Harmonic response to tapered composite beams is investigated by using a finite element model based on a higher order shear deformation theory. Only uniaxial bending is considered and the interlaminar shear stresses are neglected. The Poisson ratio effect is incorporated in the formulation of beam constitutive equations. The effect of in-plane inertia and rotary inertia is also considered in the formulation of the mass matrix. A parametric study is done of the influence of anisotropy, taper profile and taper parameter. Linearly and parabolically varying thickness variations of increasing, decreasing, decreasing-increasing and increasing-decreasing type are used. © 1995 by Academic Press, Inc.