Liberal Arts Major in Music

Course Requirements for the Music Major

The music major is founded on a balance in the core training between the fields of Music History, Ethnomusicology, Theory, and Composition. Through a series of requirements (Tier 1 courses), you will acquire a foundation that introduces you to the sheer range of musical traditions available to study, and to a series of specialist skills and tools that facilitate and deepen that study. 

Students should try to begin the major in their freshman or sophomore years; this will allow the completion of course work at a moderate pace.  However, it is possible to complete the music major in just two years, so that students who decide late to major in music can begin in their junior year and still graduate at the conclusion of their senior year. The flexibility within the major means that advising will play a crucial role, and in working out their selection of electives, and the pacing of the major as a whole, students are strongly encouraged to consult with the Undergraduate Chair, the College advisors, and with other music faculty. Regular consultation with the Undergraduate Chair will help insure an orderly progression through the requirements for the major. Only one credit transferred from another institution (domestic or study abroad) may count toward requirements. Majors and minors must receive a grade of C or above to satisfy requirements (courses with grades of C- or below will not count). Further, the student must have a minimum 2.0 GPA for all courses taken towards the major of minor. 

To declare the music major, interested students should have their premajor or College advisor update the official worksheet listing music as a major. After this is done, students should plan to meet with the Undergraduate Chair  and to write a short Undergraduate Declaration, which should be e-mailed to the Undergraduate Chair before the first meeting (Word or PDF). 

In the Declaration you'll talk a bit about you and what you are hoping to get out of your music major. In a paragraph or so, please answer the following questions: Why are you choosing a music major? Do you have an additional major or minor? If so, what? At the moment, which subfields are you most interested in exploring (history, composition, theory, ethnomusicology)? Do you think you would like to write a senior thesis to graduate with honors? Do you have any ideas yet about what you want to do with your major after Penn? Thank you, your answers will help us meet your needs better. 


A. Music History Core Courses - (3 c.u.)

Music 130 – Introduction to European Art Music

Music 135 – Introduction to the Musical Life of America

Music 150 – Introduction to Ethnomusicology

(Prerequisite to each of these courses is Music 70 or the ability to read and analyze music.)

B. Music Theory Core Courses - (3 c.u.)

Music 170 – Music Theory and Musicianship I (1.5 c.u.)

Music 171 – Music Theory and Musicianship II (1.5 c.u.)

(Both courses are required and meet five hours per week, with three hours of theory instruction and two of musicianship training; they fulfill College Formal Reasoning and Analysis Foundational Requirement).


2. TIER 2 COURSES (Course Electives): 

(4 c.u.) Chosen from list below in consultation with the Undergraduate Chair in Music

A. History

Music 230 – Historical eras and topics:  earlier periods

Music 231 – Historical eras and topics:  later periods

Music 232 – Themes in Music History

Music 234 – Performers

Music 235 – Studies in African-American Music

Music 236 – Performance, Analysis, History

Music 239 – Guided research in Musicology (prerequisite 130 and one other class from tier 1 or 2)

B. Ethnomusicology

Music 252 – Music, Religion, and Ritual in South and Southeast Asia

Music 255 – Accordions of the New World

Music 256 – Music and Performance of Africa

Music 257 – Caribbean Music and Diaspora

Music 258 – Latin American Music

Music 259 – Guided research in Ethnomusicology (prerequisite 150 and one other class from tier 1 or 2)

C. Theory and Composition

Music 270 – Music Theory and Musicianship III (advanced) (1.5 c.u.)

Music 271 – Compositional Practices 1 (historical practices)

Music 272 – Compositional Practices 2 (contemporary practices)

Music 273 – Orchestration

Music 274 – Jazz Improvisation

Music 275 – Electronic Music 

Music 276 – Performance and Analysis 

Music 277 – Music and Technology

Music 278 – Composition for Musicians, prerequisite 170

Music 279 – Guided research in Theory and Composition, [formerly 099], prerequisite 170,171 and one other class from tier 1 or 2


3. TIER 3 COURSES (Capstone Courses)

(2.0 c.u.)

All students take two seminars (in their Junior or Senior year—two courses total). The seminars may sometimes be offered as joint classes with the graduate program.

Music 330 – Seminars in Music History

Music 350 – Seminars in Ethnomusicology

Music 370 – Seminars in Theory and Composition



(2.0 c.u)

All majors are required to participate for at least four semesters (2.0 c.u.) in one of the Music 007 performing groups (Ensembles). This course must be taken for a letter grade (Pass/Fail registration option may not be utilized for this course). 

 The Performance Requirement can also be satisfied by taking the following one c.u. courses:

- (one-semester course:) Music 236 ("Performance Analysis History") -- in this case, however it would not be counted as elective. Music 236 can be taken multiple times, but can only count once as a major elective, no more than twice toward the performance requirement. Any given semester of 236 cannot count for both an elective and a performance requirement at once--it has to be one or the other.

- (two-semester courses:) Music 10 or 11 (Marian Anderson Performance Programs), which however have, in turn, as a requirement the participation to an ensemble (Music 007).



To be eligible for departmental honors, a student must have a 3.5 grade point average within the department, and must have completed a senior thesis. See guidelines.