Music Department


Degree Program Requirements

The Music Program offers a broad range of opportunities to experience and engage critically with all areas of music. Introductory classes (21M.0XX) assume no previous knowledge of reading or performing music, but all with the exception of Fundamentals of Music (21M.051) are appropriate for advanced musicians as well. Most non-introductory subjects are arranged into one of three categories: history/culture (21M.2XX), composition/theory (21M.3XX), and performance (21M.4XX). Subjects in music and technology are distributed throughout the curriculum. Additional subjects in special topics/advanced seminars and graduate-credit classes (including music and media) are offered.

Academic credit is given for classroom subjects, advanced solo and small group performance, and for participation in departmental ensembles including the orchestra, choral groups, wind and jazz ensembles, and world music groups such as Senegalese drumming and Balinese Gamelan. Participation in most of these groups is through auditions held at the beginning of each term. UROPs and independent study in music are also available.

The academic program is guided and taught by a permanent staff of professors and lecturers often supplemented by guest artists and visiting faculty.

Bachelor of Science in Music/Course 21M

The undergraduate program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science in Music comprises a grounding in foundational skills in music history and culture, performance, and music theory, a capstone Advanced Seminar, and a coherent program in a musical specialty. Six required subjects (one of which consists of two terms of performance, and two of which satisfy the CI-M requirement) and five restricted electives satisfy these requirements, but should be supplemented by additional electives. The program is analogous to those for music majors at leading liberal arts institutions and prepares a student for graduate study in music. Students should demonstrate proficiency in musical fundamentals and have performance experience before declaring the major and should consult the major advisor in music no later than the first term of their junior year.

General Institute Requirements (GIRs) Subjects
Science Requirement 6
Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Requirement [three subjects can be from the Departmental Program] 8
Restricted Electives in Science and Technology (REST) Requirement 2
Laboratory Requirement 1
Total GIR Subjects Required for SB Degree 17
Communication Requirement
The program includes a Communication Requirement of 4 subjects: 2 subjects designated as Communication Intensive in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CI-H); and 2 subjects designated as Communication Intensive in the Major (CI-M).
PLUS Departmental Program Units
Subject names below are followed by credit units, and by prerequisites, if any (corequisites in italics).  
Required Subjects 72
21M.011 Introduction to Western Music, HASS-A†, CI-H  
21M.030 Introduction to World Music, 12, HASS-A†, CI-H  
21M.301 Harmony and Counterpoint I, 12, HASS-A†; placement exam  
Two terms of Performance subjects, 21M.401–21M.499 (6 units each)  
21M.500 Advanced Seminar in Music, 12, HASS-A, CI-M; permission of instructor  
To satisfy the requirement that students complete two Communication Intensive subjects in the major, in addition to 21M.500, students must take one subject from this list of approved CI-M subjects for Course 21M: 21M.220, 21M.235, or 21M.260.  
Restricted Electives
A coherent program of five subjects from the music curriculum chosen in consultation with faculty advisor(s).
Departmental Program Units That Also Satisfy the GIRs (36)
Unrestricted Electives 84
Total Units Beyond the GIRs Required for SB Degree 180
No subject can be counted both as part of the 17-subject GIRs and as part of the 180 units required beyond the GIRs. Every subject in the student's departmental program will count toward one or the other, but not both.  

* Alternate prerequisites and corequisites are listed in the subject description.
† Students who entered prior to fall 2010 may use this subject to satisfy the HASS-D requirement.
For an explanation of credit units, or hours, please refer to the online help in the MIT Subject Listing & Schedule.


303, 310, or 359
220 (CI-M) or 260 (CI-M)
235 (CI-M) or 250
one more 200 or 300
restricted elective

Western History
another 300
220 (CI-M) or 260 (CI-M)
235 (CI-M) or 250
any 200 in Western classical music
any 200

World/Jazz/Popular Music/Film
290-299 World Music
200 in Popular music or Jazz
A CI-M from 220, 235, or 260
Another World or Popular music 200
Another class in world or popular music (200 or 300) or 2 terms of world music or jazz performance

Composition/Theory/Electronic Music & Technology
This track requires choosing a sub-track in (a) composition, (b) theory, or (c) electronic music & technology.
A CI-M from 220, 235, or 260
Composition sub track: 310 and 351
Theory sub track: 303 and 304
Electronic music and technology sub track: two from 361, 362, or 380 (repeatable)
One more class from any sub track or 359.
restricted elective

Four semesters of AMP
an additional 300
A CI-M from 220, 235, or 260
235 or 250 (235 may not be double counted)
in addition, one of the foundational classes in performance must be 21m.480 or 21m.490, or an additional term of AMP must be included

Music and Theater
A CI-M from 220, 235, or 260
A class in opera, musicals, or film
One class from the Theater Arts Minor Tiers I or III
One class from the Theater Arts Minor Tier II
One class from any Theater Arts Minor Tier
restricted elective or additional class in theater

A restrictive elective is any class at the 200 or 300 level or two 400-level classes requiring individual graded performance.

Minor in Music

The Minor in Music requires six subjects that will give students experience within the three main branches of music: history/culture, composition/theory, and performance. The four subjects in Tiers I and II are at the introductory or intermediate level. The two in Tier III will provide depth in one of the three branches. Students wishing to enroll in the minor should consult the minor advisor in music no later than the first term of their junior year.

Tier I One subject, typically chosen from the following:
21M.011 Introduction to Western Music
21M.030 Introduction to World Music
21M.051 Fundamentals of Music (Students with sufficient musical knowledge may substitute a subject from Tier II or III for this subject)
Tier II Three subjects:
History/Culture: 21M.220, 21M.235, 21M.250, 21M.260, 21M.290-21M.299, or another subject (with approval of minor advisor)
Composition/Theory: 21M.301
Performance (two terms): 21M.401–499
Tier III Two subjects from one of the following areas of specialization:
History/Culture: 21M.201–299, 21M.500
Composition/Theory: 21M.302–399
Performance (four terms): 21M.401–499

Joint Degree Programs

The undergraduate program leading to the degrees of 21E (Humanities and Engineering) or 21S (Humanities and Science) with a focus in music, provides an opportunity to study and combine music with a scientific or engineering field. The joint major requires nearly the same foundational and capstone subjects as the full major (five subjects: the additional CI-M in music is not required), six subjects beyond the GIRs in a coherent program in engineering or science (often a subset of a departmental Major), and a musical specialty of four subjects. Ideally, some of the subjects in the science or engineering program as well as the musical specialty should complement the forms of learning in the other adding cohesion to the program. Students should demonstrate proficiency in musical fundamentals and have performance experience before declaring the major and should consult the major advisor in music no later than the first term of their junior year.

Humanities Concentration in Music

A Humanities concentration in music requires four subjects. Students with little or no prior musical experience may start with one or more of our introductory subjects:

  • Introduction to Western Music - 21M011
  • Introduction to World Music - 21M030
  • Fundamentals of Music - 21M051

Students with some musical training are encouraged to begin at whatever level is appropriate to their experience. One of the four subjects may be a performance subject (21M400-21M499), which is by audition only, and must be taken for two semesters in order to count as one concentration subject. See the Music Subjects section of the course bulletin for further information on these intermediate and advanced subjects.

HASS Requirement and Communication Intensive HASS (CI-H) Subjects

Most 9- or 12-unit Music subjects can be counted towards the Distribution Component of the HASS Requirement as HASS Arts subjects.  Two 6-unit performance subjects can also be combined to count towards the HASS Arts requirement.  The following classes also fulfill the Communication Requirement as CI-H subjects:

21M.011        Introduction to Western Music (HASS Arts) (CI-H)
21M.013J       The Supernatural in Music, Literature and Culture (HASS Arts) (CI-H)
21M.030        Introduction to World Music (HASS Arts) (CI-H)
21M.223J       Folk Music of the British Isles and North America (HASS Arts) (CI-H)

Subjects in music are described in the online MIT Subject Listing & Schedule.   Further information on subjects and programs may be obtained from Elizabeth Connors,, 617 253-5623.  For general questions about the HASS requirement or the Communication Requirement contact Patricia Fernandes,, 617 253-2313.

Back to top




In my music classes, I have encountered the most consistent excellence in teaching of any department at MIT.”

Thomas Coffee ’05