Popular music student playing drums

Popular Music BA(Hons)

Gain a confident understanding of the industry and develop your musicianship.

Key details
Penryn Campus
Course duration
3 years / 4 years
Full-time / Placement year
UCAS code
W340 / PY07

Course overview

Whether it’s underground or mainstream, DIY or commercial, acoustic or electric, this Popular Music degree is for musicians, songwriters and producers with eclectic styles and open-minded approaches to music making. As an independent artist, you’ll learn how to promote and release your own music and create innovative audiovisual portfolios based on experimentation, defining a practice that’s stylistically sophisticated and future facing.

You will:

  • Cultivate songwriting techniques and performance and production skills, to develop and produce your own sound and artistic identity
  • Work creatively in high-spec live, digital and studio environments, learning how to incorporate technology into your practice
  • Establish experimental and innovative approaches to music making, the music business and self-promotion, which may include touring or running a label
  • Think critically about the place and contribution of music within culture, with an emphasis on identities, sustainability and the challenges of the digital age
  • Benefit from staff expertise, alumni and visiting lecturers, which have included Ed O’Brien (Radiohead), Martha Tilston, Mary Hampton and Darcus Beese (Warner Music UK)

The placement year pathway for this course is new for entry year 2023 and is subject to validation.

Course details

On this Popular Music degree, you'll have the opportunity to gain a BA(Hons) degree over three years or study Popular Music BA(Hons) with a placement year option.

As part of this Popular Music degree, you’ll develop a sustainable creative and professional practice in live and studio settings. Delving into the industry world of music and production, you’ll learn essential artistic and entrepreneurial approaches to making your career happen. 

BA(Hons) Popular Music course video

You’ll study improvisation, songwriting, aesthetics, recording, group dynamics, reinterpretation, stage presence, visuals, live sound, and listening. We’ll introduce you to electronic instruments, vintage equipment, and the recording studio. Taking inspiration from popular musicians, you’ll develop an original style and approach based on art forms like poetry, film and visual art. 

We’ll explore music through philosophy, critical thinking and debate. And you'll focus on improving the quality of your output through a combination of musicianship skills, creative experimentation and by developing an understanding of the contexts in which you wish to work as a creative specialist in popular music. 


Audio Culture and Critical Theory

In an age that’s seeing rapid technological changes and huge political, social and financial shifts across the globe, this module explores sound and music practices as they evolve within ever-changing audio cultures.  

Playing Live: Creative Performance

This live performance module encourages you to creatively develop your ability to perform live on stage, while teaching you how to write and arrange songs as part of a collaborative project. 

Making Popular Music: Technology and Aesthetics

During this module, you’ll become immersed in the possibilities of music technology. You will be encouraged to integrate different kinds of music technology into your current approach, pushing the boundaries of your songwriting and the perception of your sound. 

Core Music Practice

The ‘music industry’ is vast and broadly termed, encompassing a wide variety of approaches and roles. This module explores some of these aspects, while also covering key skills pertinent to all professionals, such as communication, collaborative work, independently managed self-discipline and a strong work ethic.  

Signs & Lyrics: Making Meaning in Popular Music

This module explores the relationships and interactions between popular music, art and literature. Together, we’ll consider specific case studies of popular musicians and how the influence of different art forms and cultural texts such as film, dance, poetry and painting can be read and analysed in their music and performance. 

Creative Recording: Studio Practice

This module explores the studio environment, asking questions about the nature and context of the studio. You’ll build on your existing technological skillset and look towards the recording, processing and production of acoustic and electronic sound sources, with a view to making contemporary recordings. 

You'll produce an EP expressing dark themes in mainstream and outsider pop, while honing your songwriting and technical studio skills. On top of learning about publishing, digital marketing, distribution, internet radio and music law, you’ll push your networking and strategic planning skills through talks from visiting industry speakers.  

You’ll get involved in the live performance network as you take your work on a mini tour or specialise in managing another artist or band. You’ll also have the chance to study abroad with one of our partner institutions. 


Creative Writing and Research in Virtual Music Cultures

This module explores the interdependency of technology, language and culture. You’ll undertake a written project based on self-promotion or theanalysis and evaluationof a relevant case study. This will carefully consider context, module concepts, critical reflection, thorough research and appropriate language. 

Dark Sound: Reading Desire in Popular Music

In an attempt to access the fundamentals of pop, this module examines the ways in which emotion, desire and physicality are embodied in popular music and how identities are constructed in and through the music we listen to, write and play. 

Professional Music Practice

This module moves you towards the realities of working in the sound and music industries as a professionally minded creative individual. You’ll continue the acquisition, development, deployment and evaluation of your specialist skillset. Strong emphasis is placed on self-evaluating your practice with respect to professional contexts, as well as seeking out future development and career opportunities. 

Enterprise: Innovative Practice in Contemporary Music Industries

This module investigates contemporary music industries and the ways in which music is commodified and disseminated through various media and live contexts. Case studies will pose questions around the significance of the artefact, media and digital technology, while encouraging you to propose entrepreneurial strategies for commodification, promotion and dissemination that are contextually appropriate to your music and/or area of specialism. 

Optional modules

The Working Musician: Reproduce; Arrange; Mutate
The Hit Machine
The Music Educator
Music and the Moving Image
Creative Performance Technology

You can choose to take an optional placement year after your second year on a three-year programme, or after your third year if you’re studying for a degree with an Integrated Foundation Year. 

You’ll be responsible for finding your own placement, with support from the RealWORKS employability team. 

Choosing this option will enhance your industry experience and skills while studying. 

How you’ll study during your placement year 

You’ll spend time working in a professional context, as part of a business or organisation. This can be in one role, or up to three, and must be for a minimum of 24 weeks. 

You’ll develop in-demand workplace skills, deepen your insight into industry and grow your network of contacts, all of which could help you get ahead in your career after graduation. 

Throughout this year, you’ll develop a portfolio of work that includes critical self-reflection on what has been learned from the experience. You’ll be required to evidence your experiences, the skills you’ve learned and your professional growth. 

We'll support you as you develop your professional practice and push your skills and projects – whether you write and promote an album, go on a UK or European tour, or take on an internship at a major management company or independent record label. You could also choose an alternative route, like joining an overseas charity project, leading music education in schools or starting your own business. 


Specialist Practice in Context

In this module, we’ll help you to realise your professional aims and ambitions by developing an in-depth, specialist understanding of the relationship between your practice and context.  


The dissertation module provides an opportunity for you to carry out in-depth research and critical analysis of a topic relevant to the direction and development of your practice. 

Professional Portfolio

This module will enable you, in consultation with your tutor(s), to develop and consolidate your creative, theoretical and contextual enquiries into your own independent practice. You’ll also receive support in devising a professionalisation strategy for bridging your practice from university to employment or an entrepreneurial future. 

The modules above are those being studied by our students, or proposed new ones. Programme structures and modules can change as part of our curriculum enhancement and review processes. If a certain module is important to you, please discuss it with the Course Leader.

We are making changes to our curriculum framework for courses starting in 2023. Modest amendments to our course module structure will provide you with new opportunities to collaborate and co-create with students from across disciplines during your studies.

This course page will be updated when these changes have been finalised and applicants will be notified.

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How you'll learn

You’ll work with staff that specialise in music practice and the academic study of pop in its diverse forms. Our sessions also include talks by visiting speakers to help guide your understanding of music practice; in the past, these have included artists such as Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and music industry experts like Island Records President Darcus Beese. An inspiring combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials mix creative practice with critical thinking to help you to develop your sound, skills and artistic identity. 

At Falmouth, we use a 'digitally enhanced learning & teaching' approach. Your experience will always be predominantly in-person, including seminars, tutorials and studio teaching, with some, more targeted elements, being online either live (synchronous) or pre-recorded (asynchronous). You can read more here.

How you'll be assessed

100% of your assessment will be coursework. 

Assessment methods

We assess creativity, evidence of learning and rigorous research. In core Popular Music modules, we'll often ask you to develop interesting visual ways of presenting your thinking around your projects through journals, notebooks and blogs, rather than essays.

  • 100% coursework
  • Performance and musicianship
  • Portfolios


You’ll learn from ex-music managers, professional vocalists, cultural theorists and producers. Our visiting speakers and artists have featured music industry lawyer Helen Searle and Radiohead's Ed O' Brien.

Some members of staff only teach on specific modules, and your course might not feature every staff member who teaches on the course.

Dr D Ferrett

Course Coordinator/Senior Lecturer, Popular Music

Dr D Ferrett is Course Leader for BA(Hons) Popular Music and a Senior Lecturer in Music. Since begin...

Dr D Ferrett

Samuel Murray

Course Coordinator/Senior Lecturer, Music

Samuel Murray is a guitarist, researcher and lecturer whose current projects include playing guitar ...

Samuel Murray

Dr Simon Poole

Course Coordinator & Senior Lecturer: Music, Theatre & Entertainment Management

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Dr Simon Poole
Dr Antti Saario

Dr Antti Saario

Head of Music

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Andrea Rushton

Lecturer in Music

Andrea Rushton is a lecturer in Music focusing particularly on voice studies and performance.  ...

Andrea Rushton

Dr Chris Best

Senior Lecturer

Dr Christopher Best has been senior lecturer and principal tutor in music composition at Falmouth Un...

Dr Chris Best

Dr Chris Morgan

Lecturer in Formal & Non Formal Music Education

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Dr Chris Morgan
David Prior

Professor David Prior

Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Knowledge Exchange

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Senior Lecturer, Music

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  • High-spec performance studio designed for acoustic music.
  • High-spec studio designed for amplified music.
  • Recording studio complex.
  • Music practice rooms for bands and solo work.
  • Some of the best studio hardware, software, and collection of microphones in any UK higher education institution.
  • A superb collection of analogue and virtual analogue synths and drum machines.
  • Professional theatre venue hosting visiting companies and artistes.

Take a virtual tour

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Performance - AMATA

Performance Facilities

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Performance Facilities
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Penryn library group study area

Library Facilities

Offering extensive collections, our two libraries provide a wealth of digital resources, magazines, ...

Library Facilities
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Sports Centre - Outside
Sports Centre

Sports Centre

Our Sports Centre, on Penryn Campus, includes a spacious gym with up to 90 of the latest, new statio...

Sports Centre


Our graduates have worked as:

  • Songwriters, session musicians, touring/performing and recording artists
  • A&R Coordinator at Island Records
  • Digital Manager at Universal Music Group
  • Marketing Manager at Cooking Vinyl
  • Owner and Director of Mount Street Studios

How to apply

Apply via UCAS

Ready to join us? You can apply through UCAS. You'll need to reference the course and University code (F33).

Apply now

Applying as an international student? 

International students can apply for a course through UCAS, via an agent or directly with the university. For more information about how to apply as an international student, visit our international applications page.

International applications

Course route UCAS code
Popular Music BA(Hons) three year degree W340
Popular Music BA(Hons) with placement year (new for entry year 2023) PY07

We consider all applications on their own individual merit and potential. We invite all applicants to an interview day or audition to give them the opportunity to demonstrate this along with what inspires and motivates them in their field. Applicants will also be able to show their portfolio or give a performance depending on the course. We welcome applications from all subject backgrounds, whether you’ve specialised in STEM, the arts or humanities.  

Course route Entry requirements
BA/BSc(Hons) three year degree 104 – 120 UCAS Tariff points
BA/BSc(Hons) four year degree with placement year 104 – 120 UCAS Tariff points

Check the title of your course to see if it's a BA or BSc award. UCAS Tariff points will primarily be from Level 3 qualifications such as but not limited to A-levels, T Levels, a BTEC/UAL Extended Diploma or a Foundation Diploma. 

Check how many points your qualifications are worth

For applicants whose first language is English we require you to have or be working towards GCSE English Language Grade 4 (C), or equivalent. 

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the same standard which is equivalent to the IELTS Academic 6.0 overall score, with at least 5.5 in Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. We accept a range of in country equivalencies and approved tests.  

If you need a student visa to study in the UK, you may need to take a recognised language test. You can read our English Language Requirements for more information.

For starting your studies in 2023

UK applications: 25 January 2023 (for equal consideration)

Applications after the 25 January will be considered on a first-come, first-served as long as there are places available. Apply for this course now.

International fee payers

International fee payers can apply throughout the year. But we recommend applying as early as possible, to make time for visa and travel arrangements.

What we're looking for

We want someone who:

  • Shows ability in the skills and craft of music.
  • Is creative and imaginative.
  • Shows technical skill and musical awareness.
  • Is expressive, with performance presence.
  • Can articulate verbally and in writing.
  • Engages with interview questions and discussion.
  • Critically discusses portfolio examples or other musical examples.
  • Has music experience and contextual knowledge.
  • Shows sustained engagement, motivation and creative potential.

Fees, costs & funding

Tuition fees

Annual tuition fee Student
£9,250 per year Full-time UK
£17,460 per year Full-time EU/international
Annual tuition fee Student
£9,250 per year Full-time UK
£17,460 per year Full-time EU/international
£1,850 per placement year Full-Time UK and EU/international

Tuition fees are set annually and are subject to review each year. The University may therefore raise tuition fees in the second or subsequent years of a course, in line with inflation and/or the maximum permitted by law or Government policy. Students will be notified of any changes as soon as possible. 

The figures above don't include accommodation and living costs

Typical course costs

  • £150 - Recurring annual costs
  • £550 - Optional study visits and placements for the course duration
  • Public Programme season tickets (student rate) costs found: amata.org.uk/livepass

If you need to bring equipment or materials with you, these will be outlined in your Welcome Letter.

Ask a student

What better way to find out about life at Falmouth University than by asking our current students?

From course details and academic support, to the social scene and settling in, our students are ready and available to answer any questions you might have. Simply set up your account, send them a question and they'll get back to you within 24 hours.

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