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MusB Music / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course description

What does Music mean to me? [Freya]

Our MusB Music course is diverse and flexible, enabling you to choose the course units that interest you the most to build upon existing interests while allowing you the room to discover new forms and traditions of music and new ways of understanding, performing and creating music.

The course offers excellence in  Performance , Composition and Musicology , incorporating specialisms in Music Theory and Analysis, and Ethnomusicology.

Course content is regularly updated based on our research to reflect the latest findings in music scholarships. You will also receive support in preparing for the workplace; our graduates go on to work in the music profession, the creative industries and beyond.

You will learn from internationally recognised academics and a roster of professional instrumental and vocal tutors drawn from Manchester and the wider north-west.

Our teaching and music-making takes place in the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama. You will rehearse, take masterclasses and perform in the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall and can get your hands on the latest digital audio technology in the award-winning NOVARS studios for electroacoustic music and interactive media.

You will also benefit musically, academically and socially from the extensive music-making and management opportunities provided by the Music Society , the Choral Programme  and the department , with 100+ concerts and events taking place each year.

And this is to say nothing of the diversity of music to be experienced in cosmopolitan Manchester, a global city for the performing arts with a rich heritage of professional and amateur music-making.

Find out more on the Music website.


We aim to:

  • enable you to engage in the advanced study of musical performance, musical composition, musicology, ethnomusicology and music analysis within a research-rich and musically lively environment;
  • provide opportunities for you to develop specialised and high-level skills in the sub-disciplines of musical performance, musical composition, musicology, ethnomusicology and music analysis;
  • stimulate your curiosity and enthusiasm to study music in its practical, creative and intellectual contexts, and to explore the inherent interconnections between these three facets of the discipline;
  • enable you to investigate the innate interdisciplinarity of music by exploring the broader social, cultural, aesthetic and scientific contexts in which it is created, heard and received;
  • enable you to both develop your strengths and specialisms, and explore new aspects of the discipline by allowing the maximum possible flexibility and choice of course units;
  • help you develop your creative imagination and skills of critical self-awareness;
  • enable you to develop skills in interpreting, synthesising and critically evaluating information;
  • encourage the use of technology as applicable to the study of music as a creative art;
  • prepare you for the successful development of careers - both within and outside the field of music - that involve critical judgement, creative problem-solving, teamwork and well-developed communication skills.

Special features

Sarah Keirle - MusB Music

"The electro-acoustic and sound design courses have definitely been a highlight, as you learn new skills from scratch that have obvious real-world uses.

"The performance module has also stood out for me because the individual instrumental lessons have been outstanding."

Sarah Keirle / 2017 graduate
Performance-focused environment

You will benefit from a combination of academic excellence and conservatoire levels of performance at Manchester.

You will receive 18 lessons each year in one-to-one practical tuition on your first study (when taken for credit).

On our Conducting programme there are 6-7 student positions in the Music Society and 4 in University Chorus, all mentored by Rob Guy, Head of Conducting.

The Music Society and the Martin Harris Centre (including the superb Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall) presents many events annually.

We have many practice rooms, 13 with pianos, and specialist percussion and keyboard rooms.

Composition training

We have six full-time composers with expertise in a range of styles, encompassing instrumental and vocal, interactive media, electroacoustic and film music composition with teaching focused on originality and professional training.

Your work will be performed by fellow students in composition courses throughout the degree. You can also benefit from our dedicated studio, with ProTools suite for electroacoustic composition, film composition and interactive media.

Musicological expertise

From early music to jazz, string quartets to African pop, we have expertise in a vast array of areas, including music theory and analysis, sketch study, reception studies, performance studies, aesthetics, critical theory, cultural studies, community music and ethnomusicology.

Placement year option

Apply your knowledge in a real-world context through a placement year in Year 3, enhancing your employment prospects, career goals and building networks.

Study abroad

You may apply to study abroad for one semester during Year 2.

Teaching and learning

With a mixture of lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops and one-to-one performance coaching, our learning environment is open, friendly and designed to inspire.

Our research-based teaching places students at the heart of the learning process, enabling you to ask complex, original questions and to apply different methods for answering them.

We understand that making the step up to university study can be quite a challenge, especially if you have limited experience of independent study. We offer a range of support to help you make the transition:

  • In Year 1, all Music students are assigned to a small tutorial group which meets most Mondays during term-time. The group is run by your academic tutor and provides you with an opportunity to try out new ideas and receive feedback on your progress.
  • All academic staff run two weekly consultation hours, where the office door is open for any question relating to your studies, progress or university life.
  • We also host an active peer support network, including weekly study sessions organised and run by Year 2 and 3 students.

You'll be encouraged to develop knowledge and skills beyond your course, including extra-curricular opportunities with the Music Society. These range from performance and rehearsal to concert management and marketing.

Instrumental tuition is provided by the University for your first instrument or voice. 

Prominent players  from outside the University provide this tuition, and include visitors from the Halle Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic and the Royal Northern College of Music. 

Eighteen hours of one-to-one tuition is provided per year, with 20 hours in the third year. 

Expert performers provide coaching on our ensemble performance units.  

You'll be encouraged to attend our weekly programme of Thursday research forums, including performance and composition masterclasses. 

You'll also be encouraged to develop knowledge and skills beyond your course, including extra-curricular opportunities with the Music Society.  

These range from performance and rehearsal to concert management and marketing.

Coursework and assessment

Coursework is regularly assigned and assessed either continually or at the end of the semester, depending on the course units taken.

You will have opportunities to take classes in which presentations may count as an assessed element. Many of our students choose to present a formal recital for assessment on their instrument.

Methods of assessment are clearly published six months before each unit begins.

Course content for year 1

Gain a thorough grounding in all the fundamental areas of musical training: performance, composition, analysis and music theory, musicology and ethnomusicology, and most importantly make connections through synergies between studies in these areas. In the second semester you can choose from a range of optional units in addition to core units.

Course units for year 1

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Tonality: Form and Function MUSC10011 20 Mandatory
Sonic Invention A MUSC10311 10 Mandatory
Sonic Invention B MUSC10312 10 Mandatory
Approaches to Musicology MUSC10511 20 Mandatory
Music and Its Contexts MUSC10512 20 Mandatory
Solo Performance 1 MUSC10600 20 Mandatory
Tonality: Motive and Meaning MUSC10022 10 Optional
Techniques of Tonal Harmony MUSC10112 10 Optional
Musical Notation MUSC10212 10 Optional
Solo Performance 1 MUSC10600 20 Optional

Course content for year 2

Use our breadth of optional units to build on your interests and explore new areas, including themes you may wish to develop into your third year. Topics in musicology and ethnomusicology range from Early Opera to Music and Consumption in the Digital Age, while composition courses in both instrumental / vocal and electroacoustic composition build on techniques and understanding developed in the first year. Performance courses includes solo and varied range of ensemble performance options.

Course units for year 2

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Analysis MUSC20011 20 Optional
Fixed and Electroacoustic Composition MUSC20061 10 Optional
Interactive Media Composition Environments MUSC20072 20 Optional
Harmony and Counterpoint MUSC20112 10 Optional
Music post 1900 MUSC20222 20 Optional
Instrumental Composition MUSC20321 20 Optional
Vocal Composition MUSC20362 10 Optional
Music and Consumption in the Digital Age MUSC20511 20 Optional
Solo Performance II MUSC20600 20 Optional
Ensemble Performance A (10 credits) MUSC20611 10 Optional
Ensemble Performance A (20 credits) MUSC20621 20 Optional
Ensemble Performance B (10 credits) MUSC20650 10 Optional
Ensemble Performance B 20 Credit MUSC20660 20 Optional
Conducting MUSC20670 10 Optional
Music Cultures of the World MUSC20722 20 Optional
Introduction to Participatory Music MUSC20802 20 Optional
Jazz Improvisation, Theory, and Analysis MUSC21501 20 Optional
Displaying 10 of 17 course units for year 2

Course content for year 3

You'll specialise more in the third year, and develop further your independent study skills. There are no compulsory course units but you'll select at least one 40-credit course unit from Dissertation, Composition Portfolio or Recital, and may opt to take two. An additional range of advanced 20-credit course units are available in music theory and analysis, aesthetics, musicology and ethnomusicology.

Course units for year 3

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Advanced Analysis MUSC30011 20 Optional
Composition Portfolio MUSC30300 40 Optional
Dissertation MUSC30400 40 Optional
Aesthetics MUSC30502 20 Optional
Advanced study in Musicology A MUSC30510 20 Optional
Advanced Study in Musicology B (40) MUSC30520 40 Optional
Composition for Film or Game Audio MUSC30540 20 Optional
Recital MUSC30600 40 Optional
Ensemble Performance A (10 credits) MUSC30611 10 Optional
Ensemble Performance A (20 credits) MUSC30621 20 Optional
Ensemble Performance B (10 credits) MUSC30650 10 Optional
Ensemble Performance B (20 credits) MUSC30660 20 Optional
Music and Consumption in the Digital Age MUSC31511 20 Optional
Modern Spanish Music: A Cultural History SPLA31082 20 Optional
Displaying 10 of 14 course units for year 3

Course content for year 4

For Joint Course students only

Following graduation from the MusB, students on the Joint Course with RNCM complete the GRNCM at the college during Year 4.

What our students say

MusB Music: students and staff discuss the course

The best thing about studying Music is that you're not anonymous. The tutors all know who you are, and are always willing to help you out in any way they can.

Laura Kirker, MusB

The nature of the Music department at the University of Manchester is such that any person involved with it feels like part of a family, and, as such, many of those people have a positive university experience that is unique, differing significantly from many students studying different degrees at different universities. I felt privileged to be part of that.

Alex Plim, MusB

The Music Department felt like a very supportive environment in which you would be encouraged to follow whatever path most interested you.

Helen Tonge, MusB

The work ethic, high standards and wonderful enthusiasm and love for music I picked up during five years studying music at Manchester has been a constant source of inspiration.

Rob Stewardson, MusB, MusM graduate

The University of Manchester was a brilliant preparation for life as a freelance musician....I loved my time at the University and was surrounded by supportive people, both staff and fellow students, who helped me to get the most out of myself.

Sophie Mather, Joint Course graduate

The facilities for electroacoustic music at Manchester were key to my success during my degree. I had access to an unrivalled studio space that cultivated my craft and facilitated my creativity.

In addition to these fantastic resources I also benefited from the strong composer community that provided a sounding board for many of my ideas, music and aspirations. The standard of the music and research from this community was incredibly high and instilled within me a meticulous desire for quality.

Manuella Blackburn, MusB, MusM, PhD


James Heathcote - MusB Music

"The element of the course that I have found most valuable is the number of opportunities for student conductors.

"I have learned a huge amount from being able to conduct a great variety of ensembles, including the symphony orchestra, chamber choir and brass band."

James Heathcote / Year 4 student (joint course with RNCM)
The Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama

Home to Music and Drama at Manchester, this purpose-built creative facility includes:

  • The Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall - an acoustically designed auditorium seating up to 350 people
  • The Lenagan Library - our dedicated performing arts library
  • The John Thaw Studio Theatre - a flexible, fully equipped performance space with seating for 150 people
  • Specialist rehearsal and practice spaces

NOVARS Research Centre

NOVARS boasts state-of-the-art facilities for composition and performance, including award-winning electroacoustic composition studios. Studios are equipped with digital recording equipment, Yamaha, Emagic, Akai, Alesis, Max/MSP and GRM technology, as well as Apple Mac work stations.

We own many specialist percussion and keyboard instruments, including a chamber organ, harpsichord, Gamelan Degung and a five-octave marimba. We also own a full suite of replica Baroque instruments, and we offer tuition and performance opportunities on these instruments as part of the Baroque Orchestra concerts which we present every year.

You'll also have access to:

  • Manchester Central Library's Henry Watson Library - known for its Handel and Vivaldi manuscripts
  • The nearby Royal Northern College of Music Library
  • The Delia Derbyshire Collection of digitised reel-to-reel tapes, electronic scores and manuscripts

Find out more about our Music facilities and learning facilities across the wider University .

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants from the Disability Support Office: