BA(Hons) in Popular Music


Program Description

Whether it’s underground or mainstream, DIY or commercial, acoustic or electric, this course is focused on developing your unique artistic identity. During your time here, you’ll become part of the vibrant Falmouth music scene, working creatively in both live and studio environments.


As an independent performer, songwriter and self-producer, you’ll learn how to promote and release your own work, creating innovative portfolios based on experimentation, musicianship and a confident understanding of the industry. Ultimately, you’ll define a practice that’s stylistically sophisticated and ahead of the curve. 

You will:

  • Develop songwriting techniques and performance skills. 
  • Establish innovative approaches to music-making, recording and producing, electronic hardware, the music business and self-promotion. 
  • Perform and record in our high-spec AMATA studios. 
  • Forge industry links with studios, record labels, promotion companies and venues. 
  • Benefit from visiting lecturers like Adrian Utley (Portishead), Bellatrix, Darcus Beese (Island Records), David Toop, Ed O’Brien (Radiohead), Jerry Dammers (The Specials), Jo Hamilton and Mary Hampton. 

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.

What our graduates do

As well as setting themselves on the path to becoming music journalists, researchers, and production managers, our students have gone on to support Primal Scream, Kaiser Chiefs and Sigur Rós.

Rock gig under floodlights

What you'll learn

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.

Year one

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. 

Year two

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 the analysis and evaluation of 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. A 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

Year three

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.  
  • 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 a 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. 

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 member.


  • 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 artists.

How to apply

Apply via UCAS

Ready to join us? If you're applying through UCAS Apply and Track, you'll need to reference the university and course codes below. 

  • University code: F33
  • Course code: W340

Applying as an international student? 

International students can apply for a course through UCAS, via an agent or directly with the university. 

Entry requirements

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.  

As a guide our typical offer at an undergraduate level is 104 – 120 UCAS Tariff points, primarily from Level 3 qualifications such as but not limited to A-levels, a BTEC Extended Diploma or a Foundation Diploma. 

Language requirements

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 Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK, you’ll need to take an approved Secure English Language Test (SELT). You can read our English Language Requirements for more information.


  • UK/EU applications: 15 January 2020 (for equal consideration) 
  • Late applications will be considered if there are places available. 
  • International fee payers can apply throughout the year. But we recommend applying as early as possible, to make time for visa and travel arrangements.

Tuition fees 2020-21

  • £9,250 - full-time UK/EU
  • £16,000 - full-time 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.

Last updated May 2020

About the School

Established in 1902 as Falmouth School of Art, it has grown over a century to become a digital innovation hub. Today, its portfolio of undergraduate and postgraduate courses represents the breadth of ... Read More

Established in 1902 as Falmouth School of Art, it has grown over a century to become a digital innovation hub. Today, its portfolio of undergraduate and postgraduate courses represents the breadth of the Creative Industries, the fastest growing sector in the UK economy. Now, as we face the fourth industrial revolution; as technology provides great opportunities as well as challenges, it’s clear that Falmouth’s specialisms of creative innovation; creative thinking, problem-solving, communication and storytelling, will be key to future economic and cultural success both at a local and global level. Read less
Falmouth , Penryn + 1 More Less