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Popular Music

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Ready to apply? You can apply for this course online now using the UCAS website. The deadline for UK students to apply for this course is 25 January 2023.

The deadline for international students is 30 June 2023.

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Use these details to apply for this course through UCAS:

  • University name: University of Liverpool
  • Course: Popular Music W340
  • Location: Main site
  • Start date: 25 September 2023

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Bachelor of Arts

A Bachelor of Arts (BA Hons) is a bachelor’s degree awarded for an undergraduate programme in the arts.

Course overview

The University of Liverpool has a particular specialism in popular music, having established the world’s first specialist centre for its study - the Institute of Popular Music - in 1988. Recent investment in our teaching facilities has provided state-of-the-art studios, practice rooms, a games research lab and a large rehearsal space.

Introduction

In addition to practical areas, this programme focuses on developing an in-depth and critical historical understanding of popular music repertoires, cultures, and practices. Practical modules are concerned with musical performance, song-writing, or creative music technology, although none of these are compulsory; while other modules focus on popular music history topics or the music industry. There are also options in areas such as music psychology and audio-visual media (films and videogames). Throughout, you will learn to write about popular music from a historical, critical, sociological, or philosophical viewpoint.

In your first year, core modules will take a detailed look at the nature of the popular music industries, and a critical exploration of 20th century popular music history – not only going through key musical milestones, but also exploring their social contexts and the long-term cultural implications.

In your second and final years you will focus in more depth on fewer selected topics, either concentrating solely on Popular Music modules, or retaining the option to pursue one or two modules in other areas. Specialist topics are studied alongside advanced level performance and music technology modules. In the final year, there is a particular emphasis on specialism and an extended or independent project (such as a research project, a music technology project, or an extended performance recital).

What you'll learn

  • A critical understanding of music from a wide range of aesthetic, cultural and social perspectives
  • A detailed understanding of Western Popular (and some other) music repertoires
  • Advanced proficiency in performance, and composition
  • Academic research skills
  • Critical and cultural awareness
  • The ability to devise and sustain complex arguments
  • Written and oral communication and presentation
  • Creativity
  • Time management and organisations skills

Course content

Discover what you'll learn, what you'll study, and how you'll be taught and assessed.

Year one

You will take three compulsory modules, one of which must be either MUSI180 or MUSI182; and five optional modules (the majority from popular music modules).

Compulsory modules

INTRODUCTION TO POPULAR MUSIC HISTORY (MUSI140)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 1

This module provides an overview of key developments in Anglo-American popular music particularly during the latter part of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century.  Students are introduced to the musical characteristics of key styles and genres, as well as significant social/cultural movements and critical issues that are relevant to an understanding of the music in question. The module also provides an introduction to key perspectives and issues in popular music studies.

MUSIC AS AN INDUSTRY (MUSI150)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 2

The module will introduce students to the organisation and functions of record companies and to contemporary practice within the music industries. The students will be introduced to key debates concerned with the commercial promotion and manufacture of music. Topics covered within the module will typically include: analysis and critique of the concepts of ‘music industries’ and ‘creative industries’, the circulation of music products within the creative industries’ ecosystem and discourses of disruption, innovation and entrepreneurship. Lectures will draw on case-study material in order to illustrate key debates.

MUSIC IN CONTEXTS: WHY MUSIC MATTERS (MUSI121)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 1

Music is ubiquitous, yet its function and meaning can be specific to the context in which it is situated. Similarly studying music, in the 21st century context for example, is both complex and specific in equal measure. This module will examine how and why music matters as a cultural expression, intimately linked to the contexts of its production, dissemination, and reception. The scope and breadth of the study of music will be introduced along with various academic approaches and methods employed in such study, along with key terms and concepts used in the study of music in relation to culture. The module will provide students with a foundation for the further study of music and culture at levels two and three, and helps students to understand interdisciplinary approaches to the study of music.​

Optional modules

CLASSICAL PERFORMANCE 1 (MUSI102)

Credits: 15 / Semester: whole session

This module provides students with a structured framework to enhance practical performance skills. Students work with the module leader and an assigned instrumental or vocal teacher towards the development of technical, aural, practice and performative skills.

CLASSICAL COMPOSITION 1 (MUSI106)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 2

Students will gain historical and practical knowledge of contrapuntal techniques in music composition. Students will demonstrate comprehension of counterpoint rules through several assignments over the course of the term. Students will then complete an original composition which centres around contrapuntal writing.

Foundations in Tonal Harmony (MUSI181)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 1

This module bridges the gap between A Level music theory and those required for music analysis at University level. It starts by reviewing the most fundamental elements of western classical music theory, in order that students emerge with a deeper understanding of their relationships and of the function of the key building blocks of the musical repertoire. By the end of the module, students should emerge feeling comfortable working with complex harmonies and cadences, and be able to take these foundational skills on to further analytical study.

INTRODUCTION TO CLASSICAL MUSIC HISTORY (MUSI130)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 1

This module ensures a solid foundation in the history of western art ("classical") music since the Baroque era, providing students with suitable experience for second and third year classical history modules on more specific topics. The module deals not only with key composers, genres, and structures, but also with appropriate contextual issues. In unscheduled time, the module also provides a basic grounding in core study skills.

INTRODUCTION TO LOGIC (MUSI109)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 2

This module is an introduction to MIDI sequencing and Apple’s Logic Pro X. It is suitable for complete beginners and intermediate users of Logic. Through lectures and workshops, both of which involve much hands on practice, students learn about MIDI sequencing, software instruments and Digital Audio Workstations (DAW). Topics and techniques covered include recording and editing MIDI; use of effects processors and mixing, software synthesis and sampler instruments. Two creative coursework projects, concentrating on differing compositional approaches and styles, enable students to demonstrate the technical and compositional skills taught and practiced during the module.

INTRODUCTION TO SOUND AND MUSIC IN AUDIOVISUAL MEDIA (MUSI170)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 2

This module introduces students to the use and role of music in a range of audio-visual media. It focuses specifically on the sound and music of mainstream narrative cinema, as the lead expression in contemporary audio-visual media and one that has shaped this aspect of other artforms, such as television and videogames. From the relationship between music and early moving pictures, to the importance of re-using popular musics to score gender or sexuality in the modern Hollywood blockbuster, the module considers both the historical practicalities of sound and music in cinema and some of the key critical ideologies that have been shaped by and shaped the soundtracks of film. Through a focus on key case studies and fundamental theories, students will acquire a firm grounding in the history, nature, and critical discussion of the function of sound and music in film specifically, and audio-visual media more generally. The module is delivered in a manner designed to be equally accessible to students from a non-Music background.

INTRODUCTION TO SOUND AND TECHNOLOGY (MUSI171)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 1

​​​The module introduces students to the basic principles of sound, acoustics and music technology. They will learn about many of the core concepts, relevant terminology and theories essential to modern music technology studies. Subjects covered will include acoustics and sound propagation, analogue and digital audio theory, key electronics theories and sound measurement systems. The module includes some practical work at a digital audio workstation. Normally, the module will include a visit to the University’s Acoustics Research Unit.​

INTRODUCTION TO SOUND RECORDING AND PRODUCTION (MUSI108)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 1

This module introduces students to Sound, Recording and Production techniques in the University Recording Studio. This is a practised based module where teaching is delivered through hands on workshops and lectures. Lectures will discuss recording, audio editing and effects processing techniques in Pro Tools. The weekly workshops, which are in small groups, will be led by the module leader who will demonstrate production techniques and then set group tasks which will allow students to practice key skills during the workshop sessions. By the end of the module the student will be competent enough to use the studio independently and effectively.

Students will complete two assessments. The first is an individual mixing assignment to be completed in the Mac Suites. Assignment 2 is a group recording project carried out in a University Studio and includes a group presentations about the project.

Popular Music Theory in Practice (MUSI182)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 1

A practical and constructive course in Music Theory, with specific reference to the practical needs of popular musicians. Students will be introduced to a range of scales and modes, diatonic chords and their extensions, common chord symbols, along with common musical forms and structures. Musical notation will be used, though not exclusively, and there will be an aural component. Delivery will be via online lectures, workshop sessions, seminars and tutorials. Formative assessment will be an important teaching tool, and summative assessment will be via an end of term theory test.

Popular Performance 1 (MUSI104)

Credits: 15 / Semester: whole session

A practical module that explores issues in Popular Music performance.

The History of Electronic Music (MUSI172)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 2

Content will include but not limited to:

Musique concrete,
ElektronischeMusik,
American Experimentsalism,
Tape composition,
Analogue Synthesizers,
Computer Music,
BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Electronic music in rock and jazz,
Electronic dance music,
Sound Design in Cinema.

Theory in Practice: Exploring Music’s Construction (MUSI180)

Credits: 15 / Semester: semester 2

Building on a foundational knowledge of music theory, this module examines repertoires from popular music and the classical era as well as music from film. The module first explores formal contrasts in musical works, through examples of dynamic contrasts from Stravinsky and Radiohead, influenced by ‘montage cinema’. This develops through a study of modes, scales and keys in the nineteenth century classical repertoire and in rock and jazz. Techniques for analysing electronic music are adapted and developed by students, while the final lectures introduce the dynamics of form in Baroque and Classical music.

Programme details and modules listed are illustrative only and subject to change.

Our curriculum

The Liverpool Curriculum framework sets out our distinctive approach to education. Our teaching staff support our students to develop academic knowledge, skills, and understanding alongside our graduate attributes:

  • Digital fluency
  • Confidence
  • Global citizenship

Our curriculum is characterised by the three Liverpool Hallmarks:

  • Research-connected teaching
  • Active learning
  • Authentic assessment

All this is underpinned by our core value of inclusivity and commitment to providing a curriculum that is accessible to all students.

Course options

Studying with us means you can tailor your degree to suit you. Here's what is available on this course.

Global Opportunities

University of Liverpool students can choose from an exciting range of study placements at partner universities worldwide. Choose to spend a year at XJTLU in China or a year or semester at an institution of your choice.

What's available on this course?

Year in China

Immerse yourself in Chinese culture on an optional additional year at Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University in stunning Suzhou.

  • Learn Chinese
  • Study in a bustling world heritage city
  • Improve employment prospects
  • Study Chinese culture
  • 30 minutes from Shanghai
  • Learn new skills

Read more about Year at XJTLU, China

Language study

Every student at The University of Liverpool can study a language as part of, or alongside their degree. You can choose:

  • A dedicated languages degree
  • A language as a joint or major/ minor degree
  • Language modules (selected degrees)
  • Language classes alongside your studies

Read more about studying a language

Combine this subject

With a combined degree, you can study two subjects as part of the same degree programme.

  • Choose from 30 subjects and over 300 combinations
  • Choose joint or major minor subjects
  • Adjust the weight of your subjects at the end of your first year
  • Same number of credits as single honours students
  • Same classes as single honours students
  • Appeal to a wide range of employers

Explore combined degrees for Music courses

Your experience

Much of your teaching will take place in the Department of Music. Our recently renovated facilities include studios, teaching spaces and industry standard equipment, and we recently opened the Tung Auditorium: a 400-seat state of the art performance venue, which has been developed to support our requirements and to function as a public-facing space for concerts outside of teaching time.

Virtual tour

What students say...

My aim is to work in the music industry and this course offered a wide range of modules across the whole industry, allowing me to learn about how different areas operate. It’s also incredibly flexible as it has allowed me to combine performance, marketing, film composition, music history and workplace experience into my degree.

Olly Carter, BA (Hons) Popular Music

Careers and employability

Studying Music opens up many career opportunities. As well as jobs in music (from performance, composition, and production, through to teaching, music therapy and community arts), employers in many sectors are increasingly seeking arts and humanities graduates for their transferable skills. As a music student you will achieve creative flair and imagination, confidence in expressing yourself, an openness to new ideas, a capacity for hard work and an ability to analyse data. You will learn the value of working with others towards a shared, finished product and a whole range of flexible, professional skills.

80% of music students will go on to work and/or further study 15 months after graduation.

Discover Uni, 2018-19.

As a student in the School of the Arts, you will be supported to maximise your employability from day one. The School has its own placements and employability officer, and you will have the opportunity to undertake a work placement as part of your programme. We also have a student-run record label, through which you can gain practical experience of all aspects of the music industry – from contract negotiation and project planning, through to promotion and distribution.

Preparing you for future success

At Liverpool, our goal is to support you to build your intellectual, social, and cultural capital so that you graduate as a socially-conscious global citizen who is prepared for future success. We achieve this by:

  • Embedding employability within your , through the modules you take and the opportunities to gain real-world experience offered by many of our courses.
  • Providing you with opportunities to gain experience and develop connections with people and organisations, including student and graduate employers as well as our global alumni.
  • Providing you with the latest tools and skills to thrive in a competitive world, including access to Handshake, a platform which allows you to create your personalised job shortlist and apply with ease.
  • Supporting you through our peer-to-peer led Careers Studio, where our career coaches provide you with tailored advice and support.

Fees and funding

Your tuition fees, funding your studies, and other costs to consider.

Tuition fees

Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching and assessment, operating facilities such as libraries, IT equipment, and access to academic and personal support. Learn more about tuition fees, funding and student finance.

UK fees
Also applies to Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland
Full-time place, per year £9,250
Year in industry fee £1,850
Year abroad fee £1,385
International fees
Full-time place, per year £21,000
Year in industry fee £1,850
Year abroad fee £10,500
Fees stated are for the 2023-24 academic year.

Additional costs

We understand that budgeting for your time at university is important, and we want to make sure you understand any course-related costs that are not covered by your tuition fee. This could include buying a laptop, books, or stationery.

Find out more about the additional study costs that may apply to this course.

Additional study costs

We understand that budgeting for your time at university is important, and we want to make sure you understand any course-related costs that are not covered by your tuition fee. This could include buying a laptop, books, or stationery.

Find out more about additional study costs.

Scholarships and bursaries

We offer a range of scholarships and bursaries to help cover tuition fees and help with living expenses while at university.

Scholarships and bursaries you can apply for from the United Kingdom

Entry requirements

The qualifications and exam results you'll need to apply for this course.

As part of our application process, applicants are normally required to attend an Applicant Interview and Music Experience Day where you will either have an interview or a short audition with an academic member of staff. This is your chance to demonstrate your passion for the subject and allow us to make a decision on your application. (There is an option for phone or Skype interviews).

My qualifications are from: United Kingdom.

Your qualification Requirements

About our typical entry requirements

A levels

ABB. Offer may be reduced to BBB for those candidates achieving grade 8 distinction in any instrument.

Applicants with the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) are eligible for a reduction in grade requirements. For this course, the offer is BBB with A in the EPQ.

You may automatically qualify for reduced entry requirements through our contextual offers scheme.

GCSE 4/C in English and 4/C in Mathematics
Subject requirements

No specific subject requirements. If an applicant is taking grade 8 in any instrument (or singing), a dual offer can be made: ABB or BBB with grade 8 Distinction. Some of our optional modules require academic demonstration of ability.

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma

BTEC applications are encouraged. We evaluate each BTEC application on its merits and may make offers at DDM.

International Baccalaureate

33 points, with no score less than 4

Irish Leaving Certificate H1, H2, H2, H2, H3, H3
Scottish Higher/Advanced Higher

ABB in Advanced Highers, combinations of Advanced Highers and Scottish Highers are welcome

Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Accepted including 2 A levels at BB
Access 45 Level 3 credits in graded units in a relevant Diploma, including 30 at Distinction and a further 15 with at least Merit
International qualifications

Many countries have a different education system to that of the UK, meaning your qualifications may not meet our entry requirements. Completing your Foundation Certificate, such as that offered by the University of Liverpool International College, means you're guaranteed a place on your chosen course.

Contextual offers: reduced grade requirements

Based on your personal circumstances, you may automatically qualify for up to a two-grade reduction in the entry requirements needed for this course. When you apply, we consider a range of factors – such as where you live – to assess if you’re eligible for a grade reduction. You don’t have to make an application for a grade reduction – we’ll do all the work.

Find out more about how we make reduced grade offers.

About our entry requirements

Our entry requirements may change from time to time both according to national application trends and the availability of places at Liverpool for particular courses. We review our requirements before the start of the new UCAS cycle each year and publish any changes on our website so that applicants are aware of our typical entry requirements before they submit their application.

Recent changes to government policy which determine the number of students individual institutions may admit under the student number control also have a bearing on our entry requirements and acceptance levels, as this policy may result in us having fewer places than in previous years.

We believe in treating applicants as individuals, and in making offers that are appropriate to their personal circumstances and background. For this reason, we consider a range of factors in addition to predicted grades, widening participation factors amongst other evidence provided. Therefore the offer any individual applicant receives may differ slightly from the typical offer quoted in the prospectus and on the website.

Alternative entry requirements

  • If your qualification isn't listed here, or you're taking a combination of qualifications, contact us for advice
  • Aged 20+ and without formal qualifications? The one-year Go Higher diploma qualifies you to apply for University of Liverpool arts, humanities and social sciences programmes
  • Applications from mature students are welcome.

Changes to Popular Music BA (Hons)

See what updates we've made to this course since it was published. We document changes to information such as course content, entry requirements and how you'll be taught.

7 June 2022: New course pages

New course pages launched.