Bespoke Music Theory: A Modular Core Curriculum Designed for Audio Engineers, Classical Violinists, and Everyone in Between


  • Megan L. Lavengood Department of Music, George Mason University



modular, music technology, pedagogy, higher education, curriculum design


Traditional music theory curricula are increasingly scrutinized. Students regularly misunderstand the scope of epistemology and scope of theory, find theory intimidating and difficult, and fail to see its relevance to their career goals. In this essay, I outline a modular music theory curriculum, which works to address these negative perceptions through a combination of redesigned coursework and empowerment of students. After taking a 100-level course covering fundamentals and species counterpoint, students may take our three style-based 200-level courses in any order (18th-c music, 20th-/21st-c. music, and Pop/Jazz). We also offer a 300-level course in Baroque and Classical Forms. The content of these courses could and should be altered to fit the expertise of a given school's faculty and the needs of its students. This is especially beneficial to students who do not need four semesters of theory for their degree, such as music technology BAs, who can now take Intro and Pop/Jazz instead of learning strict chorale voice leading. This curriculum relates more clearly and obviously to each student's particular goals, clarifies the scope and context of each course, and reduces the gatekeeping aspects of the theory sequence to improve recruitment and retention.


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Re-examining Curricula