Majors in Music

Between five and ten students each year choose to major in music and receive the degree of Bachelor of Science in Music (Course 21M) or the joint major, Bachelor of Science in Humanities and Engineering/Science (Courses 21E and 21S).  Many students complete full (dual) majors in music and another field and receive a degree acknowledging both fields. (As of 2011, the douple major replaces the dual degree option).  Students interested in pursuing the music major should contact the Major Advisor as early as possible, but definitely by the fall of their Junior year at MIT.

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. 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 full major requires 132 units (normally 10 classroom subjects x 12 units plus 2 performance subjects x 6 units).  Music majors (single, joint, or double) may also use music as their HASS concentration as well as their HASS-Arts and one HASS-Elective class.  Thus, double major graduates will need to take at least five classes (60 units) beyond the General Institute Requirements for their other Course in order to graduate.  Majoring and minoring in music simultaneously is not allowed.

MIT's registrar maintains the official requirements for Course 21M Degrees , Course 21E Degrees and Course 21S/ Degrees on their website. In the unlikely case of a discrepancy between the requirements listed below and those on the registrar site, the registrar is the authoritative site. What appears below is meant to be a summary and restatement of the "Departmental Program" to help students plan their schedules for graduation.

The majors advisor: Keeril Makan,


All music majors take the same foundation of 48 units divided as follows:

Foundation classes in Music (Required 21M, 21S, 21E)
Number Title Units
21M.011 Introduction to Western Music (CI-H) 12
21M.030 Introduction to World Music (CI-H) 12
21M.301 Harmony and Counterpoint I 12
21M.400-499 Performance Ensemble (two semesters) 2 x 6


Each of these foundation classes counts towards the minor and concentration as well, so students deciding between these programs are encouraged to take these classes as soon as possible.

Students who enter with additional training in music theory should take 21M.302 or an upper-level course as a substitute for 301. If their program of study requires 21M.302, the Major advisor will approve an appropriate substitute, usually from 21M.303-399. Students who enter MIT without prior experience in reading music but who wish to pursue the major should take 21M.051 (no credit towards the major) before taking higher level courses.

In addition to the foundation classes, in the fall of their Junior or Senior year all majors take the class 21M.500 Advanced Seminar, which functions as a capstone experience for majors and is half of the "Communication Intensive Subjects in the Major" requirement. Most, if not all, of the foundation classes should have been taken before taking 21M.500.

Capstone Class in Music (Required 21M, 21S, 21E)
Number Title Units
21M.500 Advanced Seminar (CI-M) 12



In addition to the 48-unit foundation and the 12-unit capstone, music majors choose a "coherent program" to give more depth to their studies.  Full majors (whether single or double) choose one of the programs listed below. Each of these programs requires six subjects (72 units), at least one of which is a communication intensive subject in music (currently 21M.220, 21M.235, or 21M.260).  A "restricted elective" in the programs below comprises any class at the 200 or 300 level or two six-unit 400-level subjects requiring individual graded performance (e.g., chamber music, AMP (Advanced Musical Performance), or performance of an extensive solo with a larger ensemble).

Coherent Programs 21M (choose one set of six classes)
Balanced Western History
302 302
303, 310, or 359 another 300
220 (CI-M) or 260 (CI-M) 220 (CI-M) or 260 (CI-M)
235 (CI-M) or 250 235 (CI-M) or 250
one more 200 or 300 any 200 in Western classical music
restricted elective any 200


World/Jazz/Popular Music/Film Performance
290-299 World Music 302
200 in Popular music or Jazz another 300
220, 235, or 260 (all CI-M) Four semesters of AMP (24 units)
Any 300    220, 235, or 260 (all CI-M)
Another World or Popular music 200 235 or 250 (235 may not be double counted)
Another class in World or Popular music (200 or 300) or 2 terms of World music or Jazz performance Additionally: one of the foundational classes in performance must be 21M.480 or 21M.490, otherwise, an additional term of AMP must be included


Composition/Theory/Electronic Music & Technology Music and Theater
This track requires choosing a sub-track in (a) composition, (b) theory, or (c) electronic music and technology. 220, 235, or 260 (all CI-M)
302 A class in opera, musicals, or film
220, 235, or 260 (all CI-M) One class from the Theater Arts Minor Tiers I or III
two classes, both from one sub-track below One class from the Theater Arts Minor Tier II
one class from a different sub-track or 359 One class from any Theater Arts Minor Tier
restricted elective restricted elective or additional class in theater
  (a) Composition:  310 and 351  
  (b) Theory: 303 and 304  
  (c) Elect./Tech.: 361, 362 or 380 (may be repeated)  


Music majors are prepared for continuing studies in graduate school music programs or work requiring in-depth knowledge of music and its history, theory, and performance.



Students taking the joint major (21E or 21S), distinct from the double major, choose a coherent program of four classes from the following two approved tracks. An additional Communication Internsive class is not required.

Coherent Programs in Music 21S, 21E (Choose one set of four classes)
21S/E Balanced 21S/E Performance
302 302
one of 220, 235, 250 or 260 480 AMP for four semesters 
one more 200 235 or 250
one more 300  


Additionally students in the joint program take six subjects beyond any that count towards the GIRs in a coherent program in engineering or science (often a subset of a departmental Major) including a CI-M class.  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.

Joint majors are discouraged in the strongest possible terms from also double majoring and may not in any case count any class towards both the 21S/E course and towards the other course.

For further information, please contact the majors advisor.