Subject Overview

What will I study on a Music course?

Music is an extraordinarily diverse field, encompassing practical and theoretical work, not only bearing upon history, culture, and science, but also people’s sense of who they are.

If you are thinking of studying music in higher education, one of the decisions you will face is whether to go to a university or a conservatoire. While both involve practical studies, universities set these studies in a broader context of academic learning, treating music as an object of intellectual inquiry.

That broader context can take you in many different directions, from more traditional, technical studies, including harmony and counterpoint, orchestration, and musical analysis, to more contemporary approaches including ethnomusicology, sociomusicology, and music psychology. Indeed, the study of music (or Musicology) is highly interdisciplinary; in exploring such questions as what music is, what music means, and how it conveys meaning, music students engage with many other fields, including philosophy, neuroscience, gender studies, modern languages, anthropology, politics, and history of art.

The music that you study at university may also cover a vast range of genres and styles, from the European art music of canonic composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, to Global Hip Hop, via jazz, pop, folk, musical theatre, and the music of non-Western cultures.

Many first-year university music courses offer a kind of foundation year, designed to give you fundamental skills in writing and analysing music and to deepen your understanding of music in different historical and cultural contexts.

In later years of your degree, you will usually have an increasing amount of free choice in the subjects you study, allowing you to begin to specialise in your particular areas of interest. Most courses will also give you the opportunity to pursue substantial self-directed projects, such as a dissertation on a topic of your choice, a portfolio of compositions, or a solo recital.

What skills will I gain?

A music degree will advance your skills in musical literacy; this may include aural and keyboard skills (e.g. learning to play figured bass, score reading, transposition, harmonization of a melody, etc.), as well as developing skills in writing – and writing about – music.

In addition to gaining specifically musical skills, a music degree equips students with a very large number of transferrable skills that make music graduates particularly attractive to employers, including:
• the ability to work both independently and as part of a team
• the ability to present arguments clearly and persuasively, both orally and in writing
• problem-solving
• IT skills
• time-management
• performing under pressure
• development of research skills
• critical and analytical thinking
• powers of memory and concentration

Studying for such a degree will also help to nurture your love and understanding of music beyond graduation, in ways that will enrich your life no matter what career you decide on.

What are my career options?

A degree in music does not tie you to a career in music though it is, of course, a very good basis for one; many music graduates go into careers that are connected to music, including: performing, composing, researching, teaching, music journalism, working with recording companies, managing concert halls, working for artists’ agencies, orchestral management, music production, arts administration, marketing, and much more.

But a music degree also prepares students for a career in almost anything; there are as many options open to music students as there are for students of any other arts and humanities degrees. Lots of music graduates go on to careers in areas that have no direct connection to music, such as finance (e.g. accountancy, investment banking), management, law, retail, publishing, the clergy, the civil service, politics, and software development.

In other words, if you’re really passionate about studying music, you can set yourself up for life while doing what you really want to do!