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Undergraduate course

Music Composition BA (Hons)

Work with accomplished international composers who teach through practice.

student playing piano

Whatever genre you focus on, this is the place to build your compositional voice. Your composing will develop through exposure to film music, improvisation and challenging new ideas. You will have exciting opportunities to hear your work performed by professional ensembles, as you become part of a vibrant musical network alongside performers, community musicians and educators.

York campus

  • UCAS Code – W3R5
  • Duration – 3 years full-time | Part-time options available on request
  • Start date – September 2021
  • School – School of the Arts

Minimum Entry Requirements

    96 UCAS points

    3 GCSEs Graded at C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2021 entry £9,250 per year full time

    International 2021 entry £12,750 per year full time

Discover why York St John is The One

Course overview

We believe the study of music should be eclectic and embrace a variety of genres. At York St John University you will not only learn about classical, jazz and rock; but also about music from many different cultures from across the globe. Our teaching staff includes accomplished composers who are active practitioners locally, nationally and internationally. During your time with us you’ll have professional performers interpret your work and there will be concerts where your music will be performed and recorded.

York is an inspiring and beautiful place to study and is the perfect place to build your collaborative networks. It’s a city rich in culture, with a thriving music scene across countless venues. As a composer you will actively collaborate with experienced musicians, community members, artists and arts organisations in order to develop performances, skills and professional contacts.

Our students leave the course at a professional standard when presenting compositions, with a full range of vocational skills. You’ll further develop your portfolio; building a bank of recordings, a collection of scores and a professional online presence. You will be adept at creating large-scale musical structures, having spent time focussed on composing for larger groups such as bands and choirs. You can also continue your studies at Postgraduate Level on our MA Music Composition programme.

Course structure

Year 1

Compulsory modules include:

Musicking (30 credits) 

On this module we will help you develop your technical ability in music. You will do this by performing, listening and composing for a series of projects. While doing this, you will explore rhythm, melody, harmony, texture and form in music. You will look at these elements across different genres and styles. Gain experience in composing, arranging and performing music and receive individual tuition in voice or your chosen instrument. We will introduce you to the creative application of music sequencing, notation and the use of audio software.

Perspectives on Music 1 (30 credits) 

Develop your research and writing skills as you start studying music at university level. By completing several short projects you will explore music from a range of genres. This will help you understand how music connects with societal, cultural and political issues. These projects will also allow you to develop musical skills like score reading, production analysis. The vocabulary and skills you gain on this module will help you throughout your degree.

Ensembles and Teamwork (20 credits)

On this module you will focus on your ability to work together to create music. You will take part in different musical ensembles, rehearsing together in preparation for weekly lunchtime and evening concerts. These ensembles will cover a range of genres and styles and be overseen or directed by staff members and students. We offer many different ensemble groups, so you could find yourself playing in:

  • Chamber and gospel choirs
  • Jazz vocal improvisation groups
  • The Musical Production Society
  • Samba, soul, concert and brass bands
  • Ukulele or classical orchestras.
Vox (20 credits)

On this module you will focus on developing your vocal abilities. Workshops will explore basic breathing and voice production techniques. We will look at diphonic singing, the spoken voice and vocal ensemble performance too. Alongside this practical exploration of voice you will examine vocal styles from around the world, including:

  • German and French Cabaret
  • Arabic singing
  • Religious chanting in Tibet, Egypt, Greece and Rome
  • Bulgarian female singing
  • Italian operatic tenors.
Drumming (20 credits)

Explore the world of drums and percussion across a mix of styles, genres and cultures. You will listen to and compare different music styles and start to devise your own pieces. This is an opportunity to develop your awareness of rhythm and pulse as you work with new percussion instruments and devise your own work. This module will see you explore and practise:

  • West African djembe drumming
  • Brazilian samba
  • Javanese gamelan
  • Japanese Taiko drumming
  • Western contemporary percussion.

Year 2

Compulsory modules include:

Ensemble Strategies (20 credits) 

On this module you continue to develop your ability to create music with others. Together we will explore different strategies for effective ensemble rehearsal, both in groups and individually. You will then apply these techniques as you continue to work with ensembles in a range of genres and styles. Your engagement in weekly concerts will continue throughout this module.

Perspectives on Music 2 (20 credits) 

On this module you will continue your exploration of research in the field of musicology. You will start researching independently and exploring complex ideas in more detail. Through a series of projects you will explore different themes while developing and fine tuning your musical skills. These themes might include:

  • Music and film
  • Newness in music
  • Identity in music
  • Musical fusion
  • Creativity in music
  • Music ownership and originality.
Musical Exploration (20 credits) 

This module is your chance to try experimental ways of creating and distributing music. We want you to blur the lines between composer and performer to gain a wider understanding of how music is created. You will develop creative skills in crafting music and technical skills in performing music unconventionally. Together we will investigate improvisation and consider how you can include it in your work. While doing this, you will also think about the philosophical issues that surround the creation of music.

Professional Context and Practice (20 credits)

On this module you will focus on your future and the professional applications of what you have learnt. The module is split into 2 parts. In the first you will conduct research into different employment opportunities related to music. This might involve interviewing professionals working in the arts industries or reading related literature. The second part of the module will see you working with your classmates to plan, rehearse and perform a repertoire show. This gives you experience of managing the entire process of producing a large stage performance. You will take on a role such as:

  • Music editor
  • Music director
  • Set designer, stage manager or script editor
  • Performer
  • Rehearsal pianist
  • Arranger or Orchestrator.
Composition Strategies (20 credits) 

On this module we will help you develop your understanding of compositional techniques. You will investigate song writing, music technologies and the multimedia applications for music, including films, games and installations. As you apply these new techniques to your own work, you will continue to develop your music notation abilities, exploring lead sheets, text scores and more. You will have the chance to work with students who specialise in performance as you develop your work and to write for visiting professional performers.

Optional modules include:

  • Principles of Community Music (20 credits) 
  • Solo Performance Strategies (20 credits) 

Year 3

Compulsory modules include:

Ensembles and Leadership (20 credits) 

Ensemble leadership is an important skill for all musicians, regardless of style, genre, musical ability or context. On this module we will introduce you to different leadership styles. You will learn to understand your personality traits and consider how they can impact your leadership. You will continue to engage with staff and peer-led ensembles, culminating in several performances throughout the semester. Our Ensemble Leadership Forum also gives you a platform to reflect on and discuss issues you have come across when leading ensembles.

Dissertation (20 credits) 

This is your opportunity to specialise in an area of music that you are passionate about. Choose your topic, design the research and complete an extended piece of written research. Explore your topic through analysis, experimentation, theory and practice. This module includes a large portion of independent study, but you will be supported by a dissertation tutor throughout and receive feedback as you progress.

Collaborative Project (30 credits)

This module is your chance to engage with a large creative project. You can collaborate with artists across different specialisms and courses, bringing your expertise together to create your final piece, performance or product. For example, you might work with a dance or theatre performer, or a film production student. We will support you with your project through lectures that explore practice-based research methods and examples of effective collaborative practice. You will also receive individual and group tutorial support throughout the module.

Enterprise and Employability (20 credits)

This module lets you consider your future as a musician. We will help you to develop skills in self management, planning and organisation and give you multiple opportunities for work experience. You will also develop your research skills in areas relevant to future professional opportunities. By the end of the module you will have created an individual portfolio. It will span multiple platforms and be in both written and digital formats. The portfolio will be orientated to your business and professional interests and aid you in the future.

Advanced Composition (30 credits)

This module lets you take your composition skills even further. You will start to focus on composing for larger groups like bands and choirs, creating large-scale musical structures that are longer than you have created before. By studying the work of several composers, you will develop your understanding of approaches to writing for larger groups. You will have the chance to hear your compositions performed live by working with performance specialists and student ensembles.

Teaching & Assessment

Delivery

Music is taught in many different ways, according to the subject. There are relatively few formal lectures, but more emphasis practical workshops, seminars, tutorials, rehearsals and individual instrumental or vocal lessons.

Contact hours

Most Music modules occupy 2-3 hours every week, but beyond that there are regular rehearsals, concerts, tutorials and individual lessons – all of which form an essential part of the musician’s learning experience.

Self-study time

Self-study time may include individual practice and listening to music (such as attending concerts and musical events) in addition to reading, composing, researching and completing coursework.

Staffing

There is an enthusiastic and supportive team of Music tutors at YSJ who are all well-qualified and experienced professionals: they include performers, composers, teachers and community musicians, and their musical interests include jazz, metal, gamelan, choral music, brass bands and contemporary music of all types. They are supported by a large group of instrumental and vocal teachers who cover all instruments and musical styles.

Placements

Many modules include options to develop your music skills in work-related contexts. This is particularly the case in Education and Community modules which offer formal placement opportunities but Composition and Performance modules also offer work-based learning and professional simulation, and all students take Enterprise and Employability in the third year: a module which offers opportunities to undertake places related to your chosen profession.

Assessment methods

There are no formal examinations in Music. Instead, students are assessed on performances, presentations, work produced during the course and portfolios of evidence. For every assessment you are given an assignment brief which provides extensive information on exactly what is expected of you, the deadline and how you will be assessed, and academic tutors are available to offer support. Assessments are designed to allow you to demonstrate your learning, not to trick you or trip you up!

Entry Requirements

Qualifications

The minimum entry requirements for this course are:

96 UCAS Tariff points

3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language

International Students

If you are an international student you will need to show that your qualifications match our entry requirements. Information about international qualifications and entry requirements can be found on our international pages.

If your first language is not English you must show evidence of English language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

International entry requirements

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. These can be accessed through our Admissions webpages.

Fees and funding

To study for an undergraduate degree with us, you will need to pay tuition fees for your course. How much you pay depends on whether you live inside the UK or EU, or internationally (outside the UK/EU). Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

UK and EU 2021 entry

The tuition fee for 202 entry onto this course is

  • £9,250 per year for full time study
  • £6,935 per year for the first 4 years if you study part time.

These prices apply to all UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

You can find out more about funding your degree by visiting our funding opportunities page.

Funding Opportunities

Placement year funding

If you choose to take a placement year, and your course offers it, you can apply for the Tuition Fee and Maintenance Loan for your placement year. How much you are awarded is based on the type of placement being undertaken and whether it is a paid or unpaid placement. The tuition fee for your placement year will be reduced.

International 2021 entry

The tuition fee for 2021 entry to this course is £12,750 per year for full time study.

This price applies to all students living outside the UK/EU.

Due to immigration laws, if you are an international student on a student visa, you must study full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

Find out more about funding your degree.

International Fees and Funding

Additional costs and financial support

There may also be some additional costs to take into account throughout your studies, including the cost of accommodation.

Course-related costs

While studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.

Study Abroad

For more information on tuition fee reductions and additional costs for studying abroad, please visit our study abroad pages.

Accommodation and living costs

View our accommodation pages for detailed information on accommodation and living costs.

Financial help and support

Our Funding Advice team are here to help you with your finances throughout your degree. They offer a personal service that can help you with funding your studies and budgeting for living expenses. 

All undergraduates receive financial support through the York St John Aspire card. Find out more about the Aspire scheme and how it can be used to help you purchase equipment you need for your course. 

Aspire Card

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