Music - September 2014 entry

BA (Hons) - single
BA (Hons) / BSc (Hons) - combined

A-level: BCC or equivalent

This course is run by the School of Arts

Studying music at Brookes will enable you to construct a programme of work around your passions and interests. We cover popular music and contemporary studio composition as well as fresh and challenging approaches to classical music. 

Oxford is home to leading historic and contemporary concert venues, and has a vibrant music scene – giving you the opportunity to perform and enjoy a wide range of music.

Why choose this course

  • Open-minded department that embraces different kinds of music and sound and engages with contemporary debates.
  • Teaching by specialists in their fields who are all active researchers.
  • Lively performance culture with events in many different venues, ranging from classical to pop and avant-garde.
  • Work placements built into the course.
  • Workshops with professional performers and ensembles.
  • Interdisciplinary and international outlook.
  • Stimulating environment in which to study: Oxford is home to many musical venues and one of the best libraries worldwide.
In a recent evaluation of our course, the external examiner reported:
'Brookes has in its Music Department a distinctive, not to say unique unit, delivering a very wide range of skills, disciplines and learning outcomes ... to a very high level. The university should congratulate it on this and recognise what a strong sense of identity the department projects. Its ethos is clear, considered and brave in today's safety-driven sector.'

This course in detail

We take a creative and critical view of the study of music, and the course is structured to provide considerable choice and flexibility so that you can construct an individual and coherent programme of work to suit your interests. 

The study of music broadly falls into three areas:

  • Musicology, ie reading, writing and thinking about music
  • Composition
  • Performance. 

While the first year is intended to offer a solid foundation in all three areas (see below), the programme in the second and third year is more flexible and can be tailored to individual interests and strengths.

Through the various modules, which are listed below, we cover the following aspects of musical studies:

  • notation, harmony and musical analysis
  • music history, from the Renaissance to 19th-century opera and 20th-century developments including the avant-garde, popular and film music.
  • composition, whether notation-based, electronic or multimedia
  • solo and group performance.

Study modules

Please note that, as courses are reviewed regularly, the module list you choose from may vary from that shown here.

Year 1

The first year of the Oxford Brookes music degree sets out to mediate between students' very diverse experiences of music before coming to university and what will follow in Years 2 and 3 of the course. It divides into several modules, including:

  • Introduction to Western Music History: 1800 to the Present
  • Case Studies in Music History: The Middle Ages to 1800
  • Introduction to Contemporary Composition
  • Notation and Harmony
  • Introduction to Popular Music
  • University Music Performance
  • Musicianship.

Years 2 and 3

In the second and third year of the course students can design an individual programme which plays to their strength. The modules to choose from are as follows:

  • Creative Approaches to Contemporary Composition
  • Electroacoustic Composition and Sonic Art
  • Creative approaches to Electronic Music
  • History, Music and Ideas
  • Popular Music and Society
  • Ensemble Performance
  • Music Theatre Practice
  • Opera and Politics
  • Words and Music
  • Special Study in Musicology
  • Film Music
  • Music Independent Study or Solo Performance 1
  • Music Independent Study or Solo Performance 2 (honours module)
  • Professional Practice (honours module)
  • Music Analysis: Case Studies, Concepts, Critique (honours module)
  • Music Dissertation (honours module)
  • Composition Portfolio (honours module)

The following "pathways" offer some suggestions of how you can select your own programme, depending on your interests. Of course, there are many other options, including a "pick and mix" approach that many students find refreshing and stimulating.

If your previous experience has mainly been in classical music and you want to pursue it further, this is what your ‘pathway’ through the second and third year of music programme might look like.

If you are interested in the ways that music history, and the writing about music history have been shaped by ideologies and fashions, then History, Music and Ideas should interest you.

If you want to find out more about music for the stage or screen, Opera and Politics and Film Music cover the historical and musicological side, while Music Theatre Practice is more practice-based and experimental.

Words and Music usually focuses on vocal music from the past, and Special Study in Musicology also offers opportunity to explore historical topics.

Music Analysis starts with staples of the classical repertoire, such as Mozart’s piano sonatas or Haydn’s string quartets, and you can select a piece of your choice for your main essay.

In the final year, Professional Practice offers opportunities for career development - you can do an internship, for example as a teaching assistant or with the concert organisers ‘Music at Oxford’.

Your dissertation offers scope for an extended individual study; in the past topics have been very diverse, ranging from Buxtehude’s church cantatas to Beethoven’s piano sonatas to the politics of Italian romantic opera.

If you want to develop your performance skills beyond the first year, Ensemble Performance encourages you to form your own ensemble, e.g. a string quartet or a vocal trio with piano accompaniment. You can also continue to hone your skills as a solo performer (subject to audition) through the Solo Performance options of the Music Independent Studies and/or Professional Practice.

If your previous experience has mainly been in rock, pop, jazz or folk music and you want to pursue it further, this is what your ‘pathway’ through the second and third year of the music programme might look like.

If you want to investigate the ways that writing about rock music is influenced by politics and culture, then Popular Music in Society should interest you.

If you want to find out more about music for the stage or screen, Film Music covers the historical and musicological side, while Music Theatre Practice is practice-based and experimental.

Special Study in Musicology offers opportunity for further study of contemporary music and has covered a wide range of topics in the past, including music journalism and music and the media.

In the final year, Professional Practice offers opportunities for career development - students have worked in concert management, music journalism and as performers and concert organisers, Music Analysis students often choose to focus on examples from the rock and pop repertory.

The dissertation offers scope for an extended individual study; in the past topics have been diverse, ranging from recent rock criticism to female singer-songwriters to a close analysis of the guitar solos of Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.

If you want to develop your performance skills beyond the first year, Ensemble Performance encourages you to form your own ensemble, e.g. a rock or a bluegrass band. You can also continue to hone your skills as a solo perfomer (subject to audition) through the Solo Performance options of the Music Independent Studies and/or Professional Practice.

A good example of how the course can be adapted to meet an individual interest was a guitarist interested in jazz. His Ensemble Performance was a jazz quartet in which he played guitar; his Dissertation was a study of jazz harmony textbooks, his Professional Practice consisted of setting up a regular jazz night in a local pub, in which his was the ‘house band’; and his final essay for Popular Music in Society examined the position of (non-singing) women in jazz. Over a half his degree was in fact ‘jazz studies’.

The composition pathway

Composition is at the heart of musical study – the creation of new sound-worlds, the combination of conventional and experimental sound sources, the expansion of timbral possibilities, and the search for new forms. Composition at Oxford Brookes provides you with a chance to experiment, to explore sound-making and to re-examine the experience of the listener.

In the second year at Brookes you can take two ‘double’ modules: Composition, and Electroacoustic Composition and Sonic Art. In the first module you compose a whole series of compositions, culminating in writing for a professional ensemble, who workshop the compositions and perform them in an end-of-term concert. Electroacoustic Composition and Sonic Art allows you to look at more esoteric electronic music and to develop a series of electronic compositions (including a soundtrack to a film).

Your Composition Portfolio can consist of a wide variety of work. Recently, students have composed music for film, electroacoustic music, concept albums, created their own musical instruments. There is also the opportunity to write for professional performers; recently for toy piano virtuoso Isabel Ettanauer, OKEANOS – an ensemble that mix traditional Japanese and Western classical instrumentation – and amplified ensemble [rout].

Key to the composition teaching at Oxford Brookes is a desire to equip composers with the conceptual and technical tools to take an active role in the pluralistic musical world of the 21st century. You will be urged to question the role of the composer – why do we need them and what is their function in contemporary musical culture? Throughout the course, you will be able to take advantage of a range of opportunities for performance by professional ensembles.

There is a committed and active community of composers at Brookes - including undergraduates, students on the MA in Composition and Sonic Art, PhD students, and staff, alongside the Sonic Art Research Unit, who recently collaborated with harpsichordist Jane Chapman.

Our undergraduate and postgraduate students get involved in the annual Songwriting, which you can take as part of the Professional Practice module or as an Independent Study module, offers individual songwriters in bands, or singer-songwriters, the opportunity to develop a portfolio of new songs with guidance from a tutor. In addition, you study a particular songwriter of your choice or a theme in songwriting, while attempting in one song to imitate that repertory. Past studies have included Oasis, Elliot Smith, Syd Barrett, Aimee Mann, Seth Lakeman, and confessional female songs. Finally, the songwriter aims to get the songs heard through performances, for example in the weekly lunchtime concerts, and web and radio exposure.

Work placements

Work placements form an integral part of the music degree at Oxford Brookes. Our Professional Practice module (offered in Year 3) enables students to consider their university studies in relation to the considerable section of work which has, broadly speaking, 'something to do with music'. In the age of the global, service-led economy there is a greater range of diverse possibilities for music graduates, and the music aims to demonstrate the potential of that range, in relation to individual aspirations and interests. Through the work placement students gather experience in a field of their choice, such as 

  • music education (primary and secondary schools)
  • vocal or instrumental tuition as a "peripatetic" teacher
  • arts administration and management
  • music therapy
  • music journalism
  • recording and publication
  • research assistantship

In the past years, several students have gone straight from the work placement to a full-time job.

Field trips

The module Opera and Politics includes one trip to an operatic performance, normally at the English National Opera, to see a cutting-edge production. Music students are also welcome to join the Fine Arts trip to New York.

Study abroad

Every year a number of Oxford Brookes Music students spend either one or two semesters at a university in another country. Recently, Music students have studied in the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Iceland. If you are interested in studying in a different country, our wide-ranging international contacts will help you to find a suitable place to study.

Studying abroad provides an amazing opportunity to add value to your studies by:
  • increasing your employability within an international market
  • boosting your language skills
  • building your confidence in adapting to new situations
  • improving your knowledge of different cultures.
While on exchange you will gain credits which count towards your degree.

We have more than 100 partner universities around the world. Funding is available through the Erasmus scheme, and also via some international programmes such as the Santander Student Awards.
There is also a European work placement programme which gives you the chance to work abroad as part of your studies.

For more information, visit our pages on studying abroad and exchanges

Departmental research highlights

The Music Department covers a wide range of historical, contemporary and creative research areas. Our special fields of interest are in opera, popular music and sonic art, each of which is supported by a dedicated research unit:

  • SARU: Sonic Art Research Unit
  • PRMU: Popular Music Research Unit
  • OBERTO: Oxford Brookes - Exploring Research Trends in Opera

We regularly host study days, conferences and workshops and are active in the Royal Musical Association and other research networks and societies. Our research students, who are studying for an MA or PhD, are fully integrated into the research culture of the department. If you are interested in the research of individual members of staff, e.g. their forthcoming book or recent conference appearance, you can visit our staff profiles.

Free language courses for students - the Open Module

Free language courses are available to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students on many of our courses, and can be taken as a credit on some courses.

Please note that the free language courses are not available if you are:

  • studying at a Brookes partner college
  • studying on any of our teacher education courses or postgraduate education courses.

Performance at Oxford Brookes

We have a varied portfolio of performance opportunities at Oxford Brookes and in any given year the amount of music-making is truly impressive; just one semester can include everything from a motet by Thomas Tallis to the musical Hair to Poulenc's Gloria, or from a barbershop quartet to a rock band. In 2012/2013 alone there were 57 concerts and gigs.

The department puts on a choral concert every semester, giving new students the chance to meet and perform with each other, as well as performing with second- and third-year students. We also put on a 'Big Night Out' at which student bands can display their talent. They also frequently perform on campus or across Oxford.

Further opportunities are provided by several music societies including a Jazz Band and the musical theatre societies Fortune Players and Fortune Cookies. There is an auditioning chamber choir with an ambitious repertoire, as well as a classical orchestra. Smaller-scale, medium-sized groups appear from time to time depending on student interest, for example an opera group, the pop choir Glee or a wind band.  Students are of course also encouraged to form their own ensembles or groups to enhance their musical experience at Oxford Brookes.

Lunchtime concerts are held weekly, providing a forum for soloists, small groups and bands. We've taken our music to a number of venues, including in recent years our Harcourt Hill Campus with its pretty New England-style chapel. Music has been put on in the drama studio; bands have played at the Students’ Union bars, the Bullingdon and the O2 Academy. Concerts of chamber music and classical solo recitals are held at the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building and the Holywell Music Room, the oldest concert venue in England. We also make use of the new spaces on the Gipsy Lane site, especially the gallery and the new multi-purpose hall.

All of these activities are open to music students, but also to students from other subjects. For the music students, we have converted much of this activity into various forms of academic credit: participation in the large-scale ensembles informs the first-year Performance module; small-scale groups (chamber ensembles, vocal groups, rock bands) can take the advanced module Ensemble Performance after the first year; while students can opt to present a solo performance under the auspices of Professional Practice or Independent Study modules.

Teaching, learning and assessment

Teaching and learning

Teaching and learning take a variety of forms at Oxford Brookes, catering for different learning styles and individual strengths. As well as traditional lectures, there are seminars, interactive workshops and tutorials, which allow us to communicate our subjects with enthusiasm and help you to improve and extend your knowledge, skills and understanding.

Seminars provide a forum for collective discussion and are important because they help you to clarify your ideas and enable you to gain confidence in oral communication. Workshops are used in creative modules involving composition or performance. Tutorials, where you collaborate closely with a supervisor of your choice, are the main mode of study for the third-year project, which can be either a written dissertation or a portfolio of compositions.

Instrumental and vocal tutors

A number of widely respected and well-qualified vocal and instrumental tutors teach Oxford Brookes students on a one-to-one basis. In the Music Performance module in Year 1, you will be assigned a teacher for your choice of instrument. With your tutor you can develop your skills on your principal instrument or voice. We also offer conducting as an option in your first year or as an Independent Study module. If you opt for Ensemble Performance in Year 2, your ensemble - whether a string quartet, a vocal trio or a hardrock band - will receive group tuition in a workshop format.

Approach to assessment

At Oxford Brookes all assessment within the Music degree is carried out continuously through coursework which provides you with constant feedback. The written essay is the most common format in music history and musicology, while composition is assessed by a portfolio of creative work. In performance-related modules you will put together your own recital - ranging from a song recital in a historical venue to a gig at the Big Night Out. Some modules are assessed by class tests, others may involve you in group work such as a debate or creating a podcast.

Learning outcomes

The Music course will enable you to:

  • deal confidently with a wide range of musical repertoires and sound worlds through composition, performance and writing
  • understand and negotiate historical and cultural differences in a globalised world
  • engage with scholarly discourses in your field and undertake your own research.
  • enhance and reflect upon your skills as a performer and creative musician
  • use technology and digital resources relevant to the field of music.
  • decide on a career within or outside the music industry that plays to your individual strengths and abilities.
  • gain a range of transferable skills prized by employers, including the ability to manage your time, undertake self-directed study, work as part of a team and communicate clearly.

Key facts


School of Arts

Course length

Full-time: BA (Hons): 3 years
Part-time: 5 - 8 years

Teaching location

Headington Campus, Headington Hill

Start date

September 2014

UCAS code and Key Information Sets

How to apply / Entry requirements

Typical offers

A-level: BCC or equivalent

IB Diploma: 29, to include 6 points in Music

A-levels should include grade C in Music.

Other typical offers are:

  • BC at A-level (including grade C in Music) and CC at AS-level
  • Grade C at 12-unit vocational A-level plus grade C in Music A-level
  • BTEC: 18 unit BTEC with DMM
  • Applicants with HND in Music Technology or Music Production may be considered for Year 2 entry in the single honours course. Consideration will be given to the modules taken at HND level and their relevance to the programme.

For combined honours, normally the offer will lie between the offers quoted for each subject.

Specific entry requirements

A-Level: Grade C in Music

  • We will consider Music Technology in the absence of A-level Music.
  • We consider Grade 8 practical and Grade 7 theory to be equivalent of A-level Music.
  • Portfolio entry is also available for single and combined honours.

Please also see the University's general entry requirements.

Selection process

Applicants for both single and combined honours Music will normally be invited to attend an interview. In the interview, you will be asked to perform a short piece of your choice (3-4 minutes), to present a piece of written work (and, if you want to, a composition) and to do a short aural test. Candidates who do not have Grade 5 Theory will also be asked to sit a short written music theory test. The most important part of the interview is the opportunity to talk about your musical experiences, your expectations from the course and your plans for the future.

English language requirements

Please see the University's standard English language requirements

International and EU applications

Preparation courses for EU students

We offer a range of courses to help students meet the academic and English language entry requirements for their courses and also familiarise them with university life.

Find out more about the international foundation pathways we offer and our pre-sessional English language courses.

Country specific entry requirements

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information and local representatives who can help you to apply, please have a look at our country specific information pages.

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Border Agency's minimum language requirements as well as the University's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

How to apply

Full-time students should apply for this course through UCAS.

 Full-time students should apply through UCAS. Part-time students should apply directly to the university.

International applications

International students who are unable to attend an interview will need to submit a piece of written work, preferably in English, and either a portfolio of compositions or a recording of a recent performance. This will be requested by the Admissions Team once the application has been received.

Conditions of acceptance

When you accept our offer, you agree to the conditions of acceptance. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

Credit transfer

Oxford Brookes operates the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). All undergraduate single modules are equivalent to 7.5 ECTS credits and double modules to 15 ECTS credits. More about ECTS credits.

Student experience

Why Oxford is a great place to study this course

As a music student in Oxford you'll be at the heart of the UK's most successful economic region and in a centre for leading industries which will provide you with a host of work placement (e.g. Music at Oxford, BBC Oxford) and other learning opportunities.

Oxford has a dynamic music scene with music from across the spectrum. It is home to historic concert venues such as the Sheldonian Theatre and the Holywell Music Room (England's first concert hall), but also a thriving pop, rock and jazz scene. Brookes Music students have the opportunity to hone their performance skills in a wide range of venues in Oxford, from new music in the O2 Academy to chamber music in the Holywell Music Room. The musical venues in London, e.g. the English National Opera, the Wigmore Hall or Southbank Centre, can easily be reached by coach.

One of the world's great academic cities, Oxford is a key centre of debate, with conferences, seminars and forums taking place across the arts, history, science and many other subjects, including music.

Support for students studying Music

Specialist facilities

The Music department is situated in the Richard Hamilton Building, which includes two lecture theatres, seven practice rooms including a band room, studios and a music technology room. Several practice and seminar rooms are equipped with grand pianos, there are organs on the Wheatley and Harcourt Hill campuses, and the department owns a range of percussion instruments. Larger instruments can be stored in a locked room in the basement.

The Music Technology room offers access to a range of specialist sound software, including Sibelius, Cubase, Adobe Audition and Composers Desktop Project. Email and university-networked facilities are also available, and the Richard Hamilton Building is equipped with wireless internet access. The music studios consist of two large single user electroacoustic studios with excellent monitoring speakers.

The university library, located across the road at Gipsy Lane, is well stocked with music books, scores, CDs,  DVDs and videos. The library also offers access to a wide range of e-books, electronic journals and databases which are indispensable for advanced study in music. Students are trained to use the library's music resources from their first semester on and, to a more sophisticated level, for the final-year dissertation. Our dedicated subject librarian Katie Hambrook is always happy to help with student questions. All Oxford Brookes students undertaking research may also apply to join the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

General support services

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Personal support services

We want your time at Brookes to be as enjoyable and successful as possible. That's why we provide all the facilities you need to be relaxed, happy and healthy throughout your studies.

After graduation

Career prospects

Our graduates are good team players and team leaders, and have taken up positions in the record industry and the media, arts administration, teaching, the civil service and business. Others have continued their study at postgraduate level.

A music degree develops general skills appropriate for careers where a lively, questioning and organised mind is required.

Recently music graduates from Brookes have found employment with

  • BBC Radio
  • the business management of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
  • the local concert promoters Music at Oxford and IOxford Contemporary Music
  • the international music publishing company Faber Music
  • most secondary schools in the region, e.g. Merchants Academy Bristol or Didcott Girls School

Further study

A growing number of our undergraduate students continues studying at university after they have graduated. Many opt for a PGCE, while others study on MA and PhD level. Oxford Brookes offers its own MA Music  with four specialist pathways, an MA in Composition and Sonic Art, an MA in Contemporary Arts and Music, and the opportunity to study for a PhD in musicology or composition.