Guide to Studying Music
By Dr Mills, Senior Lecturer, Durham University
What is Music?
Music covers a vast range of activities.
- Beyond performing and listening, people involved in music may well find themselves teaching, composing, arranging, recording, reviewing, administrating, marketing, archiving and, of course, studying.
- Many degree courses aim to cultivate skills in all of these areas.
- In Durham, the menu of modules on offer develops skills in composing, orchestrating, performing, analysing, conducting, studio use, administration, and musicology (the historical and cultural study of music), engaging a broad range of past and present musical forms and styles, and from diverse cultures.
Specific or general skills developed
- Music degrees, through their challenging and multi-faceted nature, foster very diverse skills relating to critical thinking, creative thinking, team work, delivering presentations, multi-tasking, administration, cataloguing and archiving, conducting detailed analysis, and much more – and these skills are highly valued by employers in diverse professions.
Coursework, assessment and exams
- Typically, university music modules are taught through a combination of weekly lectures, small group seminars and workshops, and one-to-one tutorials – the latter being particularly associated with independent study projects, when students explore their own chosen topics (usually in the final year).
- Generally, performance modules are assessed through live recital, although pre-recorded and written components are also common; composition modules are assessed through submitted scores (for acoustic compositions) and recordings (for pieces created in the studio), often with supplementary written commentaries; and analytical and musicological modules are assessed through exercises, essays, and seminar presentations.
- A small minority of music departments continue to feature timed exams in their degree assessment.
What degree can I get?
There are three main types of undergraduate music course, all of which usually lead to a BA (Hons) degree.
- Single Honours course (focusing on explicitly music-related modules);
- Combined Honours course (with a large proportion of modules taken in one or more other department/s);
- Joint Honours course (also involving modules taken in another department but with closer interdisciplinary links built into the programme).
- Options differ considerably from institution to institution. In Durham, in addition to the Single Honours course, a multitude of different Combined Honours courses are available, including cross-faculty combinations, and it is also possible for Single Honours students to pursue a small number of modules in another department of their choice.
What qualifications do I Need?
- Music degree entry requirements vary considerably from institution to institution and course to course.
- Ideally, one of the grades should be in Music.
- In most cases, universities also require evidence of performance skill, typically accepting ABRSM or RCM Grades – or, more rarely, requesting live performance during interview.
Use our Course Chooser to search through Music courses.
What are the postgraduate opportunities?
- There are many postgraduate opportunities, both taught and research, for Music graduates. Areas of specialism include opera, musicology, production, composition, popular music, and musical theatre to name but a few.
*Professional employment refers to a job or occupation which normally requires a degree.
**Non-professional employment refers to a job or occupation which doesn't normally require a degree.
What are the job opportunities?
- Due to the wide range of skills attained, music graduates find success in a huge array of professions, both music-related and non-music related.
- For example: music teachers, performers, composers, academics, publishers, producers, arts administrators, lawyers, and others – in many cases after pursuing more specialised postgraduate programmes or placements subsequent to completing their degrees.