Student singing into microphone on stage and playing guitar

Popular Music BA(Hons)

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

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

Course overview

Whether it’s underground or mainstream, DIY or commercial, acoustic or electric, this course 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 work, creating innovative audio-visual portfolios based on experimentation, musicianship and a confident understanding of the industry. You’ll study the audio-visual elements of pop and develop ways of critically conceiving and creating ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ presences. As someone invested in how pop makes meaning, you’ll define 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 as part of 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. 

Modules

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. 

Modules

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

Voice
Timbre
Supersonic
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. 

Modules

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.  

Dissertation

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.

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 spend your time

Year

Timetabled teaching and learning activity

Guided independent study

Placements

1

36%

64%

0%

2

32%

68%

0%

3

16%

68%

16%

 

How you'll be assessed

Year

Written exams

Practical exams

Coursework

1

0%

40%

60%

2

0%

33%

67%

3

0%

25%

75%

The above percentages relate to 2019/2020 data.

 

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

Studying for a Popular Music degree at Falmouth means you'll be part of our industry-connected Academy of Music & Theatre Arts. Take a look at the stories below to discover more about this amazing performance hub.

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Ed O'Brien (Radiohead)

Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien delivers a Q&A session to Music students

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Radiohead's Ed O'Brien recently delivered a Q&A session to Falmouth University Music students wi...

Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien delivers a Q&A session to Music students
Matt Scott Rogers hosting a Masterclass at AMATA
Matt Scott Rogers hosting a Masterclass at AMATA
Matt Scott Rogers hosting a Masterclass at AMATA

VIP Industry Guests at AMATA

31 January 2020

Students and staff were captivated by industry guest masterclasses during Enhancement Week at AMATA ...

VIP Industry Guests at AMATA
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Popular Music Student Releases Electric EP

21 January 2019

There’s a buzz around Annabel Hockeysmith, third year Popular Music BA(Hons) student. As well as h...

Popular Music Student Releases Electric EP

Staff

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

Simon has been making, selling, collecting, managing and writing about music for 30 years. During th...

Dr Simon Poole

Dr Antti Saario

Head of Music

Dr Antti Sakari Saario is an award-winning post-acousmatic composer, educator and an audio prof...

Dr Antti Saario

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

Chris is lecturer in formal and non-formal music education, co-ordinator of the Making Music modules...

Dr Chris Morgan
David Prior

Professor David Prior

Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Knowledge Exchange

I joined Falmouth as Associate Professor in Music and Sound Art in 2010. Now as Pro Vice-Chancellor ...

Professor David Prior

Dr Johny Lamb

Senior Lecturer, Music

Johny is a senior lecturer specialising in the study of popular music. He is a songwriter, composer,...

Dr Johny Lamb
Frankie Stevens staff image

Frankie Stevens

Lecturer in Music

Frankie Stevens is an operatic soprano, metal musician and academic. She has a diverse range of...

Frankie Stevens

Jim Aitchison

Instrumental Tutor, Music

Jim Aitchison is a composer and artist, working both in the realm of responding to visual artworks a...

Jim Aitchison

Will Parker

Lecturer in Popular Music

Will Parker is a lecturer, researcher and composer specialising in technology and aesthetics - ...

Will Parker

Paul Joines

Technical Tutor

Since graduating in ‘Broadcast Studies’ from Falmouth College of Arts in 1996, Paul has spent ov...

Paul Joines

Dr Simon Waite

Course Co-ordinator & Senior Lecturer

Si Waite is a songwriter, producer and educator. He has written, recorded and performed as a solo ar...

Dr Simon Waite

Helen Worthington

Senior Lecturer, Experience Design, Cornwall Business School

Helen Worthington is a Senior Lecturer at Falmouth University, having joined the Cultural Management...

Helen Worthington

Facilities

  • 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

Performance Facilities Image
Performance - AMATA

Performance Facilities

The Academy of Music and Theatre Arts (AMATA) is a purpose-built live venue housing an assembly of f...

Performance Facilities
Library interior with 'group study' written on large pillar and students reading
Penryn library group study area

Library Facilities

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

Library Facilities
Falmouth University Sports Centre building exterior with blue sky and a path
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

Careers

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
Graduate Eva Gadd wearing a bright green tank top and leaning against a red brick wall, with large block of flats in the background.
Eva Gadd_Popular Music Graduate_Falmouth University

Popular Music graduate signs to Blue Adventure Records

18 November 2022

2021 BA Popular Music graduate Eva Gadd has been signed by Blue Adventure Records less than two year...

Popular Music graduate signs to Blue Adventure Records
Kelly Morris on stage playing the bass guitar
Six bassist

From Falmouth to the West End

12 April 2022

Popular Music graduate Kelly has landed her dream role as a bassist for Six the Musical. In Augus...

From Falmouth to the West End
Hockeysmith single cover with girl sat on the floor
Hockeysmith

Popular Music graduate takes The Guardian Playlist top spot

02 December 2021

BA Popular Music graduate Annie Hockey-Smith, who makes fascinating techno-infused tunes under the m...

Popular Music graduate takes The Guardian Playlist top spot
Head shot of Falmouth graduate Dom Mckiernan
Dom Mckiernan

Falmouth graduate joins Stink Films as music video executive producer

23 September 2021

BA(Hons) Popular Music graduate Dom Mckiernan has joined the independent production network Stink Fi...

Falmouth graduate joins Stink Films as music video executive producer
R&B artist and graduate Tony Njoku
Tony Njoku
R&B artist and graduate Tony Njoku. Image - Lennon Gregory

Music Graduate One to Watch

21 January 2020

Picked as 'one to watch' by the Guardian in late 2019, life has been a whirlwind for rising&nbs...

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Ider’s Emotional Education on Tour

11 December 2019

Lily Somerville and Megan Markwick found each other at Falmouth University, now the world is discove...

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Making Music: The Talent Behind the Scenes

07 June 2019

It might be the musicians that get the spotlight, but the music industry is bursting with talented p...

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Behind the Scenes of Music Streaming

05 June 2019

In 2014, Joe Pym graduated from BA(Hons) Popular Music and started working at Island Records. Five y...

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15 April 2019

Musicians are the face of the music industry, but behind them stands an army of professionals that p...

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Cooking Vinyl is one of Europe’s most innovative independent record labels and Marcus Knight, 2011...

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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) UCAS code available soon

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

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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Open Days and events

From visiting campus to online application advice, get all the information you need about joining our creative community.

Experience Falmouth
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