Undergraduate BA (Hons)

Music: Popular Music & Recording

School of Arts and Media




Three year

Next enrolment

September 2020

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In a nutshell

Building on our long-standing reputation for Popular Music and Recording, our course is well-known for producing artists such as members of the British art rock band Everything Everything, singer-songwriter Kristyna Miles and James Cook (lead singer) and Rick Boardman (keyboards), members of 3-piece Indie Electronica band Delphic.

This course builds upon our long-standing reputation and has been ranked the number one Popular Music and Recording course in the North West and number two in the UK in the 2020 Guardian university league tables.

You will study popular music as a discipline from a broad range of perspectives, developing technical and creative skills while placing an emphasis on academic and theoretical aspects. Our masterclass series involves leading professionals from the popular music industry – whether performers, composers or producers - designed to assist you in your professional development and career management.

You will regularly contribute to programmes, theatre productions, concerts and gigs as music performers and composers, and the course provides ample opportunity for you to engage with like-minded creative artists.

You will:
  • Study on the number one Popular Music and Recording course in the North West (Guardian 2020)
  • Be taught by practicing professionals on a high achieving course well-known for producing graduates in the popular music industry today.
  • Be able to fully explore your creative ideas and passions through specialist portfolio work

options available


students accepted

This is for you if...


you want to access to industry-standard facilities


you want to develop your technical and creative skills whilst studying the academic and theoretical aspects of popular music


you want to be part of a diverse and vibrant music department and benefit from numerous performing and showcasing opportunities in Manchester and beyond

Course details

All about the course

The course delivers a broad-based curriculum during the first year with excellent opportunities for specialisation throughout years two and three. Our vibrant masterclass series is designed to enhance your career planning, involving internationally renowned guest speakers and visiting artists from the creative industries.

You will engage with popular music as an academic discipline, developing a detailed understanding of key popular music concepts, techniques and processes, as well as perfecting your practical ability in performance, composition, arranging, and the creative use of music technology.

In your first year, you’ll focus on instrumental creativity and proficiency through ensemble and one-to-one lessons with leading performance specialists. In addition to examining the concepts of style and genre in English language popular music, you’ll develop fundamental creative skills in arranging, applied composition and music technology.

In year two you’re given the opportunity to specialise within the musical fields of your interests and skill set. In the final year, you consolidate your learning, deepening your individual creativity in a personal body of portfolio work.

In the most recent National Student Survey, 97% of students said the course provided them with opportunities to apply what they have learnt (University of Salford analysis of unpublished NSS 2019 data).

In addition to the traditional three year degree route, you have the option of pursuing additional training and academic tuition by undertaking our four year Foundation option.

Year one

Musicianship Skills

Focusing on your instrumental proficiency, this module will develop your skills across three different assessed activities. Individual Performance consists of weekly one-to-one tuition with a specialist tutor, based upon an instrumental syllabus (pieces, technical exercises and sight reading). The Ensemble component requires you to join either a Latin Percussion group (Rhythmic Awareness), Big Band, Brass Band, Wind Band or Classical Choir. You will also choose an associated study, either Session Musicianship (a tutor led group rehearsal focusing on a broad range of Popular Music styles) or Classical Conducting.

Fundamentals of Composition and Technology

The core aim of this module is to provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary for composing and arranging music in a variety of styles. You will gain a working knowledge of the key aspects of instrumentation voicing, score layout, formal design and the manipulation of texture. This module also provides an introduction to location recording techniques, appropriate sequencing software, musical acoustics and their relationship to music technology.

Popular Music Style and Genre

Providing a historical overview of English-language popular music, this module begins to examine the concept of genre. You will develop an understanding of music style analysis as well as improve your aural skills.

Performance Studies

Continuing on from Musicianship Skills in Semester 1, this module consists of Individual Performance (weekly one-to-one instrumental tuition), Ensemble Musicianship, and an Associated Study (either Session Musicianship or Classical Conducting). Within the Ensemble component, you will have the opportunity to form your own Popular Music group (writing and rehearsing original material to be presented at a concert at the end of the semester), or join Big Band, Brass Band, Wind Band, or Classical Choir.

Applied Composition and Technology

This module will provide you with a strong understanding of advanced diatonic harmony, melodic writing, fundamental musical forms, and practical skills concerned with rhythm as applied to the broad field of composition. You will explore the creative uses of a range of microphones in relation to musical instruments and acoustic environments, and be introduced to techniques of sound synthesis using a range of hardware and software based synthesisers.

Interpreting Popular Music

Throughout this module, you will explore the social, political and economic contexts impacting upon the production of popular music. This module presents key ideas from culture theory, critical theory, and postmodernism in order to provide you with a strong understanding of popular music within these various cultural contexts. You will be introduced to a systematic and rigorous method by which to critically examine popular music and develop abstract thinking.

Year two

Professional Development in the Creative Industries

Focusing on current economic structures and potential development, this module provides an in-depth examination of the UK creative economy. You will explore concepts of copyright, authorship and ownership and gain an understanding of the processes involved in successful personal development planning.

You will choose three of the following options:

Advanced Musicianship Skills

This module consolidates and expands your performance development within the three assessed areas of Individual Performance (weekly one-to-one Instrumental lessons with your specialist tutor, based on an advanced syllabus), Ensemble Musicianship, and an Associated Study (either Session Musicianship or Classical Conducting). The Ensemble component allows you to form your own Popular Music group, or join Big Band, Brass Band, Wind Band, or Classical Choir. The Session Musicianship component now places the emphasis on you to bring in prepared scores and lead the band through the arrangement, guided by your tutor.

Compositional Practice

During this module, you will examine theoretical issues and practical skills concerned with the manipulation and control of modal harmony and melody within composition. This will introduce you to the principles of contrapuntal composition as well as provide you with the opportunity to explore and experiment with harmonic and melodic processes.

Studio Composition

You will be introduced to the creative use of sound and a range of hardware and software interfaces. This module instils a flexible and considered approach to musical interface by covering various sonic installation possibilities and a range of studio composition techniques including synthesis, sampling, interactive and generative.

Audio for Media

The purpose of this module is to introduce you to the creative use of sound and music within a range of media. You will explore techniques for recording stereo drama in a recording studio; sound and image synchronisation techniques; and how to apply and develop audio digital editing techniques.

Studio Recording and Production

You will explore the ways in which the needs and demands of technology and performing artists can best be reconciled. This module will enhance your working knowledge of sound mixing consoles, audio recorders, signal processing equipment, digital audio workstations and software audio applications. You will develop strategies for analysing existing recordings in order to appreciate and utilise the technology involved in the recording process.

Popular Music and Identity

This module explores ways in which gender and ethnicity are constructed in popular music texts as well as enhances your awareness of international music, including instruments, styles, and patterns of organisation. You will apply analytical critique to a range of repertoire and engage with cross-disciplinary approaches to the study of music.

You will then choose two of the following options:

Creative Compositions and Arranging

This module encourages more specialised forms of composition and arrangement through the introduction of theoretical and analytical issues concerned with the articulation of form and structure, and an advanced study of harmony. It also explores the ways in which the colouristic, formal, harmonic, textural and rhythmic aspects of a given work may be reconsidered within the context of the creative arrangement.

Advanced Performance Studies

The aim of this module is to fully prepare you for elective performance study at third year level. The Individual Performance aspect (weekly one-to-one tuition) requires you to undertake a formal exam based on your instrumental syllabus (pieces, scales and sight-reading). Ensemble musicianship provides the opportunity to develop specialist skills in either Latin Percussion, Improvisation, or Vocal Harmony, or join the Big Band, Brass Band, Wind Band, or Classical Choir. The associated study component allows you to choose between Classical Conducting or Musical Directing which focuses on aspects of band leadership such as score preparation, arranging and conducting a popular music ensemble.

Advanced Studio Composition

Continuing on from Studio Composition in Semester 1, this module begins to explore the integration of live sound, live instrument recording, and signal processing within studio composition.

Advanced Studio and Location Recording

Building upon your learning from Studio Recording and Production in Semester 1, this module aims to provide you with confident, genre-appropriate mixing, mastering and signal processing skills. You will develop a range of detailed recording strategies in relation to acoustic considerations.

Music Journalism

By understanding the complex relationship between the music industry and its target markets, you will be equipped to write accurate and engaging reviews of the latest music releases and live concerts. In addition to exploring the evolution and variety of this genre, you will also further advance your interviewing skills and writing abilities.


You will develop an understanding of the scope, methods and aims of Ethnomusicology with reference to the historical development of the subject; the analysis of music in culture and music as culture with special reference to enculturation and acculturation, the stature of the musician in society and cultural identity. You will develop performance skills and an understanding of a musical tradition from outside your own practical musical experience.

Advanced Musicology

This module enables students to develop a range of approaches and theoretical models appropriate to the discipline. It introduces skills in research methodology and musicological analysis. The role of context in musical reception and evaluation is explored in depth.

Year three

Project Scope

This module enables you to undertake a comprehensive project encompassing two areas of specialist study (choose from: Performance, Composition, Studio Production & Recording, Studio Composition, Audio for Media, Arranging, Dissertation, Conducting, Collection of Writings and Collaborative Practice). It assists the realisation of creative work (practical and/or written), encourages the development of a personal style within the chosen fields of study, and hones your artistic and academic skills base.

Professional Practice

By broadening your work experience in areas requiring a leadership and/or team role, this module gives you the opportunity to further develop your own professional practice. You will gain experience in one of the following areas of professional practice: band management and promotion, arts administration, musical directing, business enterprise and community music in its broadest sense.

Negotiated Major Project

This module enables you to undertake a comprehensive project encompassing two areas of specialist study (choose from: Performance, Composition, Studio Production and Recording, Studio Composition, Audio for Media, Arranging, Dissertation, Conducting, Collection of Writings and Collaborative Practice). It assists the realisation of creative work (practical and/or written), encourages the development of a personal style within the chosen fields of study, and hones your artistic and academic skills base.

Please note that it may not be possible to deliver the full list of options every year as this will depend on factors such as how many students choose a particular option. Exact modules may also vary in order to keep content current. When accepting your offer of a place to study on this programme, you should be aware that not all optional modules will be running each year. Your tutor will be able to advise you as to the available options on or before the start of the programme. Whilst the University tries to ensure that you are able to undertake your preferred options, it cannot guarantee this.

What will I be doing?

Lectures are enhanced with audio/visual material. A lecture on a topic is usually followed up by a relevant seminar. You will be encouraged to prepare materials in preparation for seminars, where you’ll contribute to discussions.

  • Masterclasses - visiting speakers and performers from relevant areas of the music industry
  • Supervision both individual and in groups
  • Individual instrumental tuition to develop you performance technique and musical vocabulary
  • Ensemble tuition in order to develop your performance technique and musical vocabulary in an ensemble setting
  • Workshops to explore concepts and develop research techniques within a workshop environment, mixing class-based discussion and activities with library and archive work, providing you with the opportunity to develop creative ideas and to interact with leading scholars in the field Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) – supports every module within the course.

Instrumental tutor list

Guitar tutors

  • Les Bolger
  • Glenn Cartlidge
  • Paul Cusick
  • Mel Dean
  • Andy Duffy
  • Brian Kelly
  • Adam Palma www.adampalma.net

Bass Guitar tutors

Piano (Popular/Jazz/Classical)

  • Rob Gibney (Piano)
  • Matt Steele (Piano)


  • Sarah Doggett (voice)
  • Clare Hogan (voice)
  • Sue Hickey (voice)




Drums & Percussion

  • Eryl Roberts (drums)
  • Steve Gilbert (drums)
  • Gaz Hughes (drums)
  • Mark Landon (percussion)

School of Arts and Media

The School of Arts & Media is the largest School at the University of Salford with more than 4,000 creative students. Across sites at MediaCityUK and the University's Peel Park campus, we offer a huge variety of courses, from Fashion Image Making and Styling, Television and Radio, Creative Writing and Music to Journalism, Animation, Design and Performance.

This broad range of disciplines offers enhanced opportunities for specialist study, including collaborative work across subject areas.



The Music Directorate houses five fully equipped professional recording studios with access to a variety of recording/performance spaces. We have created a creative and educational environment that aims to mirror contemporary professional studio practice. Our general philosophy is to facilitate the use of both analogue and digital recording platforms, software and hardware signal processing.

All studios centre around a large format mixing desk which can feed hard disk recording systems and 24 track analogue tape machines. All studios make use of professional level outboard and software plugins as well as comprehensive balanced patch bays, giving students the opportunity to fully explore traditional signal routing, a skill vital to ones progression into professional practice.

Opening Hours

Monday - Friday: 9:00am – Midnight
Saturday: 10:00am – Midnight
Sunday: 10:00am – 9:00pm

The recording facilities are always looked after by a full time member of technical staff and / or an evening and weekend 'technician / demonstrator', on hand to deal with technical issues and provide students with advice.

Studios and Equipment

Our studios are equipped with a range of different equipment, including, among many others:

  • Audient ASP 8024 mixing desks
  • Tama Superstar Drumkits
  • Rhodes Stage 73 MK2 Electric Pianos
  • Fender Deluxe Tweed amplifiers

Our suite of 24 iMacs are equipped with sequencing, wave editing, synthesis, signal processing and post-production software. The software in the computer suite is, on the whole, the same as that found in the recording studios, so that work can easily be transferred from one facility to another. Logic Studio 9 and Sibelius 6 are standard across all the machines.


Employment and stats

What about after uni?

Salford’s music courses are renowned for producing graduates who excel in their chosen professions. Our graduates have forged careers as signed recording artists, professional performers, studio producers/engineers, live sound engineers and freelance composers/arrangers. Many have become events organisers, promoters and entrepreneurs while others have developed successful careers in music education as teachers, lecturers, senior administrators and educational advisors.

Those who continue their studies at a postgraduate level find themselves well-equipped to cope with the academic and technical demands of a higher degree.

A taste of what you could become

A producer

A sound engineer

A musician

A composer

An arranger

And more...

Career Links

We have direct links with professional institutions such as:

  • BBC Philharmonic
  • Halle Orchestra
  • National Youth Orchestra of Scotland
  • National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain
  • ‘Sounds from the Other City’ festival.

We have a good working relationship with many venues in the local area including Islington Mill.


What you need to know

You will be required to undertake a theory test and performance audition for the course. You will be auditioned on the instrument you wish to study for practice-based pathways. All applicants are expected to have some knowledge of acoustics and the principles that govern the creative use of music technology.

You should be able to sight-read, have a good understanding of chords, scales, rhythms and harmony, and have the ability to transcribe ensemble performances.


International applicants will be required to show a proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.0, with no element below 5.5, is proof of this.

Standard entry requirements


English Language and Maths at grade C/level 4 or above (or equivalent).

You must fulfil our GCSE entry requirements as well as one of the requirements listed below.

GCE A level

104 - 120 points including B in music. Appropriate subjects to include music, general studies not accepted

UCAS tariff points

104-120 points including Music

BTEC National Diploma

DMM to include music

Scottish Highers

104-120 points including Music

Irish Leaving Certificate

104-120 points including Music

International Baccalaureate

31 points, to include 5 (Higher Level) in Music

European Baccalaureate

Pass in Diploma of at least 60% including Music

Access to HE

Pass level 3 QAA approved Access Diploma. To include Music.

Alternative entry requirements

Salford Alternative Entry Scheme (SAES)

We welcome applications from students who may not meet the stated entry criteria but who can demonstrate their ability to pursue the course successfully. Once we have received your application we will assess it and recommend it for SAES if you are an eligible candidate.

There are two different routes through the Salford Alternative Entry Scheme and applicants will be directed to the one appropriate for their course. Assessment will either be through a review of prior learning or through a formal test.

How much?

Type of study Year Fees
Full-time home/EU 2019/20 £9,250per year
Full-time international 2019/20 £14,400per year
Full-time home/EU 2020/21 £9,250per year
Full-time international 2020/21 £15240per year
Additional costs

You should also consider further costs which may include books, stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits.

Scholarships for international students 2020/21

If you are a high-achieving international student, you may be eligible for one of our international scholarships worth up to £5,000. Our international scholarships include the Salford International Excellence Scholarship.

For more information go to International Scholarships. 

Apply now

All set? Let's apply

Enrolment dates

September 2020

UCAS information

Course ID J931

Institution S03