Composition 2015-2016


  • "I am completely lost. This class is SO hard!!"  – Senior
  • "This class is really pretty easy if you're paying attention."  – Freshman
  1. EVERY DAY: Put away your iPad, phone and anything else that  may  will  be a distraction. You will need your iPad on occasion for piano keyboard work. If you do not have a piano app, go to the App Store and download a free piano app…or two…or more.
  2. Log-on to your computer, go to Set this as your home page.
  3. At the end of the period log-off or shutdown your computer (depends on your campus).


  1. Protocol: One person at a time can talk during class. I will ask you many, many questions. Don't be afraid of wrong answers. (Unless it's a test. Then be VERY afraid!)
  2. Opportunity: IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY LIES GREAT OPPORTUNITY. (I will explain.)
  3. The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.Vince Lombardi


Student Information

Copy and paste this form into an email, fill-out and send to The subject for the email will be your first and last name and your school’s initials.   Example: John Smith, MHS



Student ID#:



Instrument or vocal part:

Your email:

Your phone:                                                      

Parent or guardian phone:

Home address:



Benward Book #:


On Cue-


  1. FIRST DAY QUIZ! Click Here and follow instructions. Answers are below.


We will walk through the syllabus today, but first we shall investigate in common parlance/conversational language:

  1. What is AP Music Theory?
  2. What is it really? What aren't you telling me?
  3. Why do I want to take this class?
  4. What will I learn?
  5. What will I do?
  6. How do I do that?
  7. What's in it for me?
  8. Is it worth the effort?
  9. Can I cheat?
  10. Grading Policy?!


  1. AP Music Theory is intended to prepare you to take the AP Music Theory Exam in May and prepare you for taking music theory in college. It looks good on your transcript and, if you study this year,  will give you the skills to make an A in college music theory, which can be a "fast, furious and terrifying" experience for the uninitiated.
  2. This class is really about composition, which I can guarantee is NOT what you think it is. What the "official rules and regulations" don't tell you is what I am going to teach you how to do. All of you sing or play an instrument. How much fun would it be if all you did was talk about "how" you play or sing and never actually play or sing? Stupid question? No, because "music theory" is exactly that – learning the how and why of music construction and some of the skills necessary to compose. And while "theoretical physics" is probably fun, most people would rather play with lasers, split atoms or create their own black hole than do the math (Not everyone!). We'll do both.
  3. You take this class because it's FUN! If you do it right, which is what I will teach you. [Ed. note: I know that I do not always talk or write in complete sentences with accurate grammar and syntax. If you do not understand, I will explain, but do not complain if the verbal rain becomes an aural pain…in Spain.]
  4. You will learn not only the aural skills necessary to write-down something you hear, but how to hear something that is written WITHOUT resorting to playing it first. You will learn the "construction" skills for composition, how to write for each instrument and voice, how to combine and balance pitches to create melodies, chords, phrases and entire compositions and much, much, much much more!
  5. You will grow as musician. ALL the material we cover will enhance your experience as a musician no matter what your ultimate goal, professional musician or sitting in your room singing alone.
  6. Just follow my instructions for 10 months. It will take every minute of every class to even come close to covering all the material.
  7. Enlightenment. And a much deeper and more satisfying experience as a musician and a person. Not only will you gain musical skills, you will gain a deeper understanding of your own emotions and how to convey them to others. You will also expand your "emotional vocabulary." How many kinds of "happy" can you think of?
  8. Yes. If you spend your time wisely this will be a blast!  "Slacking" through this class will give you an end result of  "boring, too hard and a "waste of time." It's exactly like performing vocally or instrumentally. Sure, you can have fun in the bottom band or choir (and that's fine if you're happy with that!), but from knowing a lot of all-staters, all-staters, or even those who work at that level and don't make it (hey, wake-up! I know a lot of GREAT players who didn't make all-state!) have MORE FUN!

There are several types of students for whom this class will be relevant:

  1. SERIOUS musicians – "I'm going to major in music in college." Yes, that is serious. Music is a an art, as is teaching, but it is a serious "profession" no matter which path you take, and only the "awesome" can make a decent living at it. The good news is that, like law, engineering or business, you can LEARN it! How do you want to spend the next 40 years? No matter what you choose to do, you'll live your profession 24/7.
  2. Semi-serious musicians (don't tell me you didn't see that coming) – or musician as an avocation. Unlike your typical "death sport" (WWF or EFL), you can do this for the rest of your life and you can get better at it every day (until Alzheimer's kicks-in). "I want to be an engineer and make a lot of money." Cool. I almost did that. Whatever you do, you gotta have the skills. Part of the skills for ANY profession is being able to create, develop and manipulate a concept, apply it to a given schemata and then make it a reality ("realization").
  3. Smart musicians who want to boost their GPA AND learn at a higher level. It is an AP course. But – it IS an AP course.
  4. Students who just want to be better musicians because they really love music. This can be ANY kind of music,  but you will specifically deal with music from the Common Practice Era, approx. 1700-1850. Read that again. What do you think "Common Practice"  means?

Who should not take this class:

  1. Non-musicians. This is not facts and figures. If you can't read music you're pretty-much toast before you start. It is a music composition class. Starting from "Zero" is like trying to take calculus without studying basic math and algebra first.
  2. Lazy students. You will fail. But this is true of ANY endeavor. And I have a superb hint for you from one of the smartest students ever: Once you make a habit out of working harder and faster than others, it feels NORMAL! It is not exhausting. It's only exhausting and difficult if you try to cram everything in after long periods of laziness. I've noticed this very pertinent "statistic" over the years: the students who work the hardest are those who spend their energy finding ways to NOT do the work for class.  So no excuses, no missed homework (you can't…see grading below), don't steal my books (the answers aren't in there!), don't write-in your Benward book (but ALWAYS in the Aural Proficiency book) and get your head into the composition game.
  3. Dishonest students (Yea, they exist. You know they do and I know who they are.)


In addition to the grading policy on the syllabus:

Homework is sequential. It must be turned-in IN-ORDER or it is a zero.Think about that. There is a posted schedule for homework. It must be done IN-ORDER and it must be complete. Incomplete work will be handed back for you to complete.

All assignments build on the previous assignments. I will not accept anything but the next assignment that is due.

CAUTION, beware, etc.: You will have a LOT of small assignments, therefore you have no need to get behind.

You CAN, however, work ahead!

If you can go faster than the speed of class, and if you get a 100, bonus points are added. I have not problem with you getting a 100 every six weeks. It is not hard to do. It's easier than failing.

BIGGER CAUTION: You may not work on assignments with a friend – no cheating. Your friend can't play or sing your solo or region music for you. In ALL "partnering" situations one person does all the work and the other learns nothing. This is YOUR performance, not your friend's. Do not cheat…or steal. Or fake your work. Don't let my classroom persona fool you into thinking I don't know or don't care. Don't be one of the students whom I have lost respect for – you may need a college or job recommendation and I won't be able to tell them anything good about you. I hate doing that, but I will not compromise my integrity for you.

  1. NEXT ——–>> (Click here)
  2. THEN—————->> (Click here)
  3. Dr J's list of Theory Rules



"If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music." Gustav Mahler