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Popular Music BA(Hons)

Attendance UCAS code/apply Year of entry
3 years full time W315 2017
6 years part time Apply direct to the University 2017

Why choose this course?

This degree develops your musical and academic skills via creative practice. Through composing, performing, recording, listening to and writing about a broad range of popular music, you will build a diverse set of employable skills. Your studies will be supported by unique facilities, including the prestigious analogue Visconti Studio, comprising an extraordinary 300m² octagonal live room and vintage and rare recording equipment.

This exciting degree programme also capitalises on London's vibrant multicultural music scene and we work with partners including the Science Museum and the British Library.

What you will study

As well as teaching new approaches, techniques and styles in the creation of popular music, this degree enables you to develop your own unique musical identity.

In Year 1 you will study inspirational and remarkable moments in popular music history. You will explore performance techniques across a diverse range of styles, develop skills for songwriters and popular musicians to produce high quality demos and improve your compositional skills through examination of the
key components of popular music.

Year 2 continues to build on your performance skills and encourages further diversity through a range of performance practices. You will also explore careers in music, developing a comprehensive understanding of the music business, supported through a work placement. You will pick two additional areas of study from a range of exciting option modules that include creating sound and music for media (film, TV and game), songwriting, mixing and production styles, music and politics.

In Year 3, you will work with a supervisor, developing a project to demonstrate the mastery of your professional skills within a focused area. You can pick two option modules incorporating commercial music, markets and audiences, live sounds and event management, music journalism, careers in music education, or work on a special study in the unique Visconti Studio.

Module listing

Please note that this is an indicative list of modules and is not intended as a definitive list. Those listed here may also be a mixture of core and optional modules.

Year 1 (Level 4)

  • Exploring a range of performance techniques across diverse styles.

    Delivered using vocal / instrumental coaching, ensemble work, and exploring genres – which may include rock, hip hop, grime, reggae, ska, dub, two tone, jazz, funk, blues, soul, folk, EDM, punk, 50s and 60s pop, gospel, R&B / neo-soul, indie.

  • Inspiring moments in music history and musical revolutions.

    The study of pop musicology and criticism is explored through reading, analyzing, writing and listening. Subjects covered include the social history of pop, development of styles, the influence of technology and representations of culture. You will learn how to research and write about music for different purposes and audiences. This module supports the development of core academic skills required for further study.

  • This module will focus on the project studio and explore a range of mobile / remote recording methods with the aim of producing high quality demos.

    You will study the studio craft of self-producers, singer-songwriters, artists and bands, capturing creative experimentation, improvisation, managing collaboration, equipment setup, instrument preparation and environments for making interesting recordings.

  • Study on this module will see you developing key compositional skills through the exploration of melody, rhythm, texture, dynamics, harmony, structures, riffs, beats, hooks, top line and lyrics.


Year 2 (Level 5)

  • Building on from Performing Popular Music, this module focuses on the ongoing development and diversification of music performance skills, exploring ensemble performance and collaborative opportunities with other disciplines such as dance, drama, film and media. This module also covers performing with technology – interfaces, electronic instruments and turntables, in addition to working with live sound reinforcement and amplification. You will perform in live music events in professional venues, both locally and in the capital.

  • This module explores careers in music for the music graduate and develops a comprehensive understanding of the business of music. The module includes a compulsory work placement.

    You will study subjects including copyright law; contracts and legals; performing, publishing and synchronisation rights; publicity and social media; incomes streams for musicians including government, arts and crowd funding; publishing and the internet income; management, agents, promoters; live sound events and merchandising; self-assessment and tax; and the role of unions.

    The module will be delivered by both academic staff and a range of guest music industry professionals.

    The compulsory work placement will consist of a minimum of 25 hours.

  • Choose two modules from the following:

    • This module explores the political relations between music and identity, culture and empowerment.

      This module engages with a wide range of political moments in musical politics: from sorrow songs to the Civil Rights movements in the 1960s to contemporary hip hop; from gender benders to girl power; from hippie counterculture to punk and Goth subcultures to online communities; from capitalist mass markets to musical DIY.

      Student-led research will be encouraged: for example, create your own manifesto of musical politics!

    • Building on skills developed in Year 1, this module will focus on the aesthetics of production from a range of genres. You will study advanced recording, engineering and mixing techniques, as well as mastering practices including the use of ¼ inch tape. Part of this module will be delivered using the unique facility of Kingston University's Visconti Studio.

    • Study on this module will see you creating, editing and manipulating music and sound in a range of media post-production scenarios. You will analyse the use of popular music in trailers, TV, advertising, film and games and you will develop practical skills in music editing & placement, podcasting, composing library music and jingles, in addition to underscoring for TV, film, animations and interactive game environments.

    • You will focus on melody and lyric writing, harmonic fluency, the structure and arrangement of songs, alongside developing your individual musical identity through building a portfolio of work. The curriculum covers modern songwriting practices such as collaboration, improvisation, DAW demoing as well as investigating performance, stage craft and potential career paths when leaving Kingston University.


Year 3 (Level 6)

  • This module supports you in identifying and creating your own individual creative/research project. You will choose the form of your project (examples may include performance-related work, media composition, songwriting, production projects). You will be encouraged to develop a project which demonstrates a mastery of your professional skills within a focused area.

    You will be supported by weekly small group seminars, themed by the type of project chosen (eg multimedia composition, performance, production, songwriters). In addition, guest lectures will deliver further research training and professional industry skills. An exciting series of professional speakers will demonstrate industry practices and share their experiences. The module will include some focused employability sessions. All students will additionally be supported by a supervisor through one-to-one sessions.

  • Choose two modules from the following:

    • This module will focus on the creation of music as part of a production team. You will study the writing, recording, mixing and mastering of music to a professional standard, as well as the distribution, marketing and retail of your tracks. Part of the module will feature how to pitch your music to replicate the real-world scenario of securing funding / seeking collaborative partners.

    • This module will focus on all aspects of music event management including sound for bands, monitoring, lighting and projection, stage design. Examples will cover putting on shows, organising a small tour, working with local venues and promoters. Local partnerships, such as with Banquet Records, will also be utilised.

    • This module will explore a range of community music practices, which may include:

      • music therapy;
      • classroom practice and progression routes in the maintained education sector 5–18;
      • music and wellbeing;
      • charitable music projects;
      • community music groups/businesses including studios;
      • peripatetic teaching;
      • lifelong learning;
      • aspects of psychology of music;
      • instrumental pedagogy;
      • hubs; and
      • didactics.

      There will be the option for you to work on placements and in partnership with local organisations.

    • The focus of this module is the development of a comprehensive theoretical and practical grounding in tape-based analogue studio craft. The module will be taught in the Department of Music's unique facility, the Visconti Studio, with a mixture of lecture demonstrations and practical workshops during which students will learn tape machine operations, how to care for, connect and operate relevant machinery / outboard equipment, and develop a comprehensive understanding behind the science, technology and traditions that underpin these practices.

      Note: for Popular Music BA(Hons) students, you must have completed the pre-requisite Mixing and Production Styles module.

    • This module explores London culture through research and writing music criticism, journalism, researching a scene and through case studies. Students will publish the materials created and build a unique Kingston University archive. You will also have the option to create radio journalism along with students from courses in other areas of the School of Performance and Screen Studies via the Kingston University radio station.

    • Jazz harmony, rhythm and improvisation skills will be taught in this year-long optional module, along with their practical application in performance. The module will enable students to recognise features of a range of jazz styles within a historical context and put them into practice.

      Read full module description

    • Developing skills in arranging a melody, formulating a harmonic support and structural layout, in a manner which is appropriate for the chosen style.

      Read full module description


You will have the opportunity to study a foreign language, free of charge, during your time at the University on a not-for-credit basis as part of the Kingston Language Scheme. Options currently include: Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Most of our undergraduate courses support studying or working abroad through the University's Study Abroad or Erasmus programme.

Find out more about where you can study abroad:

If you are considering studying abroad, read what our students say about their experiences.

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