theory and solfege, dictation, etc. or music history?

The AP music theory curriculum is fine but many say it is not top preparation for college or conservatory music. Still students at the college level begin music studies at all levels and often the placement exam given at audition time is exactly that, placement.

You can do a search for AP Music Theory here and get some opinions :slight_smile:

What schools seem of interest to your son at this point?

It’s a bit early days yet, but he is interested in Vanderbilt, Belmont, TCU, SMU, Cornell, and UChicago among others.

Also this class is the one taught at Juilliard by Steven Laitz, if that helps.

Steve Laitz actually has been teaching at Eastman for years; he’s transitioning to Juilliard, as far as I can tell. I worked with him on one of his books several years ago, and he’s a terrific teacher. But I’m not sure that I would pay $200 a month to study his stuff with someone else. Honestly, as far as the AP Music Theory exam goes, a good student musician could self-study several of the different books out there, including terrific ones by Greg Steinke, and ear-training books by Bob Ottman (actually Rogers and Ottman now, I think, as Ottman is no longer with us). The Barron’s AP Music Theory book is also a terrific resource.

I don’t know of any music schools or conservatories that allow a student to place out of theory, even with a 5. Some schools MIGHT give credit for a 5, but theory is still required. It is true that every school will have a placement test for all students at the start of the freshman year, and those with previous knowledge – whether they took the AP course/exam or not – will place higher.

For Vanderbilt:

Music Theory 5 MUSC 1200: SURVEY OF MUSIC THEORY 3
(No course credit awarded for music majors)

@ClarinetDad16, this is pretty typical. The student will not get credit if they are a music major, and they also will have to take theory.

I can tell you that DePaul DOES award credit to music majors for a 5 in the AP exam. But they still have to take theory; they’re just likely to place out of the lower levels.

@musicalkids meaning the same outcome of doing well on the theory placement exam.

Same experience as ClarinetDad16.

The University gave credits for AP Music Theory (i.e., general ed credits) but the music school did not recognize the course as part of their requirements. The music school required their own Theory coursework. However due to taking AP Theory in high school (which it seems most kids took) she did pass out of “remedial” theory during the entry test. Remember remedial means a class with no college credit. Also, considering theory was progressive, if you did not pass out, you could not take Theory 1 until 2nd semester of Sophomore year. This is an example at only one school so you should check requirements at schools of interest. Particularly for music business - that is an area I’m not familiar with. Just call if you can’t find it easily on the website.

And dare I say, voice majors aren’t typically as strong at music theory as instrumentalist - my guess is bc they’ve had less time at it. So any theory for a voice major is good if there’s a required entry test.

Just noticed the $200/mo fee. Yea that’s kind of steep. Others mentioned some self-study possibilities which may be good. If there is a theory exam and your son doesn’t mind being behind his peers (with a few other voice majors) that’s OK. Still some sort of theory study prior to college would definitely be worth it.

I like others question it being worth 200 a month, to be honest, the AP music theory exam is not exactly sacred knowledge, and whether it is taught by someone from Juilliard or a local music school, it doesn’t matter much. If it were a course geared towards college track level music theory, It might be worth it, but given that the AP at most would get you maybe one general ed course credit (music school wouldn’t), I don’t think it is to be honest.

All music schools when you enter give you a theory and ear training placement exam, to see where you fit in. At some schools, kids with no music theory have to take a remedial class (it depends on the school), kids with some background can place into higher level classes (my son, because of his background between what he had done before, then his time at Juilliard pre college, ended up placing out of the basic theory track for 4 semesters for example). The AP music theory exam prob will at least place him out of the remedial class and maybe a semester or so, but since he is a junior, I would recommend he try doing self study, would be a lot cheaper and given how little taking the AP music test does for the student, probably not worth 200/month, that sounds to me like a scam, to be honest, selling it because the guy whose name is on it is known. If he does the self study, he might get the same result, and given he has time before he will take the exams (year and a half or so), I would have him try that.

My son took AP Music Theory, learned a lot, got a 5, no college credit but did feel well prepared for music theory in college. But $200 a month - no way! I’m not sure if I would even pay $200 for the class ($95 to take a test that would garner no college credit and make no impact on his stats was quite enough!).

Does the school offer music theory as part of the regular curriculum? That would probably be enough to get him past any remedial college class.

Self-study is hard for some kids (and me!).

if he hasn’t taken theory yet, and if his school does not offer it, I would go ahead with this. NOT to get credit, which he won’t - and most schools have their own theory curriculum and sequence and want all students to take it.

But for an intro and beginning background in theory, which really helps with confidence and understanding (and avoiding remedial class).

I don’t think $200 is that steep. We paid that for theory at a conservatory prep I think.

Some families pay for years so their kids can get training in theory throughout their school years. We economized but did pay for theory in junior and senior year, and she was behind, believe me.

D’s HS did not have AP Theory. We had a neighbor who taught theory at a local U. At that time he was developing a new curriculum for the school and he offered to tutor D on a weekly basis for free, but after a few months we insisted on paying him. For what it’s worth, it just so happened to be $50 per lesson. ($200 / month)

What about this version - also designed by Steven Laitz - much cheaper, 4 weeks for $97 I don’t have experience with it, but my son is considering taking it over the summer.

$200/month sounds very expensive. For that cost, you could get a private tutor, which might be a better situation altogether.

It’s $200 per month. I don’t know how many months it is, but if it’s 8 months until the AP exam, that’s a crapload of money. While an intro music theory course would be useful, AP may not necessarily be the way to go. As others have mentioned, in addition to conservatories, many liberal arts universities will not grant credit for music majors (or if they do, it’s gen ed credit). My liberal arts college did not give me credit for a 5, but their placement test exempted me from the intro courses. You might be better served putting some money toward a tutor instead.

Ohhhh- I thought the whole course was $200! How many months? I don’t remember the cost of theory at conservatory prep but it must have been around $1200. I agree also that most lessons in music are at least $50/week.

I would also check to see if any local schools have outreach programs where they teach music theory. For example, Juilliard has a night division where people can take extension courses in things like music theory (I assume that is prob pretty expensive), but maybe there is a local college or conservatory or maybe a music program where he might be able to take theory, it prob will be cheaper.

One non academic way for him to get immersed in music theory, the learning company has a Robert Greenberg lecture series on the fundamentals of music he might enjoy (Greenberg is a lot of fun). They are nominally expensive, but when they have a sale on, I have seen the theory ones for under 100 bucks (and it is a number of dvd’s), it is not academic theory per se, but it could be an introduction.