Popular Music BA(Hons)
Whether it’s underground or mainstream, DIY or commercial, acoustic or electric, this course is for artists with eclectic styles and open-minded approaches to music making. During your time at Falmouth, you’ll work creatively in both live and studio environments.
|Course Duration||3 years|
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. 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.
- Develop songwriting techniques and performance and production skills.
- Establish innovative approaches to music making, the music business and technology.
- 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 Bellatrix, Darcus Beese (Island Records), David Toop, Ed O'Brien (Radiohead), Mary Hampton, Jo Hamilton, Martha Tilston, Laura Snapes, Glen Roberts and Jerry Dammers (The Specials)
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have reviewed and made changes to our courses to provide flexible, blended delivery that offers high-quality digital engagement and access to face-to-face teaching in our facilities. You can see how your course may be adjusted by viewing the changes for the current academic year by visiting our welcome letters & latest course updates pages
What our students do
Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien delivers a Q&A session to Music students
VIP Industry Guests at AMATA
Popular Music Student Releases Electric EP
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.
Music Graduate One to Watch
Ider’s Emotional Education on Tour
Making Music: The Talent Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes of Music Streaming
Meet AMATA’s Homegrown Music Industry Experts
A Creative Career with Cooking Vinyl
Graduate Composes Music for New BBC Drama
Popular Music Alumni IDER on the Verge of Greatness
Popular Music Alumni Launches Debut Album
Musical Musings with Charlotte Lloyd-Butler
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.
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 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. 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.
The Working Musician: Reproduce; Arrange; Mutate
The Hit Machine
The Music Educator
Music and the Moving Image
Creative Performance Technology
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.
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.
From module information to course aims and assessment criteria, discover the full course details.
We are making changes to our curriculum framework for courses starting in 2022. 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.
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.
How you'll spend your time
How you'll be assessed
The above percentages relate to 2019/2020 data.
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
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 shown here.
Dr D Ferrett
Dr D Ferrett is Course Leader for BA(Hons) Popular Music and a Senior Lecturer in Music. Since...
Samuel Murray is a guitarist, researcher and lecturer whose current projects include playing guitar...
Dr Simon Poole
Simon has been making, selling, collecting, managing and writing about music for 30 years. During...
Dr Antti Saario
Dr Antti Sakari Saario is an award-winning post-acousmatic composer, educator and an audio ...
Andrea Rushton is a lecturer in Music focusing particularly on voice studies and performance. Her...
Danielle Meunier's origins lie in classical singing and voice & speech with a BMus (Canada) and MA...
Dr Chris Best
Dr Christopher Best has been senior lecturer and principal tutor in music composition at Falmouth...
Dr Chris Morgan
Chris is lecturer in formal and non-formal music education, co-ordinator of the Making Music...
Professor David Prior
David joined Falmouth as associate professor in Music and Sound Art in 2010. Now as Director of...
Dr Johny Lamb
Johny is a lecturer specialising in the study of popular music. He is a songwriter, composer,...
Frankie Stevens is an operatic soprano, metal musician and academic.
She has a diverse range of...
Jim Aitchison is a composer and artist, working both in the realm of responding to visual artworks...
Will Parker is a lecturer, researcher and composer specialising in technology and aesthetics - with...
Since graduating in ‘Broadcast Studies’ from Falmouth College of Arts in 1996, Paul has spent over...
Dr Simon Waite
Si Waite is a songwriter, producer and educator. He has written, recorded and performed as a solo...
Helen Worthington is a Senior Lecturer at Falmouth University, having joined the Cultural...
- 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.
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
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 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.
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'll need to take a recognised language test that is approved and vouched for by the University. You can read our English Language Requirements for more information.
UK applications: 29 January 2021 (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.
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 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.
Typical course costs
- £150 - Recurring annual costs
- £550 - Optional study visits and placements for the course duration
If you need to bring equipment or materials with you, these will be outlined in your Welcome Letter.
The figures above don't include accommodation and living costs
For information about funding available, please visit our undergraduate funding page.
Ask a student
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From course details, our facilities and the local area 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.