A taxonomy for teaching music theory: J. S. Bach and lessons in invertible counterpoint

Sarah Marlowe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Many aspects of J. S. Bach's pedagogical tradition remain relevant to current thinking in undergraduate music theory instruction. This essay draws inspiration from Bach as a teacher, particularly his systematic presentation of ideas and his preference for teaching from compositions rather than abstract exercises. Part 1 explores the potential for applying Bloom's Taxonomy to music theory instruction. Building on recent applications of the taxonomy to music education, particularly work by Deborah Rifkin and Philip Stoecker, I propose a revised taxonomy for teaching undergraduate written theory. This approach provides a great deal of flexibility in the classroom since it can be applied to any theory topic. To demonstrate its effectiveness, Part 2 presents a series of detailed activities for teaching invertible counterpoint following the six categories of the taxonomy. Each activity includes excerpts either from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier or two-part inventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-387
Number of pages23
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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