Popular Music BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years, 4 years with foundation year)

Cambridge

September

Overview

Learn how to succeed in the music business, from performance to production, by studying our full-time Popular Music degree in Cambridge. Explore the history and cultures of popular music and get practical experience in up-to-date production and performance techniques, as you develop your musicianship to a professional level. Get support to find work placements and prepare for a career as a professional musician, composer, music technologist or teacher.

Full description

Careers

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 are interested in postgraduate study, after you graduate you could also go on to take our MA Music Therapy, for example.

Work placements

We work with employers to make sure you graduate with the knowledge, skills and abilities they need. They help us review what we teach and how we teach it – and they offer hands-on, practical opportunities to learn through work-based projects, internships or placements.

You will have opportunities throughout the course 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, and networks such as Cambridge Live and Cambridge Arts Network, will give you a head-start in securing your placement.

Find out more about our placements and work experience, or the faculty's employability support.

Modules & assessment

Level 3 (foundation year)

  • Foundation in Humanities, English, Media, Social Sciences and Education
    This module will provide students with the necessary skills to begin studying at level 4 in courses related to the humanities, social sciences, English, media and education. Students will be introduced to the core skills necessary to succeed in higher education, including thinking critically, researching, and referencing appropriately, demonstrating appropriate numeracy and ICT skills, and communicating effectively verbally and in writing. In addition to these fundamental study skills, Students will be given an introduction to a broad range of disciplines whose skills and theories are widely applicable. Students will study a variety of writing styles in order to recognise, deconstruct and replicate various forms of persuasive, analytical, and informative writing. Students will learn the basics of intercultural studies and how these theories can be applied to real-world problems. Students will consider social perceptions held across western cultures, and the difference between social and self-perception, participating in structured discussion and argument. Students will be introduced to the core principles of psychology and will explore various current applications of psychological theory. Students will also be introduced to ethics and will learn about some of the key theories and thinkers in the development of current ethical considerations in a range of scenarios. This module is made up of the following eight constituent elements: Interactive Learning Skills and Communication (ILSC); Information Communication Technology (ICT); Critical Thinking; Intercultural Studies; Psychology; Composition and Style; Ethics; Social Perceptions.

Year one, core modules

  • Popular Music Performance 1
    This module provides you with opportunities to develop your performing skills through exploring a variety of rock and popular music performance scenarios. The central aims of the module are to develop your understanding of what it is to perform and to further build your confidence. The module encourages you to analyse and consider popular music performance issues and to extend your knowledge through a process of discovery and collaboration. There will be weekly performance workshops, masterclasses and sessions on aspects of performing and critical analysis. You will learn to demonstrate a basic level of stylistic awareness in both the appraisal and performance of music and technical foundation in your instrumental/voice. Later in the module, you will progress to an enhanced level in both stylistic awareness and secure technical capabilities in your instrument/voice, and an all-round progress in individual performance.
  • Popular Music in Context 1
    This module will give you the historical, social and cultural context needed to study contemporary popular music. It provides the basis for the identification and consideration of a range of styles in twentieth- and twenty-first century popular music and for the subsequent study of particular genres, enabling you to engage in informed debate about current issues in contemporary popular music. It will also further develop your musical literacy and understanding of musical syntax in the analysis and composition of popular music. You will analyse musical styles in the appropriate historical, cultural and aesthetic frameworks and discover that the development of music is determined by factors which often lie outside of issues of artistic expression, as well as exploring the political and social aspects of the creative environment. In considering these issues, you will examine music from a range of popular music periods and cultures, to place it within an appropriate historical, cultural and aesthetic framework. The module will also respond to current trends and your own interests so you can relate contextual issues to contemporary practice. It will also give you an opportunity to develop research methodologies appropriate to the consideration of a range of musical issues and styles, and develop your awareness of the character of the many popular musical forms, including Popular Music of the World, helping you understand the nature of musical development.
  • Music, Technology and Entrepreneurship
    The initial part of this module serves as an introduction to the use of electronic technology in the creation of music. Using digital audio workstations, you will learn to apply principles of sound design and sequencing, while exploring the context of historical and aesthetic issues related to the composition of technology-based music. You will become familiar with a range of compositional techniques through detailed step-by-step explanation and hands-on experience in class. You will encounter a broad range of technology-based music that will encourage you to examine traditional conceptions of sound and music. By discussing this repertoire, you will also develop your skills of aural analysis. Later in the module you will develop a wider understanding of the potential of new and emerging technologies for music networking, promotion, distribution and retail, and will examine wider ethical and legal issues concerning online music. You will explore issues concerning the music industries and the impact that digital technologies have had in their operations. Alongside studying the changing music industry, your own entrepreneurship will be supported by the Anglia Ruskin University Employability Service through drop-in support and CV Surgery sessions. Students will also have access to a range of relevant online employability information via the Careers and Employability Portal.
  • 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.
  • Introduction to World Musics and Ethnomusicology
    The advent of the internet and various forms of social media, together with the increasing mobility of individuals around the globe, are increasingly accustomising us to the sounds of musics from a wide diversity of cultures. Despite this, relatively few of us possess either an appropriate level of technical understanding, or familiarity with the origins and contexts of most such musics. 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 will also learn how understanding of the music itself is inextricably linked to understanding the people who make that music. Some of the questions you will 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?". During the module, you will deliver an assessed presentation on an appropriate aspect of World Music, to be agreed by the Course Leader. Additionally, you will produce an assessed portfolio to demonstrate your level of understanding of various aspects, both technical and contextual, of some of the musics considered during the module. You may elaborate and enhance this portfolio by including reviews of music and documentary sources. This module is both a self-contained course of study and preparation for further specific studies in non-western music (see World Music and Globalisation at Level 6). It will equip you with a range of employability skills including the understanding of cultural diversity, insight into changing global patterns of migration, presentation skills and public speaking.

Year two, core modules

  • 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.
  • Songwriting
    This is a creative and practical module designed to develop your songwriting and arranging skills through composition assignments, which are workshopped using recorded audio demonstration and practical performance. The emphasis will be on producing creative work in audio format accompanied by clear lead sheets, visual scores and reflective commentaries. This will present you with the opportunity to consolidate your existing levels of musicianship, increase critical awareness of your creative practice and develop new songwriting skills in a variety of popular music styles. You will be encouraged to try out new techniques and expand your stylistic range in your own popular music compositions. The module is structured around four different aspects of songwriting: lyric writing; structure; texture; and instrumentation. Compositions will be regularly workshopped in all sessions and critical skills, alongside team working abilities, will be developed on the module, equipping you with a variety of techniques and musical knowledge and the ensuing confidence to try out new ideas in a broad range of styles.
  • Popular Music Performance 2A
    This module will provide you with opportunities to develop your performing skills in a variety of rock and popular music performance scenarios. You will develop an understanding of what it is to perform, demonstrating this in practice, independently and with confidence. You will analyse and consider popular music performance issues in depth and explore this further in your own collaborative practices. There will be weekly performance workshops, with masterclasses and sessions on aspects of performing and critical analysis. Within the weekly workshops, you will consider the integration of techniques from the analysis seminars into performance, using appropriate vocal/instrument techniques specific to genre. You will also work on onstage group cohesion and interaction to engage your audience. If you perform cover versions, then you must aim for a creative interpretation of the material.
  • Entrepreneurship for Music 2: Placement
    This module will support you in finding a placement or internship opportunity that focuses on a potential career pathway in an area of the music industries. Particularly important will be your development and self-evaluation of transferable and employability skills. Supported by module tutors and Anglia Ruskin's Employability Service, you will identify an area of career interest and negotiate, generate and complete a placement opportunity lasting the equivalent of 35 hours. The placement should be clearly located in and related to ideas and practices encountered in your degree course. You will be assessed through two elements: firstly, a presentation that outlines the tasks and activities you aim to undertake on the placement, including research into the context within which your placement organisation operates and an outline of how you aim to develop and evaluate your transferable and employability skills during the placement; secondly, a reflective portfolio that documents and self-evaluates your placement experience. This module combines independent study with lecture sessions and tutorial support that guides you through the placement or internship, with the module Canvas page providing further support. You will also have the chance to attend presentations from visitors who work in roles within the music industries. As well as contributing to module sessions, the Anglia Ruskin University Employability Service will provide additional module support through drop-in support and CV Surgery sessions. You will also have access to a range of online employability information via the Careers and Employability Portal, and be able to access additional placement support through the AHSS Faculty Placements Officer, with drop-in support or scheduled one-to-one sessions.
  • 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.

Year two, optional modules

  • Principles of Music Therapy
    This module will introduce you to the theory and practice of music therapy, as practised by registered professionals in the UK. It will not train you to be a therapist, but will equip you with knowledge of the field and some introductory skills that are useful in considering music therapy as a vocation. It will introduce you to the clinical field and enable you to make informed choices about music therapy and other related professions such as teaching and nursing. You will be taught through experiential workshops, which will be linked to theoretical lectures and also a possible field trip. Audio-visual presentations will allow you to demonstrate your work in process. Through these activities you will be able to evaluate, develop and analyse your musical potential and explore the application of different media to therapeutic situations. Your assessment will comprise a small group practical focusing on musical improvisations (as appropriate), in which you will actively demonstrate an understanding of the use of music as a therapeutic tool. The knowledge you gain on this module can be applied to others that involve improvisation, role-play or performance, and can contribute to a basic understanding of groups and how they function.
  • Popular Music Performance 2B
    This module provides you with opportunities to develop your performing skills through increasingly complex performance scenarios and encourages increasing autonomy. You will encounter a variety of rock and popular music performance scenarios, which you will use to inform aspects of your own live work. With a coherent understanding of what it is to perform, you will work on material with independence and confidence. You will also analyse and consider popular music performance issues and extend your knowledge through experimental collaborative processes. There will be weekly performance workshops, masterclasses and sessions on aspects of performing and critical analysis. In the weekly performance workshops, you will develop techniques in stagecraft appropriate the style of performance and genre. The analysis seminars will explore vocal and instrument techniques by genre and consider examples of group cohesion and interaction. These aspects of performance technique should then inform your own performance work, with scope to develop your own original interpretation of your material.

Year three, core modules

  • 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.
  • Collaborative Project Development (Music)
    You will be given the opportunity to develop and negotiate a collaborative music project in which you will employ and meet relevant professional practices and expectations. You will perform a variety of practical and creative roles, critically reflecting upon the processes involved in undertaking professional, ethical and sustainable composition, performance, production, promotion and/or other responsibilities in a negotiated project. Through this, you will demonstrate your understanding of concepts of entrepreneurialism and professionalism in music in a live project. Your project must be clearly located in and related to ideas and practices encountered in your degree course. Your collaboration can involve students from across the music courses at Anglia Ruskin University. You will need to take your work to an extra-University audience, and as such your collaboration may also involve external individuals, agencies or organisations. During initial lecture and seminar sessions, you will identify collaborative groups and discuss project management and the requirements of the module. As you progress, group tutorials and seminars will allow you to formatively explore and develop your initial project ideas; discuss contextual and theoretical research needs; identify audiences and stakeholders; and consider and agree technical and, if appropriate, outsourced requirements. You will be assessed through a group presentation (either in live or video form) that pitches your project, explains its relationship to wider cultural and industry contexts, and identifies your overall aims and objectives. This presentation will also allow you to demonstrate your work in progress and outline how you will deliver the final project on time and to an external audience. Alongside contributing to module sessions, Anglia Ruskin University Employability Service and the AHSS Faculty Placements Officer will also provide support. You will then put your project proposal into operation in the semester 2 module ‘Collaborative Project’.
  • Collaborative Project (Music)
    Working in a team or group, you will put into practice the collaborative music project you developed in the Collaborative Project Development module. You will demonstrate your ability to work collaboratively in performing a variety of practical and creative roles, and critically reflect upon the processes involved in undertaking professional, ethical and sustainable composition, performance, production, promotion and/or other responsibilities in a negotiated project. Through this, you will demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of concepts of professionalism and entrepreneurialism. You will be expected to contribute effectively to group work, demonstrate adaptability in determining and achieving individual goals (including supporting or being proactive in leadership) and critically evaluate the roles you have carried out. Your collaboration can involve students from across the music courses at Anglia Ruskin University. In putting their project into practice, you will need to take your work to an extra-University audience. As such, your collaboration may involve external individuals, agencies or organisations. Your work will be supported by group tutorials, which will allow you to identify and negotiate the requirements for the two assessed elements: a group project portfolio and an individual project evaluation. In the individual project evaluation, you should place the project in its wider cultural and industrial context, reflecting on your roles throughout the project with a focus on transferable and employability skills.
  • Professional Music Practice 1
    This practical module will allow you to further enhance the knowledge, skills and understanding you have developed on your course at Level 4 and Level 5 in a chosen area of practice. You will explore practically an area of contemporary professional music-related practice, producing an end-of-module artefact or undertaking a performance and negotiating the specific nature of the project outcome with your module tutor. You will be allowed to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the key components through which music in all its forms is created, realised, received and/or mediated, and to demonstrate your knowledge of the creative affordances of music and/or media technologies and instruments in your chosen area of practice. You will be expected to analyse, critically evaluate and interpret the practices you undertake, demonstrating an ability to convey personal expression and imagination in practical work while employing appropriate technical and interpretive means. You will be able to choose one of four professional strands through which to focus your practice: Performance; Composition; Technology and Production; or Music Media and Journalism. After initial group sessions, you will individually identify and negotiate an appropriate practical approach that allows you to achieve the learning outcomes you have identified. You will be supported in your research through tutorials, as well as other taught sessions and workshops. You will be assessed through an artefact submitted at the end of the module, or through an end of module performance.
  • Professional Music Practice 2
    This practical module will allow you to further enhance the knowledge, skills and understanding you have developed on your course and in the Professional Practice 1 module. You will explore an area of contemporary professional music-related practice, and produce an end of module artefact or undertake a performance that is negotiated with a module tutor. You can continue with the same area of practice as Professional Practice 1, or focus on another area to develop a new project. However, whichever you choose, you will be expected to identify how your approach in Professional Practice 2 has reflected on and responded to your achievement of module and learning outcomes in Professional Practice 1. You will further demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the key components through which music in all its forms is created, realised, received and/or mediated, and your knowledge of the creative affordances of music and/or media technologies and instruments in your chosen area of practice. You will be expected to analyse, critically evaluate and interpret the practices you undertake, and demonstrate the ability to convey personal expression and imagination in practical work while employing appropriate technical and interpretive means. You will choose one of the following professional strands: Performance; Composition; Technology and Production; Music Media and Journalism. After the initial group sessions, you will identify and negotiate an appropriate practical approach, supported in your practice through tutorials and other taught sessions and workshops. You will be assessed through an artefact submitted at the end of the module, or an end-of-module performance.
  • Game and Film Soundtracks
    In this module you will analyse film and computer game soundtracks from a wide range of styles and periods, ranging from the birth of these media to the present day. You will consider the process of collaboration between a composer and film director, and the role of a composer within a computer game design team. You will consider the varied cultural contexts of the films and computer games studied in the module and the means of their dissemination to the public. You will study advanced techniques of sound design, instrumentation and orchestration appropriate to film and computer game soundtracks, and will critically assess different means for the musical representation of narrative, character and mood. For the assessment of this module, you must choose one of three options: (i) 3,000 words of writing, which discusses a single soundtrack or compares contrasted film/computer game soundtracks; (ii) composition of one or more soundtracks for film or computer game; (iii) live musical performance, either individually, or as a group, to accompany the screening of film or gameplay. Full details of the assessment brief will be provided on Canvas. The skills acquired in this module will provide you with a strong basis for professional work in the audio-visual industry, which is now a significant employer of creative graduates.

Assessment

Modules are subject to change and availability.

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

This ongoing assessment will help you develop your musical and academic skills, such as improvisation and sight-reading, 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

Using our creative expertise and industry connections in Cambridge and beyond, we create experiences that entertain, educate, inspire and improve lives.

At Cambridge School of Creative Industries, we believe in the importance of experimentation and risk-taking to create experiences that entertain, educate, inspire and improve lives.

Whether writing bestselling fiction, creating challenging documentaries or sharing a piano with people on the autism spectrum, the expertise of our staff goes far beyond teaching. Their research produces significant funding success, leading to important publications and international conferences.

Where can I study?

Cambridge
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

Study abroad options

You can apply to study abroad for one semester, and get funding to help you cover the cost.

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; other instruments, including traditional ones. You can also get access to all of our other creative industries facilities.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students starting 2020/21 (per year)

£9,250

International students starting 2020/21 (per year)

£13,500

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

UK and EU students can take out a tuition fee loan, which you won’t need to start repaying until after your graduate. Or alternatively, there's the option to pay your fees upfront.

Loans and fee payments

International students

You can pay your tuition fees upfront, in full or in two instalments. We will also ask you for a deposit of £4,000 or a sponsorship letter. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees

Scholarships

We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Some of these cover all or part of your tuition fees.

Explore ARU scholarships

Funding for UK & EU students

Most new undergraduate students can apply for government funding to support their studies and university life. This includes Tuition Fee Loans and Maintenance Loans. There are additional grants available for specific groups of students, such as those with disabilities or dependants.

We also offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

Funding for international students

We offer a number of scholarships, as well as an early payment discount. Explore your options:

Entry requirements

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

Audition

You will be invited to perform an audition as part of the application process.

For more guidance on how to prepare for this, please visit our creative industries auditions page.


Important additional notes

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of on-campus and online learning in September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. A small number of our courses require additional technical specifications or specialist materials. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning. Our website also has general information for new students about starting university in September 2020.

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.

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.

Entry requirements for foundation year study at ARU College:

  • five GCSE passes at grade 3 or D or above and evidence of two years post-GCSE study at Level 3
  • if you have achieved at least grade E in one A level, or equivalent, you are exempt from the two year post-GCSE study requirement, but you still have to meet the GCSE requirements
  • if English is not your first language you will be expected to demonstrate a certificate level of proficiency of at least IELTS 5.5 overall including 5.5 in each band/component.

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning in September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning.

International students

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

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning in September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning.

English language requirements

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

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.

Similar courses that may interest you

Music

Full-time undergraduate (3 years, 4 years with foundation year)

Cambridge

September

Media Studies

Full-time undergraduate (3 years, 4 years with foundation year)

Cambridge

September

Apply now

UK and EU students

Clearing places available – apply today

UCAScode: W34C

Apply through Clearing

UK and EU students

Apply through UCAS for 2021

Start your application

International students

Applicants from outside the UK and EU, apply to ARU

Apply direct

Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 68 68 68

Enquire online

International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

Enquire online