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Music Composer Courses and Degree Programs

Many schools offer composition and other music courses for both majors and non-majors. Actual composition course curricula vary from school to school; while some courses focus on the creation of music from a Western standpoint, others incorporate more of a world music approach. The courses listed below will be included in any music composition degree program.

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List of Music Composer Courses

Music Fundamentals

This introductory course provides the basic building blocks of music. Students learn about keys, intervals, triads, basic tonal theory and rhythm. The fundamentals of melody and harmony and a rudimentary study of musical notation are introduced. From here students are prepared for more advanced classes in music theory and composition. Ear training practice is often introduced at this point, including learning to recognize major and minor triads and intervals.

Music Theory I

A continuation of the music fundamentals course, this class delves deeper into the elements of Western music, including scales, melodic principles, counterpoint, voice leading and diatonic harmony. Some schools incorporate non-Western music at this point. Cadences and phrase structure are introduced, along with 4-part writing for instruments and voice. Ear training practice is often covered in this class as well.

Music Theory II

This course covers a more diverse array of music and more complicated concepts, such as extended chords, altered chords, binary and ternary structures and modulations. Ear training practice continues, and students learn about chromatic harmony in depth, including augmented and Neapolitan sixth chords.

Music Composition - Various Levels

Students start out by composing melodies based on a vocal model, using what they have learned about tonal harmony. As the student writes, he or she begins to add chromatic harmony and counterpoint, eventually writing for larger forms, such as large instrumental ensembles and orchestras.

Music Composition Degree Programs

Music composition degree programs are offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate degree levels. Students must become grounded in a wide variety of musical areas, such as theory, music history, music reading, ear training and playing an instrument, including voice, before they begin to compose music. While some bachelor's degree programs require incoming freshmen to already have composed music, there are other schools where this is not the case. At the master's degree level, music composer courses and programs are more advanced. Ph.D. students generally have more freedom to create and study their area of interest in more depth.

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
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Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Music Composition and Theory
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    • Tennessee (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music Performing
        • Piano and Organ
        • Stringed Instruments
        • Voice and Opera
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • New York (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Cornell University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
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      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music History and Literature
        • Music Performing
        • Musical Conducting
        • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
        • Piano and Organ
        • Stringed Instruments
        • Voice and Opera
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Georgia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Georgia include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music Performing
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Miami include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Jazz
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music Pedagogy
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        • Musical Conducting
        • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
        • Piano and Organ
        • Voice and Opera
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • New York (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Syracuse University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
        • Music Composition and Theory
        • Music History and Literature
        • Music Performing
      • Photography, Film, and Video

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