Major In Music

Our undergraduate curriculum is designed for the student who wishes to pursue a broad range of musical interests within the context of a liberal arts education. Emphasis is given to a variety of musical disciplines, including composition, theory, performance, ethnomusicology, and musicology (music history). The music major is designed not only to prepare you for graduate work in music scholarship, performance, or composition, but also to offer a solid foundation in one of the most ancient and universal of the liberal arts. Note the schedule for certain required courses.

Requirements – 10 Courses

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 A.B. (Bachelor of Arts) degree must complete the following courses in the Department of Music:

  • The music major requires 10 full course credits, at least 8 of which must be at the 100-level or above (excluding MUSIC 115S, 116S, 117, 120, 126, 140, 161, 161-1, 171, 172, 176, 190S, and 190FS), plus study in applied music (see below.)


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

Course Requirements

ONE course each from TWO of the following three groups:

Group A: The Post-Tonal Era
Group B: Outside the Western Classical Tradition
Group C: Advanced Studies in Performance and Composition

Additional Requirements

  • Music elective approved by the DUS
  • Applied music: 2 semesters of study in an instrument or voice
  • Ensemble: 2 semesters in a departmental ensemble (excluding Music 210-3)

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
Offered in the Spring
Offered in the Fall and Spring