Music BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years)


January, September

code: W300

For information about starting January 2016 call 01245 686868


Engage in the practice and theories of music, encounter a variety of styles and approaches, and choose your own specialisms from performance, composition, music technology and education. You’ll also have the chance to experience live performance, from solo work to large-scale orchestral and choral productions.

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Full description


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The practical and vocational skills you’ll gain from our Music course, combined with your particular specialisms, will help you stand out in the music industry. Our recent graduates enjoy successful careers as performers, composers, technologists, arts administrators and music teachers.

But the many other skills you gain, such as analysis, performance, composition, ensemble work and presentation, will be useful for a wide range of other roles too. Studying creative and performing arts will give you the ideal training for any position that requires quick thinking, self-reliance, imagination, teamwork and the ability to organise both yourself and others.

You might decide to use your talent to help others by taking our MA Music Therapy.

We have close links with many industry partners, including Cambridge Junction, where you can see theatre and musical acts; Hazard Chase, one of the leading international music management companies; and the Britten Sinfonia, one of Europe's most celebrated and innovative chamber orchestras.

Modules & assessment

Year one, core modules

  • Music Performance Studies 1
    On this module you'll enrol for a programme of regular one-to-one instrumental or vocal lessons. These lessons will be supplemented by performance workshops, including specialist masterclasses and weekly lunchtime concerts. You'll also enrol for ensembles within the departmental programme, aiming at a schedule of rehearsals and concerts that total a minimum of 75 hours. These ensembles vary from semester to semester, and some will require an audition.
  • The Languages of Music 1a and 1b
    The primary purpose of this module is to revise or introduce concepts that form the basis of musicianship skills. By analysing and completing technical exercises and examining relevant extracts, you'll explore issues relating to the juxtaposition of tension and release. You'll adopt a similar approach in the exploration of rhythmic patterns and the notion of cadence (openness and closure). By studying these concepts through both practical application and the examination of appropriate examples, the module will encourage your critical appraisal skills, and develop your powers of self-expression, both verbally and in written form, as well as your understanding of fundamental issues of musical style and aesthetics.
  • Music and Technology
    This module will introduce you to the concepts, methods and basic practicalities of using technology in the composition of music. Using digital audio workstations, you'll learn to apply principles of acoustics and computer-based sequencing within a wider understanding of the historical and aesthetic issues relating to the composition and practice of technology-based music. For the major activity of the module, you'll prepare an original composition utilising various techniques, following a number of prescribed tasks that will lead you systematically through the processes of computer operation. Through detailed step-by-step explanation and hands-on experience in class, you'll become familiar with a range of musics and techniques. You'll also attend lectures, demonstrations and discussions on a wide range of technology-based music and associated topics, which will encourage you to question and examine the traditional conceptions of sound and music. Much emphasis will be placed on your ability to analyse music aurally.
  • Composing and Improvising
    Whether or not you consider yourself a potential composer, you can deepen your understanding of music by experiencing the processes of composition. Furthermore, the notion of improvisation - 'real-time' composition - is a vital complementary area to foster and, in this respect, a direct route to tap musical intuition. On this module, you'll learn how composition and improvisation cross-fertilise each other by exploring and examining a range of different techniques and compositional styles.

Year one, optional modules

  • Music Business
    This module will develop your understanding of the popular music business in the broadest sense, including the environments in which the sector operates, its performance within these areas and the factors that influence the operation of organisations. You'll explore the impact of political, social and economic factors and consider the legal and ethical frameworks that inform the popular music sector through an examination of specific case studies relating to publishing, copyright law, distribution systems and marketing. You'll also reflect on your current role, or potential roles, within popular music.
  • Introduction to World Musics and Ethnomusicology
    People in the west are becoming accustomed to the sound of musics of other cultures. Despite this, relatively few of us possess either an appropriate level of technical understanding, or a familiarity with the origins and contexts such music. This module will introduce you to a selection of musical styles from around the world, highlighting some of the important features and explaining their organising principles. You'll also learn how the understanding of the music itself is inextricably linked to the understanding of the people who make that music. Some of the questions you'll ask are: "What is music, and what do people think it is for?"; "When and where is music made and how is the nature of the music determined by its context?"; "Who are the musicians, and what is their role in society?" and "How is music passed on from one generation to the next?" You'll deliver an assessed presentation on an agreed and appropriate aspect of World Music, and prepare a portfolio that demonstrates your understanding of technical aspects of the musics considered. You may elaborate and enhance this by including reviews of music and documentary sources. This module is a self-contained course of study, but will also prepare you for further region-specific studies in non-western music (see 'World Music Regional Studies - Level 5') .

Year two, core modules

  • Music in Context 2a and 2b
    This module will expand your musical experience and familiarity with a variety of musical styles and genres. You'll learn about the contextual development of music, which is often determined by factors that lie outside issues of artistic expression, and the importance of political and social aspects of the creative environment. In considering these issues, you'll examine music from a range of musical periods and cultures in order to place them within an appropriate historical, cultural and aesthetic framework. These include: Music and the Enlightenment; The Romantic Generation; Jazz and Afro-American Music; The Electrification of Music; Popular Music Analysis. You'll complement this contextual exploration by developing your aural recognition skills and applying appropriate research and analytical methodologies, demonstrating your awareness of a range of technical aspects appropriate to the repertoire under consideration. You'll be assessed by the submission of a portfolio of stylistic exercises that will show your stylistic familiarity and technical competence, as well as an independently-researched essay.
  • Music Performance Studies 2
    This module will allow you to enrol on a programme of regular one-to-one instrumental or vocal lessons. These will be supplemented by weekly performance workshops, including some specialist master classes and tuition on rehearsing, and by weekly lunchtime concerts. You'll also enrol for ensembles within the department's programme, aiming at a schedule of rehearsals and concerts that totals a minimum of 75 hours (and up to 150 hours). These ensembles will vary from semester to semester, some requiring an audition. You should gain experience in at least one small-scale ensemble, showing your emerging reliability and maturity in performance, particularly in university concerts and productions, including those during the Festival Week, which take place every June.
  • Composing and Improvising 2a
    On this practical module, you'll examine selected compositional issues in some depth. It's taken as a fundamental tenet of the module that composition and improvisation are but two facets of the same skill and you should understand how they can complement each other. You'll be introduced to the concepts and techniques of a selection of tonally-based compositional and improvisational styles appropriate to your course, with projects that might include exercises in contrapuntal writing, harmonisation techniques, songwriting, arrangement, basic jazz and free improvisation and related small-ensemble compositional techniques. You'll undertake three projects, which vary from delivery to delivery, and, at the end of each, perform your compositions/improvisations in a workshop. These projects will be complemented by seminar discussions, which will increase your understanding and help you inform and improve the range and depth of your compositions for the workshop, and individual and group tutorials, which will ensure you are maintaining progress towards the performance. You'll be able to choose from a range of projects to suit your own needs. For your improvisation, you will be expected to perform from an agreed range of stimuli.

Year two, optional modules

  • Composing and Improvising 2b
    On this practical module you'll cover selected compositional issues in some depth. A fundamental tenet of this course is that composition and improvisation are but two facets of the same skill, and you should understand how they can complement each other. This module is a companion to Composing and Improvising 2A. You'll examine more harmonically advanced styles of composition, appropriate to your course of study. You'll undertake three projects, which may examine subjects as diverse as stylistic modal composition and improvisation, vocal setting and arranging for small groups. Each of these will culminate in a workshop, during which you'll perform your compositions and/or improvisations. Lectures and feedback will increase your understanding, in turn informing and improving the range and depth of compositions that you create for the workshops. Specific times will be set aside for you to rehearse and revise before your final submission, while individual and group tutorials will help you ensure that you're making satisfactory progress. For the improvisation, you'll be expected to perform from an agreed range of stimuli.
  • Electroacoustic Composition
    This module will introduce you to the composition of electroacoustic music. As with the preceding technology modules, you'll cultivate an aesthetic understanding of the implications of technology for musical composition and apply practical techniques to creative ends. You'll approach the work through a mixture of practical sessions and guided reading, listening and discussion, being introduced to key works from the repertoire in both acousmatic music as well as electroacoustic music. With reference to these works, you'll take part in group discussions on spatialisation, timbral transformation and spectromorphology, complementing your creativity with a firm knowledge of the repertoire. At the same time, you'll be introduced to elements of analysis, allowing you to unpick selected works to understand how techniques may be implemented in your own work. You'll need to be well organised with more than a basic understanding of computer music sound processing, computer music sequencing, recording techniques and production & mastering experience. Your assessment will comprise a portfolio containing two contrasting compositions. The structure and content of this portfolio will depend on creative briefs detailed in the module guide, and your must accompany your compositions with brief notes that document your sound sources and processes applied to sound, as well as the formal concepts that underpin your creative products.
  • Music for the Moving Image
    This module will allow you, with the aid of appropriate technology, to compose and realise original music to accompany a film, video or other type of digital moving or still image. You may either work with supplied material or with other students undertaking complementary work within related media production modules. By undertaking a series of practical exercises, you'll examine a range of techniques, and consider the approaches to film music composition of various commercial and non-commercial film composers. By considering appropriate editing software, you'll better understand how your music will fit in to the overall scenario of audio-visual collaboration. You'll be assessed by the submission of a portfolio of materials, accompanied by a brief critical evaluation that should place your work in the context of current trends in film music writing, as well as providing a basis for your own criteria and judgement. The skills you'll acquire in this module should give you a good basis for further exploring the audio-visual industry, which is now a significant employer of composers and sound designers.
  • Music and Performing Arts in Education
    This module will introduce you to a number of key principles, concepts and methodologies of music and performing arts education, to develop your understanding of certain theoretical foundations crucial to the study and practice of teaching these disciplines. Topic areas may include: introductory philosophies of education; the application of music and performing arts education in a variety of contexts; the sociological and psychological elements of music and performing arts pedagogy. You'll explore such questions as: Why is education in the arts important? How do people learn through these subjects? How can teaching be delivered effectively through the performing arts? You will also evaluate the role, function and practice of music and performing arts education within a number of familiar scenarios, such as its provision in schools, both primary and secondary, peripatetic teaching, and the role of community arts education. You will examine current educational methodologies and policy frameworks, including the implications of national curricula, and issues of equality. Practical work is included in the module so that you can gain first-hand experience of issues in performing arts teaching practice, giving you a useful insight if you intend to pursue a career in the field. This will involve you in teaching a group of students some basic performing arts skills, with clear guidelines and assessment criteria provided by the tutor. You will also write an essay on a given topic.
  • World Music Regional Studies
    This module will allow you study the music of one particular region of the world in depth. Examining the variety of musical styles within this society will allow you to pose certain questions: What are the historical backgrounds of the various musics within the society? Who performs and who listens to the music, and what role does music play in the lives of the people of the region? With an emphasis on practical music-making, guided by the way in which music is learnt within the region, you'll gain an understanding of the organisational principles of the music. In addition to examining rhythmic and tonal structures, you'll consider the role of the individual within an ensemble, the relationship of music to movement and dance, and the relationship of music to language. You'll show your understanding through an assessed seminar presentation, focusing on agreed aspects of the region's music. You'll also submit a portfolio that explores a variety of technical stylistic aspects of the music, drawing on reviews and documentary sources. The region studied may differ with each delivery of the module, so it's a good idea to ask the Course Group Leader or Module Leader about this before enrolling.

Year three, core modules

  • Enterprise in the Creative Arts
    This independent study-style module will provide you with an element of work experience, in preparation for your future employment. You'll identify an individual area of work placement that doesn't overlap with anything chosen by other students and, before the semester begins, check the feasibility of your proposal. You'll need to be critical in your approach, to establish clear parameters for evaluation. You'll develop important transferable personal skills, and learn to evaluate the level of attainment achieved in particular contexts. Employment activities in the creative arts are often self-generated, and self-employment may feature significantly in your future work plans. The module incorporates elements relating to the development of entrepreneurial skills. Early on, you'll give an oral presentation focusing on your proposed content, and the opportunities and constraints of your chosen placement. As well as receiving tutor input at this stage, you'll benefit from the views of both your peers and employers, as well as gaining an insight into how others plan to work within comparable contexts. You'll undertake the work placement element itself either in 'sandwich' mode during the semester or in a 'block' during the Christmas vacation or January inter-semester period. The nature of the your involvement in the work placement should facilitate ongoing reflection.
  • Intertextuality in Music
    Through a structured series of lectures, seminars and presentations, you'll examine the nature of music in the context of the other arts and explore the character of musical form and identity. In discussing music, terms are often applied to it that have become, through over-use, taken for granted. What, for example, do we mean when we describe a musical work as Baroque, neo-Classical or Impressionistic? What is it for a piece to have 'form' and what would a work without form be like? To consider these issues, you'll examine music from a range of periods and cultures, and position it within an appropriate historical, cultural and aesthetic framework. Your studies will be supported by a number of guest lectures from experts in related fields, and also by group visits to relevant concerts, exhibitions and talks at local museums/art galleries. You'll be offered one or more optional subjects drawn from an advertised list. These may include: Music, Form and Identity; Music-Text-Voices; The Music of the Spheres; Jazz and Afro-American Music. Your assessment will consist of a mid-semester presentation and a prepared essay.
  • Major Project
    The individual Major Project will allow you to undertake a substantial piece of individual research, focused on a topic relevant to your specific course. Your topic will be assessed for suitability to ensure sufficient academic challenge and satisfactory supervision by an academic member of staff. The project will require you to identify/formulate problems and issues, conduct research, evaluate information, process data, and critically appraise and present your findings/creative work. You should arrange and attend regular meetings with your project supervisor, to ensure that your project is closely monitored and steered in the right direction.

Year three, optional modules

  • Music Performance Studies 3A and 3B
    On this module, you'll enrol for a programme of regular one-to-one instrumental or vocal lessons on one study. These lessons will be supplemented by weekly performance workshops, including some specialist masterclasses, and weekly lunchtime concerts. You'll also enrol for elements within the programme of Music Ensembles offered that semester, some of which by audition, aiming for a schedule of rehearsals and concerts no less than 35 hours in total across the semester. The module emphasises the development of an accelerated learning curve, and you'll be expected to demonstrate your developing maturity in performance and autonomy, as well as your initiative in group music-making. Your assessment will comprise of your involvement, in a leading capacity, within a designated ensemble, and your participation in the department's programme of ensemble activities.
  • Composition 3
    This module builds on the compositional tools you'll have acquired in previous composition and performance modules, giving you more opportunities to collaborate and create. You'll draw from a range of creative activities: collaboration through use of multimedia, creating scores, lead-sheets or electronic realisations. You'll be examine these in detail, learning by doing and receiving practical feedback. Creative teamwork is integral to a professional composer's life, and you'll be strongly encouraged to collaborate with students from other courses. For at least one item in your portfolio, you'll be placed into a group of students with complementary skills in the production of musical works. You'll discuss formal and stylistic aspects of compositions in reference to the various types of music underproduction. You'll also choose whether to pursue notated compositional outputs, digitally recorded and/or generated outputs, or pieces partially comprised of both through-composed elements and improvisation to suit your particular needs.
  • Art, Music and Performance
    This module will give you an interdisciplinary perspective on performance, music and the visual arts. This might include interrogating diverse practices (such as performance art, opera, music (al) theatre, dance, site-specific performance and a wide range of hybrid forms) through both critical study and practical engagements. You'll explore various theories, devices and links between differing artistic genres, as well as experimenting with your own artistic pieces. You'll question the purpose and function of a creative work and enquire into the significance and meaning which arises out of making artistic projects for and within specific contexts. Working intensively with course tutors, you'll develop, execute and critique diverse artistic pieces. You'll also receive both scholarly and practice-based research training, and undertake a creative research project in which you'll collaborate with other students to create a live piece that explores the relationship between at least two different art forms.
  • Principles of Music Therapy and Dramatherapy
    This module will provide you with an intensive introduction to the theory and practice of music therapy or dramatherapy, as practised by registered professionals in the UK. It will not train you to be a therapists, but equip you with knowledge of the field and some introductory skills that are useful in considering music therapy or dramatherapy as a vocation. You'll also be able to apply this knowledge in other modules that involve improvisation, role-play or performance, and can contribute to a basic understanding of groups and how they function. It'll also introduce you to the clinical field and enable you to make informed choices about music therapy, dramatherapy and other related professions such as teaching and nursing. You'll attend experiential workshops that are linked to theoretical lectures, and possibly a field trip, as well as giving audio-visual presentations. Through these activities you'll be able to evaluate, develop and analyse your musical/dramatic potential and explore the application of different media to therapeutic situations. Your assessment will consist of a written essay, and musical/dramatic improvisations (as appropriate) in small groups, in which you'll actively demonstrate an understanding of the use of music/drama as a therapeutic tool.
  • Radiophonica
    Radiophonic techniques are essential tools in the creation of content for media broadcasters involving the spoken word. A knowledge of radio genres, including those of an experimental nature, goes hand in hand with principles of compositional design, structuring, editing and realisation, and experience in this area will prepare you for involvement with the media industries. This module will give you practical experience with the aesthetic issues and unique characteristics of radio, giving you greater freedom to conceive and realise your own creative works that make use of the spoken word. You'll also be introduced to key moments in the history of experimental, documentary and dramatic radio English language broadcasting and encouraged to respond to the spoken word in a musical way, integrating into your work concepts of sound design that originated in radio. Your assessment will take the form of a portfolio including radiophonic work and an evaluative critical commentary including evidence of project planning.
  • The Global Marketplace in Music
    The invention of recording technology has been the key not just to the commodification of music, but also to its easy distribution around the globe. The standardisation of formats, from the vinyl record to the MP3 file, has allowed people to buy and listen to music from a range of cultures. On this module, you'll trace the dynamics of the relationship between the music industry and the foreign 'other', from the early appropriation of blues and African genres, through reggae, rai and other 'world' styles that have substantially entered the Western mainstream. You'll also examine the evolution of the modern 'world music' circuit and its accommodation of various traditional musics into the Western paradigms of festivals, recordings and broadcasting. In this context, you'll also examines the notion of authenticity, together with the conflicts and ironies encountered in bringing traditional musics onto the world stage, away from their original performance contexts. You'll investigate the role of Western pop music in other societies, the politics of culture, censorship, and the extent to which traditions have survived or been altered in the face of competition from Western record companies. You'll also examine the spread of instruments steeped in the European tradition, such as electric guitars and keyboards, and the way they have shaped other musics, and been subverted or adapted. You'll explore some of the more interesting hybrids produced by the collision between Western pop and other musics, from the fusion of 1940s jazz bands with ancient gamelan chimes in Java to the guitar styles of West Africa and their basis in traditional mbira music. In doing so, your normal distinctions between pop and classical or traditional musics and the identities that they define will be challenged.

Optional modules available all years

  • Anglia Language Programme
    The Anglia Language Programme allows you to study a foreign language as part of your course. You'll take one language module in the second semester of your first year in order to experience the learning of a new language. You must select a language you've never learnt before from the following: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.


You’ll demonstrate your learning and progress through a mixture of performance, creative projects, presentations, portfolios, essays and your final-year Major Project, which may include creative work.

Through ongoing assessment, you’ll improve your ability to improvise, sight-read and think on your feet, as well as develop skills in reflective thinking, preparation, drafting, and revising your work. We’ll also encourage you to use self-help packages, particularly for aural training, and undertake an extensive listening programme.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

The Department of Music and Performing Arts is a community of over 400 students and staff, working together in a supportive environment to create new and challenging compositions and performances. Our lecturers are research-active practitioners and recognised experts in their field, so our students always have access to the latest theories and practice, as well as invaluable career guidance.

We organise many activities to help our students prepare for the future, like concerts, theatre performances, work placements, study abroad opportunities, talks by acclaimed guest speakers, and research conferences.

We’re part of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences, a hub of creative and cultural innovation whose groundbreaking research has real social impact.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

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Our Enterprise in the Creative Arts module will give you the opportunity to take up a work placement in Year 3. This could be in an area such as music education, instrumental teaching, artist management, marketing, recording and studio work, composition and events management.

Specialist facilities

You’ll work in our purpose-built music centre, which includes lecture and practice rooms, a recital hall featuring a new Steinway Model D, an extensive suite of computer music studios with workstation laboratories, digital editing studios and recording facilities. We also have the Mumford Theatre on campus, a full-size professional venue that regularly hosts touring companies and musicians.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2015/16 (per year)


International students, 2015/16 (per year)


UK & EU students, 2016/17 (per year)


International students, 2016/17 (per year)


How do I pay my fees?

Tuition fee loan

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Most English undergraduates take out a tuition fee loan with Student Finance England. The fees are then paid directly to us. The amount you repay each month is linked to your salary and repayments start in April after you graduate.

How to apply for a tuition fee loan

Paying upfront

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If you choose not to take out a loan you can pay your fees directly to us. There are two ways to do this: either pay in full, or through a three- or six-month instalment plan starting at registration.

How to pay your fees directly

International students

You must pay your fees up-front, in full or in instalments. You will also be asked for a deposit or sponsorship letter for undergraduate courses. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees
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Funding for UK & EU students

We offer most new undergraduate students funding to support their studies and university life. There’s also finance available for specific groups of students.

Grants and scholarships are available for:

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Funding for international students

We've a number of scholarships, as well as some fee discounts for early payment.

Entry requirements


Entry requirements are not currently available, please try again later.

Entry will normally also be subject to an interview/audition.

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Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

Entry requirements are for September 2016 entry. Entry requirements for other intakes may differ.

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International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

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English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for undergraduate courses.

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Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry onto a degree course.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 68 68 68

Enquire online

International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

Enquire online