Major In Music

The Music Major presents a balanced selection of courses in music history, performance, theory, and literature. We prepare Music Majors for graduate and professional training in the art of music, but the Major also appeals to students planning careers in various fields. The core curriculum comprises 3 courses in music theory, 4 in Western music history, and 3 electives (chosen from a wide selection, including jazz, world music, rock, and more.) Students develop practical musicianship and performance skills through applied lessons, participation in Department ensembles, and theory labs. 

Major Requirements

In addition to the general requirements of the University as outlined in the Bulletin of Undergraduate Instruction, a student wishing to graduate as a music major with an B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) degree must complete the following courses in the Department of Music:

Prerequisite (1 credit)

  • Theory: MUSIC 261: Theory and Practice of Tonal Music I

NOTE: MUSIC 161 may be taken first as a remedial course for students with insufficient background, but it does not count toward the major.

Required Courses (6 credits)

  • Theory: MUSIC 361: Theory and Practice of Tonal Music II
  • Theory: MUSIC 461: Theory and Practice of Tonal Music III
  • History: MUSIC 255S: Music History I (Antiquity through Renaissance)
  • History: MUSIC 256S: Music History II (1600 through Mozart)
  • History: MUSIC 257: Music History III (Beethoven through WWI)
  • History: MUSIC 258: Music History IV (Post-WWI through the Present)

Applied Music (minimum of 0.5 credits)

  • 2 semesters of study in an instrument or voice

Ensemble (1 credit)

  • 2 semesters in a departmental ensemble (excluding MUSIC 210-3)

Three additional courses, two of them above MUSIC 213 (3 credits)

Select from:

  • MUSIC 130: World Music: Aesthetic and Anthropological Approaches
  • MUSIC 137: Music, Social Life, and Scenes
  • MUSIC 140: Introduction to Jazz
  • MUSIC 143: History of Rock
  • MUSIC 144: Meet the Beatles and the 1960s
  • and courses numbered above MUSIC 213

Waiver of Music Major Requirements

A request for waiver of any requirement for the music major or the music minor, together with supporting documentation where appropriate, should be submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). After reviewing the request, the DUS may decide that the student needs to take a departmental examination in the area before a final decision can be made. Waived courses earn no credit towards the 34-course graduation requirement, nor will grades for them appear on your transcript.

Timing Schedule for Certain Required Courses

We recommend that you begin taking required music major courses during your freshman year. Certain music major requirements are typically offered only once during the academic year. Although it is certainly possible to begin required courses in the second year, this might make your schedule during your final semesters less flexible than you might want. If you are considering a semester of study away from Duke, you should be especially careful in your planning.

Students should be aware that certain music major requirements are typically offered only once during the academic year. The pattern is usually as follows:

Rotating Schedule for Several Required Courses
Offered in the Fall
  • MUSIC 255S – Music History I: Antiquity through 1625
  • MUSIC 257 – Music History III: 1800 through Present
  • MUSIC 461 – Theory and Practice of Tonal Music III
Offered in the Spring
  • MUSIC 256S – Music History II: From 1625 through 1800
  • MUSIC 258 – Music History IV: Post-WWI through the present
  • MUSIC 361 – Theory and Practice of Tonal Music II
Offered in the Fall and Spring
  • MUSIC 261 – Theory and Practice of Tonal Music I