BA (Hons) Popular Music (Awarded by Birmingham City University)
This course provides the training and skills necessary for a wide range of careers within the music industry. You will develop understanding of the global commercial music sector, study musical output and techniques, and improve your creativity, professionalism and practical musicianship to a level needed for graduate employment. This full, three year Honours degree develops both the practical and transferable skills required to make you industry ready, and the contextual understanding and academic rigour inherent in high level study.
Awarded by Birmingham City University, this is a high level course with experienced staff and excellent resources. With 3 recording studios, 7 rehearsal rooms, 2 sequencing suites and a 600-capacity working venue onsite, you will enjoy the exciting, creative opportunities and supportive environment.
Your principal study can be in performance, music technology, live sound or composition. The course takes a holistic approach to musical study, with every student developing the broad range of skillsets required to become a successful music professional. Assessments are varied and innovative, and often modelled on real industry practice. You will learn through workshops, lectures, recording sessions, seminars and tutorials. You will study the theory, wider contexts and contemporary issues surrounding the global music industry and there will be regular visits from industry experts and artists.
You will also develop the musical and creative skills required by a performer, composer or producer, learn how to work well in teams and demonstrate leadership, organisation and decision-making skills. This programme will help you to develop a profile suitable for an artist looking for employment within the music industry, and to develop a clear conceptual understanding of connected issues and narratives, researching deeply into current musicology and practice.
All students receive weekly one-to-one instrumental sessions, delivered by our highly qualified visiting instrumental specialists on vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard.
What areas will I study?
Year one key areas:
- MIDI, audio and studio techniques (M.A.S.T.)
- Working live (performance or live sound)
- Contextual study in action
- The music industry
- Technical development (instrument, music technology or composition)
- Creative portfolio
MAST (MIDI, Audio, Studio Techniques) (20 credits) The aim of this module is to develop music-specific techniques and understanding that provide a solid basis for your development on the programme. Being the first module on the programme it has an introductory role, but the skills it requires you to demonstrate will be central to many subsequent modules. The skills in question include music theory, MIDI input, audio recording, use of music software (e.g. Logic) and acoustic audio recording in a studio.
Contextual Study In Action (20 credits) This module introduces students to the academic skills required in an undergraduate Honours programme, through the tuition of research skills, socio-contextual and musicological study, and the presentation of formal academic writing. In addition, students have the opportunity to illustrate their musical research and contextual understanding in a practical way through the medium of a linked original composition.
Working Live (20 credits) This module provides students with tuition and an assessment framework in which they learn and rehearse the personal, technical, production and performance skills needed in a live musical situation, either as a performer or live music engineer. Delivery will cover both live performance and live sound techniques in distinct sessions, with content both on underpinning knowledge and the opportunity to develop the necessary skills in practice. Students ultimately choose which discipline to be assessed in (performance or live sound).
The Music Industry (20 credits) This module focuses on relating and discussing the underpinning knowledge of the current music industry, its structures, organizations, regulations and legislation. If students are to succeed as employable graduates, building a secure understanding of how the industry functions is vital. Accordingly, the module also encourages students to identify career- building and self-promotion strategies, which will support progression to further industry/project-oriented modules later in the programme.
Technical Development (20 credits) This module focuses on the development of specific primary skills required to be a musician. While other modules on the programme are broadly more concerned with achieving and promoting an end product, or with academic thinking or transferrable skills, Technical Development is directly concerned with issues of musical technique, theory and ‘first principles’ skills.
Creative Portfolio (20 credits) This module marks the end of year 1 of the programme. As such it brings together many of the skills and disciplines of the Course thus far, offering students the opportunity to showcase their musical and industry development in a portfolio of creative musical work. Students will feel confident of their technical ability, contextual awareness, and ability to record, programme and perform –consolidated from other modules – and will now apply these skills in original composition or creative arrangement/ recording/performance.
Year two key areas:
- Production cycle (creative group commission)
- Music business and personal development portfolio
- Technical development 2
- Music critique and analysis
- Promoted showcase/product
Production Cycle (20 credits) Building on the skills learnt in the Creative Portfolio module at the end of year one, in this module students experience a full production cycle modelled on current industry practice. It is an entirely practical module that develops transferable/employment skills, music production skills, creativity, technological currency, group collaboration and resource awareness, music performance and recording skills, bringing them together to fulfil a specific musical commission.
Music Business and Personal Development (20 credits) Having studied the structures, roles and organisations that frame the music sector in year 1, and having identified some personal targets within it, this module offers students the opportunity to research deeper into issues of personal development. Students will develop a portfolio of potential employment opportunities that interest them specifically, undertake a skills audit, design strategies to progress and achieve, outline relevant financial frameworks and discuss relevant contextual/artistic/ political issues implied by their choice of roles.
Technical Development 2 (20 credits) This module extends the musical skills developed in the Technical Development module in year one, and is thus concerned with both the understanding and execution of more complex musical technique, theory and the fluent application of beyond ‘first principles’ skills.
Music Critique and Analysis (20 credits) The aim of this module is to develop critical musical skills and deepen technical and contextual knowledge through critical listening and analysis of unfamiliar repertoire. The module will also develop students’ academic skills, requiring them to formulate/collate/offset primary and secondary sources in constructing a formal written critique.
Promoted Showcase/Product (40 credits) This double module marks the end of the second year of the programme, bringing together the musical and technological skills and disciplines thus far, offering students the opportunity to showcase their music-industry readiness in a performance, event or music technology product. The showcase should be publically and actively promoted through online, networking and/or physical means as required, with success being determined not just through the quality of musical output but also through the level of audience/industry engagement.
Year 3 key areas:
- Music as art
- Advanced techniques for emerging artists
- International music business realisation
- Major project
Major Project (60 credits) This module draws together all the disciplines and underpinning knowledge pursued throughout the programme and for students to undertake a project which reflects the creative, business and technical aspects of the music industry. This module reflects the current focus on employability, and will provide students with a learning experience which showcases their practical skills and underpinning knowledge.
Advanced Techniques for Emerging Artists/Practitioners (20 credits) This module aims to develop advanced creative techniques in a chosen discipline (e.g. performance, composition, live sound) and apply them in a commercially appropriate creative product. Thus the module aims to enhance students’ individual artistic development through the use of advanced and contemporary techniques. The module offers students the opportunity to develop technical skills and showcase them in a creatively contemporary setting.
Music Business Realisation (20 credits) The aim of this module to equip students with the business, enterprise and entrepreneurial skills required for successful freelance activity and self-employment within the commercial music industry.
Music as Art (20 credits) The aim of this module to is to study, analyse and musically respond to music outside of the norms of commercial music. It will develop skills in music criticism, contextual awareness of experimental and contemporary art music, and in associated practical and creative skills. The module encompasses academic music studies and interpretative insight, linking practically with specialist techniques and individual musical identity
Course Delivery and Structure The duration of the B.A. (Hons) Popular Music top up degree is one year with full time attendance. It is anticipated that most students will attend scheduled sessions for approximately 17 hours per week, this includes a one hour tutorial and 0.5 hours of one to one instrumental tuition. The course is 34 weeks in duration.