Popular Music BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years)


January 2018, September 2018


Learn how to succeed in the music business, from performance to production, and develop your musicianship. Explore the history and cultures of popular music while getting practical experience in up-to-date production and performance techniques.

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Full description


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Our BA (Hons) Popular Music will give you a knowledge of music theory as well as the practical skills you need for a career in the music industry. You can choose from many optional modules to tailor the course towards the career that you want. Many of our past students now enjoy successful careers as performers, composers, music technologists, music teacher or arts administrators.

Studying the 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.

If you have an interest in music therapy, you could also go on to take our MA Music Therapy after you graduate.

Work placements

Our Year 3 Enterprise in the Creative Arts module will allow you to find work experience in areas such as music education, instrumental teaching, artist management, marketing, recording and studio work, or events management. Our links with local industry partners, including venues such as Cambridge Junction, will give you a headstart in securing your placement.

Modules & assessment

Year one, core modules

  • Dots, Lines and Waves
    On this popular music theory module, you'll cover music notation, music vocabulary and aural training. Aural training is crucial to an understanding of written notation and the two skills will be combined in terms of delivery – hence the title 'Dots' (notation systems), 'Lines' (text and staves) and 'Waves' (sound waves and ear training). The module will develop your keyboard and listening skills, and your understanding of stave, guitar and drum notation, with all aspects linked in to specific popular music audio examples. As well as lectures and seminars, you'll attend in Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) sessions for smaller group work, undertaking theory-based problem-solving tasks as well as independent theory work. You'll be assessed through a portfolio of practical analysis tasks and an analytical essay.
  • 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.
  • Popular Music in Context 1a and 1b
    This module will further develop your musical literacy and your understanding of musical syntax in the analysis of popular music. You'll learn to analyse musical styles within appropriate historical, cultural and aesthetic frameworks, and explore concepts relating to the application of melodic, rhythmic and harmonic systems, examining the relative relevance of such systems in matters of musical analysis. This module will also give you the chance to develop research methodologies appropriate to the consideration of a range of musical issues and styles. You'll develop an awareness of the character of the many popular musical forms and an understanding of the nature of musical development. You'll be assessed through a portfolio of written work and stylistic exercises, combining technical analysis and composition with written research.
  • Song Writing 1
    This creative and practical module will develop your songwriting skills through composition assignments, workshopped using recorded audio demonstration and practical performance. You'll consolidate your current levels of musicianship, increase your critical awareness of your creative practice and develop new songwriting skills in a variety of popular music styles. You'll produce creative work in audio format accompanied by clear lead sheets, visual scores and reflective commentaries, while your lyric writing skills will also be developed using a weekly songwriting workbook/blog. You'll be encouraged to try out new techniques and expand the stylistic range in your own compositions. You’ll also showcase your recorded work in a professional manner, and learn about copyright issues, linking in to the music business and employability aspects of the course. The module will be structured around four different aspects of songwriting: lyric writing; structure; texture; and instrumentation. You'll be assessed on your final portfolio of compositions.

Year one, optional modules

  • Recording Techniques
    This module is aimed at the aspiring musician rather than the recording engineer. By working on a number of creative projects, you'll learn to use computer software for recording, editing, sound-processing and sequencing. You'll also learn how to use microphones, including the importance of their placement relative to a particular sound source, and different approaches to recording demanded by particular musical situations - including the special situation of recording the human voice. Multitracking, editing and post-production techniques such as normalising, compression and gates will be examined as tools to enhance the quality of your recordings in different situations. You'll also work collaboratively with other students, forming your own musical ensembles with the intention of realising particular recording scenarios.

Year two, core modules

  • Music in Context 2a and 2b
    This module will expand your musical experience and familiarise you with a variety of musical styles and genres. You'll learn about the contextual development of music and the importance of political and social aspects of the creative environment. In considering these issues, you'll examine music from a range of times and cultures in order to place them within an appropriate historical, cultural and aesthetic framework. These include: Music and the Enlightenment; Jazz and Afro-American Music; The Electrification of Music; Popular Music Analysis. You’ll also develop your listening skills and learn to use appropriate 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.
  • Chords, Contours and Grooves
    Chords, Contours and Grooves is a follow-on module from Dots, Lines and Waves that will allow you to apply your theoretical knowledge to specific musical examples in a more advanced critical manner. You'll further develop your understanding of the musical parameters of genre and style with a practice-based approach, analysing the harmony, melody and rhythm in popular music styles, including jazz, blues, progressive rock, post punk, rap, indie, electronica and post millennial popular forms. In Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) sessions, you'll undertake small group-based analytical assignments designed to support the technical portfolio tasks. Through a series of assessed analytical tasks, you'll develop an understanding of the importance of cultural context needed for detailed musical analysis, as well as musicianship, ear training skills and a comprehensive knowledge of the parameters of musical expression. You'll be assessed by a portfolio of technical exercises and a 1,500 word essay.

Year two, optional modules

  • Live Event Management
    This module will allow you to take part in the planning, negotiation, organisation, promotion, marketing, budgeting and management of a live music performance event at a public venue. In this respect, you'll be encouraged to explore your professional and vocational practice as a source of learning. Teamwork is a vital element of this module and you'll need to carefully manage and negotiate a variety of responsibilities in small groups, demonstrating a high level of autonomy in the management of your learning, as well as a detailed knowledge of relevant theoretical underpinning. You'll prepare an action plan, which will provide a framework for the event you intend to present. In this, you'll consider content, promotion, ethical issues and financial planning, as appropriate. You'll also evaluate the effectiveness of your event through a final project report, and consider your experience within an appropriate contextual and critical framework through a short essay on an aspect of event management.
  • 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. 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 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. You will examine current educational methodologies and policy frameworks, including the implications of national curricula, and issues of equality. The practical side of this module will involve you 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.
  • Studio Project
    This module is aimed at the aspiring musician rather than the recording engineer. By working on a number of creative projects, you'll learn about the history of music production and studio-based recording from the 1950s to the present day. You'll be introduced to the work of pioneers such as Phil Spector and George Martin, as well as more recent producer/composers, such as Brian Eno, Trent Reznor, and Frank Zappa. You'll also continue to develop your fluency in the use of computer software for recording, editing, sound-processing and sequencing, and to learn about microphones and creative applications of their positioning. Working collaboratively, you'll create two contrasting musical productions, which will comprise your assessment for the module. One of these will be free of stylistic constraints; the other should consciously emulate a particular style of music production, either from the past or the present day.
  • World Music Regional Studies
    This module will allow you to 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, 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. Your assessment will consist of a presentation and a portfolio. 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.
  • Music for the Moving Image
    On this module you’ll 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. Using 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.
  • Songwriting 2
    This creative and practical module will develop your songwriting and arranging skills. You'll undertake composition assignments, workshopping these in seminars using recorded audio demonstration and practical performance. With a focus on the art of arranging, you'll be encouraged to experiment with different stylistic elements and techniques for variation. This modules builds on songwriting work from Songwriting 1, emphasising the arrangement of original material and developing your use of harmony, melody and rhythm. You'll be assessed through a final portfolio of two substantial recorded compositions with corresponding scores and commentaries, as well as individual showcase website, with accompanying samples from your lyrics workbook.

Year three, core modules

  • Enterprise in the Creative Arts
    This 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 before the semester begins and make sure your proposal is doable. You'll need to be critical in your approach, to establish clear parameters for evaluation. You’ll also develop 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 a 'sandwich' mode during the semester or in a 'block' during the Christmas vacation or January inter-semester period.
  • Intertextuality in Music
    You'll examine the nature of music in the context of the other arts and explore the character of musical form and identity. When talking about music, we often take for granted the terms that we use. For example: What 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? You'll consider these issues and examine music from a range of periods and cultures, positioning 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. 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

  • 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 (performance art, opera, music(al) theatre, dance, site-specific performance and a wide range of hybrid forms) through both critical study and practical exercises. 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. You'll 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.
  • Composition 3
    This module builds on the compositional tools you'll acquire in preceding 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 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.
  • Music Performance Studies 3A and 3B
    Building on Music Performance Studies 1 and 2, this 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. You'll 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. Your assessment will comprise your involvement, in a leading capacity, within a designated ensemble, and your participation in the department's programme of ensemble activities.
  • 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 clinical field and some introductory skills that are useful in considering music therapy or dramatherapy as a vocation. 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. 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.
  • Music in the Global Marketplace
    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 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 entered the Western mainstream. You'll also examine the evolution of the modern 'world music' circuit and look at the notion of authenticity. 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 explore some of the 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. Throughout this module you’ll challenge the distinctions between pop and classical or traditional musics and the identities that they define.

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.


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For a full breakdown of module options and credits, please view the module structure.

You’ll show your progress on the course through a combination of public performance, creative projects, essays, presentations and portfolios of work, including your final-year Major Project, which can include practice-led work.

This ongoing assessment will help you develop your improvisation and sight-reading skills; your creativity in composition and recording work; and your writing, analysis and research. 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 School of Performance 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

Additional study information

Study abroad options

Our student exchange programme with a university in the USA will give you the option of studying abroad for one semester in Year 2. We also run annual trips to places like Rome, Vienna and New York.

Specialist facilities

You’ll work in our purpose-built music centre, which includes; band rooms; recording studios; lecture and practice rooms; a large recital hall; an extensive suite of computer music studios with workstation laboratories; digital editing studios.

You’ll also have access to five grand pianos, including a Steinway Model D, and many orchestral instruments, as well as traditional instruments from India, China and Africa and a Balinese Gamelan.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2017/18 (per year)


International students, 2017/18 (per year)


UK & EU students, 2018/19 (per year)


International students, 2018/19 (per year)


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Fee information

For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages

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

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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 answers@anglia.ac.uk for further information.

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You will be interviewed for 15-20 minutes by one of our lecturers and will have the opportunity to ask your own questions about the course and university.


You will be required to evidence your music making:

  • If you play live, you should bring your instrument with you to the audition (although pianos, drum kits, amplifiers and large percussion instruments will be provided). 
  • If you produce recorded music you should bring examples of recordings.
  • If you are a singer, please arrange with us to ensure that you have an accompanist. 

Please email admissions-alss@anglia.ac.uk with details of the instrument you will be performing on and/or if you require an accompanist. Remember to include your name, the course you have applied for, the date of your audition and your student ID number in any correspondence.

You should prepare one or two pieces lasting up to 10-15 minutes duration (a piano accompaniment or band will be provided if required). You can choose any material to play - we especially encourage original material.

You should also bring with you to the audition samples of any creative work (compositions, recordings, leadsheets) and one sample of your written work (from your A-level studies or similar). You are invited to bring any other examples of creative or written work, or provide links to online media.

For more guidance visit our auditions page and download our popular music audition pack.

We don't accept AS level qualifications on their own for entry to our undergraduate degree courses. However for some degree courses a small number of tariff points from AS levels are accepted as long as they're combined with tariff points from A levels or other equivalent level 3 qualifications in other subjects.

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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.

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