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  • Popular Music BA (Hons)

Popular Music BA (Hons)

Why choose this course?

On this course you will compose, perform, record, listen to and write about popular music to develop your musical and academic skills. You'll produce and record music in our unique facilities which include recording studios, rehearsal rooms, a synthesis/sampling lab - and the analogue/digital hybrid Visconti Studio.

In partnership with world-famous record producer Tony Visconti, the British Library and Science Museum, the Visconti Studio comprises of a 300m² octagonal live room stocked with rare and vintage recording equipment.

In addition to attending live music events and performances, you can participate in local musical initiatives such as the Kingston Singers, our Stylophone Orchestra or Acid Grass Records, our in-house record label and artist collective.

Attendance UCAS code/apply Year of entry
3 years full time W315 2020
6 years part time Apply direct to the University 2020
Location Kingston Hill

Reasons to choose Kingston

  • This course received 90 per cent for teaching satisfaction (National Student Survey 2018).
  • Kingston's facilities include recording studios, rehearsal rooms, a synthesis/sampling lab and the analogue/digital hybrid Visconti Studio, created in partnership with record producer Tony Visconti.
  • Kingston is just 30 minutes from central London, allowing easy access to music venues, events, studios, labels and publishers.


What's it like to study music at Kingston University?

Find out why you should study Music at Kingston University, and what our students have enjoyed most about the course.

What you will study

You will learn new approaches, techniques and styles in how to create popular music, and be encouraged to develop your own musical identity.


Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

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

Core modules

Performing Popular Music 1

30 credits

You will develop musical creativity through the study and practice of popular music performance, and improve your ability to perform with fluency and confidence across a broad range of genres. The module will focus on both collaborative and solo performance work, and will offer performance opportunities within the university and the wider community. You will learn how to develop effective practice regimes, as well as the ability to reflect critically on your performance work with the aim of identifying ways in which to improve and develop as performers of music.

Popular Music Revolutions

30 credits

In this module popular musicology and criticism are explored through reading, analysing, writing and listening. Subjects covered include the social history of popular music, development of styles, the influence of technology, representations of culture and how these have led to inspiring moments in music history / musical revolutions. You will learn how to research, discuss and write about music for different purposes and audiences. This module supports the development of core academic skills required for further study.

Recording Popular Music

30 credits

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. Study on the module introduces you to the studio craft of self-producers, singer-songwriters, artists and bands that span a range of contemporary popular music genres. Lectures and workshops will focus on capturing creative experimentation, improvisation, managing collaboration, equipment setup, instrument preparation and environments for making interesting recordings.

Creating Popular Music

30 credits

This module provides the opportunity for you to develop key composing and arranging skills to support the development of your own compositional voice. Topics that will be explored include melody, rhythm, texture, dynamics, harmony, structures, riffs, beats, hooks, top line and lyrics. You will engage in technical, stylistic and historical aspects of compositional work across a broad range of popular music genres.

Year 2 continues to build your performance skills and encourages you to explore different styles through a range of performance practices. You will also explore careers in music and develop an understanding of the music business, supported through a work placement. You will choose two option modules including performing, creating sound and music for media (film, TV, game), songwriting, mixing and production styles, music and politics.

Core modules

The 21st Century Musician

30 credits

This is a core module for students on both Popular Music and Music Technology programmes and explores careers in music for the music graduate, allowing students to develop a comprehensive understanding of the business of music. The module includes a work placement of a minimum of 22 hours.

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.

Performing Popular Music 2

30 credits

This module aims to further develop musical creativity through the study and practice of popular music performance, focusing on the on-going development and diversification of music performance skills, exploring collaboration and the application of technology in performance. Students will be invited to address a range of topics related to musical performance. The module builds on the skills learned in Performing Popular Music 1 and encourages the further development of a unique musical identity as a creative performer.

Optional modules - Choose two from the following:

Audio Post-Production (Pop)

30 credits

Study on this module will see you creating, editing and manipulating music and sound in a range of media post production scenarios, including trailers, TV, advertising, film and games. Students will develop practical skills in Foley and ADR recording, editing, design and creation of sound effects, as well as creating audio assets for game soundtracks and interactive media.

Mixing and Production Styles

30 credits

This is a level 5 optional module. Building on skills developed in level 4, the module will focus on the aesthetics of production across a range of genres. You will also study 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.

Music, Culture and Politics

30 credits

This module explores the political relations between music and identity, culture and empowerment. You will be introduced to the ways in which music shapes cultural identities, and the ways in which music can empower individuals and groups.

Over the course of this module you will engage with a wide range of musical identities and their political implications: from sorrow songs and the Civil Rights movements in the 1960s, to contemporary hip hop; from girl and boy bands, to gender benders and grrl power; from hippie counterculture and punk's working class subversion, to the decadence of the Goth scene and the cybercommunities of online fan culture. Student-led research will be encouraged: you will create your own manifesto of musical politics and, in group, design journals with articles around a musical culture of your choice.


30 credits

Students taking this module will focus on melody and lyric writing, harmonic fluency, the structure and arrangement of songs, alongside developing their 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 in this field.

In Year 3, you will work with a supervisor to develop a project demonstrating the mastery of your professional skills within a focused area. You can also choose two option modules including live sound and event management, music journalism, music and technology in education, jazz studies, arranging and scoring. You can also choose to work on a special study in the Visconti Studio.

Core modules

Professional Project

30 credits

Students will produce a substantial creative piece of work which develops their skills in a specific area marking the culmination of their degree work. It is designed to enable students to work independently in an area that excites and interests them. Students may choose to create their work within performance, songwriting, composing for media, a research dissertation, a production project or a combination of any of these. Students will be supported by themed group seminar meetings as a whole cohort, supplemented by individual tutorials. Students will work towards the major project of their choice and produce a reflective summation which will be presented as part of the Level 6 creative festival. Students' ideas will further be challenged through a series of employability and research seminars on cutting-edge music topics on which they will produce a critical written reflection.

Optional modules - Choose two from the following:

The Analogue Studio

30 credits

This module is an optional module for students on the Popular Music and Music Technology programmes. 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 Performing Arts' unique facility, the Visconti Studio, with a mixture of lecture demonstrations and practical workshops during which you 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.

Commercial Music

30 credits

This is a level 6 optional module and will see students collaborating on the creation of music as part of a production team. The writing, performing, recording, mixing and mastering of music to a professional standard will be studied, as well as its distribution, marketing and retail. Part of the module will feature how to pitch music to replicate the real-world scenario of securing funding / seeking collaborative partners in the creative industries.

Music and Technology in Education

30 credits

You will examine music pedagogy and the use of specialist and inclusive technologies at different phases of education (early years, primary, secondary, FE), in diverse settings and across genres. Content draws from aspects of the psychology of music and didactics and will include specific approaches to the teaching of composition, performance and music production using studios and DAWs. You will either gain experience in a work placement or take the opportunity to research and develop new ways in which music and technology can be used for education, play, therapy and/or enhanced accessibility in a specified setting.

Live Sound and Event Management

30 credits

This module provides hands on experience in live sound reinforcement and event management, covering monitoring, lighting and projection, stage design, professional conventions, working with performers and promoters, and logistics. Students will train on analogue and digital consoles and gain experience engineering live sound at events held in a variety of external venues. Students will put on shows and organise a small tour, working with local venues and promoters. There will be opportunities to work with local partners Banquet Records, The Rose Theatre and The Fighting Cocks.

Special Study: Music Journalism

30 credits

This module explores London culture through research and writing music criticism, journalism, researching a scene and examining case studies. You will publish the materials created and build a unique Kingston University archive. You will also have the possibility to create radio journalism along with students from courses in other areas.

Special Study: Jazz Studies

30 credits

This module is optional at level 6 for students of Popular Music. The module aims to develop your ability to recognise features of a range of jazz styles within a historical context and to put them into practice. Characteristic elements of jazz, including structure, harmony, melody, rhythm and improvisational practice, will be studied and applied in performance.

Special Study: Broadcasting

30 credits

You will apply your technical knowledge and skills to produce a portfolio of broadcast ready radio content: interviews, links, news clips, advertisements and jingles, performances in-session, editing and producing streaming podcasts. Students will take over operations of the Kingston University Radio Station and gain hands-on experience in studio operations, production preparation, and broadcast engineering.

Special Study: Practice Research

30 credits

This module facilitates the production of an independently developed practice research project. Practice Research is distinct from written types of research and can refer to any research activity that generates or reveals new knowledge through the acts of doing and making. This can include music performance, improvisation, composition, studio production, computer music, sound art, teaching, instrument building, or any combination of creative practice.

This module offers students an opportunity to develop ideas and practices that have emerged in their undergraduate studies within the context of a single research question. This module may act as an envelope module for the other Special Study modules - in the instances where student uptake is too low to allow another special study module to run, students may choose this module as a way of engaging with their preferred topic, with access to relevant facilities and supervision from the best suited teaching staff.

The information above reflects the currently intended course structure and module details. Updates may be made on an annual basis and revised details will be published through Programme Specifications ahead of each academic year. The regulations governing this course are available on our website. If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, this may not be offered.

Entry requirements

112 tariff points

Typical offer

112 UCAS points from Level 3 qualifications, including Music, Music Technology, Performing and Production Arts or related subject (i.e. A Levels, BTEC Diploma, Access Diploma, IB Diploma, etc).

Additional requirements

Entry onto this course will require a digital portfolio/performance clip of music or link to a SoundCloud page. Details are available on the course page on the University's website. Further details about the portfolio will also be sent via email after submission of application.


All non-UK applicants must meet our English Language requirements. For this course it is Academic IELTS of 6.5 overall, with no element below 5.5

Teaching and assessment

You'll be taught through lectures, workshops and seminars by highly experienced academic staff who are active performers, composers and producers. Classes run throughout the day and evening, with regular concerts, gigs and recitals taking place during the academic year. Music industry guest speakers and performers, brought to the University via a series of masterclasses, will be a significant feature of this course and help enhance the process of learning.

Guided independent study

When not attending timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. This typically will involve reading journal articles and books, working on individual and group projects, undertaking preparing coursework assignments and presentations, and preparing for exams. Your independent learning is supported by a range of excellent facilities including online resources, the library and CANVAS, the online virtual learning platform.

Academic support

Our academic support team here at Kingston University provides help in a range of areas.

Dedicated personal tutor

When you arrive, we'll introduce you to your personal tutor. This is the member of academic staff who will provide academic guidance, be a support throughout your time at Kingston and who will show you how to make the best use of all the help and resources that we offer at Kingston University.

Your workload

Time spent in timetabled teaching and learning activity

  • Year 1: 20%
  • Year 2: 19%
  • Year 3: 13%

Contact hours may vary depending on your optional module choices.

A significant proportion of your individual study time across all three levels will be devoted to work in the University's recording studios, practice rooms, synth and computer laboratories, learning and developing specialist techniques and skills.

Type of teaching and learning

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 1
  • Scheduled teaching
  • Guided independent study
Year 2
  • Scheduled teaching
  • Guided independent study
Year 3
  • Scheduled teaching
  • Guided independent study

How you will be assessed

How you will be assessed Assessment typically comprises exams (eg test or exam), practical (eg presentations, performance) and coursework (eg essays, reports, self-assessment, portfolios and dissertation). The approximate percentage for how you will be assessed on this course is as follows, though depends to some extent on the optional modules you choose:

Type of assessment

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 1
  • Coursework
  • Practical
Year 2
  • Coursework
  • Practical
Year 3
  • Coursework
  • Practical

Feedback summary

We aim to provide feedback on assessments within 20 working days.

Your timetable

Your individualised timetable is normally available to students within 48 hours of enrolment. Whilst we make every effort to ensure timetables are as student-friendly as possible, scheduled teaching can take place on any day of the week between 9.00am and 6.00pm. For undergraduate students Wednesday afternoons are normally reserved for sports and cultural activities, but there may be occasions when this is not possible. Timetables for part-time students will depend on the modules selected.

Class sizes

To give you an indication of class sizes, this course normally attracts 20 students and lecture sizes are normally 20-40 (some sections of the course are taught along with BA Hons Music Technology students). However this can vary by module and academic year.

Who teaches this course?

You'll be taught through lectures, workshops and seminars by highly experienced academic staff who are active performers, composers and producers. Classes run throughout the day and evening, with regular concerts, gigs and recitals taking place during the academic year. Music industry guest speakers and performers, brought to the University via a series of masterclasses, will be a significant feature of this course and help enhance the process of learning.

Tony Visconti

Tony Visconti's name is synonymous with ground-breaking music. He is one of record production's great innovators who has worked with some of the most dynamic and influential names in pop, from Marc Bolan /T-Rex and Thin Lizzy, to David Bowie, Morrissey and U2. In the Visconti Studio he is working with students and Kingston University staff, as well as invited artists, to produce records.

Course fees and funding

2019/20 fees for this course

The tuition fee you pay depends on whether you are assessed as a 'Home' (UK or EU), 'Islands' or 'International' student. In 2019/20 the fees for this course are:

 Fee category  Amount
Home (UK and EU students) Foundation year: £7,800
International Foundation year: £14,200
Year 1 (2019/20): £14,200
Year 2 (2020/21): £14,600
Year 3 (2021/22): £15,000
Islands (Channel Islands and Isle of Man) To be confirmed by the Island Authorities

* These fees are annual and may increase in line with inflation each year subject to the results of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

Eligible UK and EU students can apply to the Government for a tuition loan, which is paid direct to the University. This has a low interest-rate which is charged from the time the first part of the loan is paid to the University until you have repaid it.

Additional costs

Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies.

Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. Accommodation and living costs are not included in our fees. 

Text books

Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. You may prefer to, or be required to, buy your own copy of key textbooks.

Computer equipment

There are open-access networked computers available across the University, plus laptops available to loan. You may find it useful to have your own PC, laptop or tablet which you can use around campus and in halls of residences.

Free WIFI is available on each of the campuses.


In the majority of cases coursework can be submitted online. There may be instances when you will be required to submit work in a printed format. Printing and photocopying costs are not included in your tuition fees.


Travel costs are not included but we do have a free intersite bus service which links the campuses and halls of residence.

For this course you will be 

  • involved in processes of making, as means of exploration, experimentation, and understanding your practice, by using a diverse range of media and materials
  • required to purchase your own copy of books, for required reading
  • required to produce physical artefacts for assessment 
  • able to participate in optional study visits and/or field trips

However, over and above this you may incur extra costs associated with your studies, which you will need to plan for. 

In order to help you budget, the information below indicates what activities and materials are not covered by your tuition fees 

  • personal laptops and other personal devices 
  • personal copies of books 
  • optional study visits and field trips (and any associated visa costs)
  • printing costs
  • your own chosen materials and equipment
  • costs of participating at external events, exhibitions, performances etc.

The costs vary every year and with every student, according to the intentions for the type of work they wish to make. Attainment at assessment is not dependent upon the costs of materials chosen.

Note for EU students: UK withdrawal from the European Union

EU students starting a programme in the 2019/20 academic year will be charged the same fees as those who began in 2018/19 (subject to any annual increase in accordance with the applicable terms and conditions and the Kingston University fees schedule).

They will also be able to access the same financial support for the duration of their course as students who began in 2018/19, even if their degree concludes after the UK's exit from the EU.

No assurances have yet been made regarding 2020/21 and beyond. Updates will be published here as soon as they become available.

2020/21 fees for this course

The tuition fee you pay depends on whether you are assessed as a 'Home' (UK or EU), 'Islands' or 'International' student. In 2020/21 the fees for this course are:

 Fee category Amount
Home (UK and EU students)

Foundation year: £9,250


Foundation year: £14,600
Year 1 (2020/21): £14,600
Year 2 (2021/22): £15,000
Year 3 (2022/23): £15,450

* These fees are annual and may increase in line with inflation each year subject to the results of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Eligible UK and EU students can apply to the Government for a tuition loan, which is paid direct to the University. This has a low interest-rate which is charged from the time the first part of the loan is paid to the University until you have repaid it.


This course will be taught at the Coombehurst complex at Kingston Hill where Music currently has use of four designated buildings. These house a range of specialist facilities to help support study including the prestigious Visconti Studio, the centre of Kingston University's research and teaching project The Heritage and Future of Analogue Recording and Production.

There are also three further state-of-the-art recording studios, two Mac-based computer labs, an equipment loans room, and a range of teaching spaces and soundproof rehearsal rooms. The Coombehurst complex is a lively, stimulating environment, well-suited for music making.

Legendary music producer Tony Visconti reveals why Kingston University is so special to him.

Legendary music producer and associate professor, Tony Visconti, explains how he gets the best out of people, from our own students to world famous performers, Marc Bolan and David Bowie.

After you graduate

Graduates from the course will be able to pursue a wide range of careers including those involving performing, songwriting, composing, teaching, journalism, publishing, broadcasting, music management, the audio post industry, arts management, live sound and event management, community musician, digital media, and the recording industry.

Further study on a range of focused postgraduate academic courses, to vocational training such as courses in arts administration, music therapy or teacher training, would also be graduate destinations.

Key information set

The scrolling banner(s) below display some key factual data about this course (including different course combinations or delivery modes of this course where relevant).

Undergraduate study
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