Popular Music BA (Hons) Add to your prospectus

Key information


  • Course length: 3 years
  • UCAS code: W340
  • Year of entry: 2018
  • Typical offer: A-level : ABB / IB : 33, with no score less than 4 / BTEC : Applications considered
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In addition to practical areas, this programme focuses on developing an in-depth and critical historical understanding of popular music repertoires, cultures, and practices.

Study as part of joint-honours at 100:0 Choosing this subject as a Single Honours

Some modules are practical, concerned with musical performance, song-writing, or creative music technology, although none of these are compulsory. Others focus on popular music history topics or the music industry. The remaining modules involve writing about popular music from a historical, critical, sociological, or philosophical viewpoint. Our studio and performance modules cater for both classical and popular musical styles.

Programme in detail

The nature of the programme varies according to your module choices. In Year One, 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 Years Two and Three you 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 such as gender and sexuality and sound, technology and society are studied alongside advanced level performance and music technology modules. In Year Three there is a particular emphasis on specialism and extended or independent project (such as a dissertation, major technology portfolio or extended performance recital).

Study as part of joint-honours at 75:25 Choosing this subject as a Major

The nature of the programme varies according to your module choices.

In Year One, core modules look at popular music repertoire, as well as popular music industry, and culture. Options include performance, technology, popular music theory, audio-visual music, world music, and music industry. In Years Two and Three you focus in more detail on the areas (normally three) that interest you most (such as history, psychology, audiovisual, performance, or songwriting etc).

Study as part of joint-honours at 50:50 Choosing this subject as a Joint

In Year One core modules look at popular music repertoire and history and industry.

Options include performance, technology, audio-visual music, world music, and music industry. In Years Two and Three you focus in more detail on the areas (normally two) that interest you most (such as history, psychology, audio-visual, performance, or songwriting etc).

Study as part of joint-honours at 25:75Choosing this subject as a Minor

In Year One you take a core module in popular music repertoire.

Options include performance, technology, audio-visual music, world music, and music industry. In Years Two and Three you focus in more detail on the area that interests you most (such as history, performance, or songwriting etc).

Department Key Facts

Number of first year students

56 Year One undergraduates in 2016

UK league tables

We were the 1st Department of Music to introduce dedicated, specialist popular music studies and research

National Student Survey

86% are satisfied overall with their programme (National Student Survey 2016)

Research performance

Ranked 10th in the UK for 4* and 3* research in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014

Why this subject?

Enhance your learning with technology and audio-visual media

We offer a distinctive provision in the study of music in audio-visual media, including film and videogame music. This can be practical, oriented towards composition and technology, with dedicated AV composition resources; or theoretical, focusing on the critical study and analysis of music in different types of AV media.

Take advantage of composition and song-writing opportunities

Traditional, electro-acoustic, and audio-visual composition, as well as popular composition/ song-writing, are all represented in the Department, celebrated most recently in the Open Circuit festival – a weeklong series of new music concerts and workshops that brought together world-leading performers and artists to perform new pieces by our staff and students.

Develop your confidence through performance

Although performance is not compulsory, if you wish to pursue this route then, in addition to providing your individual tuition, we provide workshops and other forms of support to enhance your development as a performer. Among the many ensembles, the Department of Music runs a symphony orchestra, a university choir, and a chamber choir, while the University’s Music Society runs a wind orchestra, a brass band and a jazz band. We run a weekly professional lunchtime concert series, and our partnership with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra affords opportunities for participating in composition and performance workshops with professional players. In addition, the Department is home to numerous pop and rock groups, covering many styles, and many of our students perform at local venues and open-mic nights. You will be encouraged to engage with performance activity even if you’re not taking performance as a formal part of your study.

Benefit from studying in a well-established Department

The Institute of Popular Music (IPM) is a research centre within the Department of Music, and one of the very first places to offer university-level provision in popular music. Founded in 1988, it remains at the forefront of popular music studies internationally. With the establishment of our innovative new Interdisciplinary Centre for Composition and Technology (ICCat) we are a Department at the cutting edge of the 21st century, exploring new possibilities for technology-enhanced composition.

Learn from music analysis and psychology experts

Several members of staff are dedicated to the study of music through the analysis of scores and performances, but also investigate music from psychological, cognitive and emotional perspectives. We offer a critical approach that encourages you to develop your own unique ways of analysing music from a broad range of repertoires and invites you to explore many new possibilities for appreciating the sonic experience of music.

Thrive in an environment that is leading, innovating and vocational

Our approach to the study of music is one of the most forward-looking in the country, not only engaging equally with all types of music, but also bringing together students from all kinds of musical backgrounds. While we are a serious academic department, we also place a major emphasis on delivering modules that support vocation and employment.