Physics and Music (BSc)

This degree programme is designed to meet the needs of an increasing number of students who combine music with science subjects at A-level.

Co-ordinated by the School of Physics and Astronomy with support from the School of Music, the BSc Physics and Music involves a substantial element of music throughout but is weighted towards the science side on a two-thirds to one-third basis.

This course is designed to give a broad-based education in theoretical and experimental physics combined with knowledge of the practical and theoretical aspects of music. You will cover core mathematics and physics material throughout the three years of study.

Most of the modules in physics are compulsory, but in music you may choose from such areas as composition, performance, theory and analysis, ethnomusicology and music history. There is special tuition in studio techniques as well as the acoustical aspects of music and musical instruments.

The links between music and physics are especially close at Cardiff University, where for more than 30 years there have been strong research interests in the physics of musical instruments and involvement in electronic and computer music systems. Both Schools have electronic music studios, where much of the course’s experimental and composition work takes place.

The course contains all the core content required for the degree to be accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP).

Distinctive features

The distinctive features of the course include:

  • The opportunity to learn in a department which has a strong commitment to research
  • The involvement of research-active staff in course design and delivery
  • Frequent opportunities to conduct practical work in the School’s laboratory facilities
  • A wealth of opportunities for contact with active music professionals through events such as composition workshops, performance masterclasses, the University concert series, the John Bird lectures presented by visiting academics and careers talks
  • The chance to undertake a short work placement as part of the Business of Music modules
  • An emphasis on independent learning
  • Effective course monitoring and opportunities for student

The course contains all the core content required for the degree to be accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP)

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2016
Duration3 years
ModeFull time
Studying in WelshUp to 1% of this course is available through the medium of Welsh. Please contact the Admissions tutor for more information
AccreditationsInstitute of Physics (IOP)
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 105 places available.
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 570 applications.
Typical A level offerAAA-ABB, including Music, Physics and Mathematics. Consideration will be given to applicants who are not taking A-level Music but have Grade 7/8 Theory and Grade 8 Practical. Mathematics and Physics are required subjects at A-level. General Studies is not accepted.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerConsidered on an individual basis.
Typical International Baccalaureate offer32-34 points, including 6 in Higher Level Mathematics, Physics and Music where relevant.
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome. Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course
Admissions tutor(s)

This is a three-year full-time degree and you need to attain 120 credits a year. Modules are typically worth 10 or 20 credits, apart from the final-year project, which is worth 30. This course typically allows you to combine one-third music with two-thirds physics in each year.

Year one

You will take 80 credits through core physics and mathematics modules, plus 40 credits through a range of optional music modules.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Composition 1AMU110710 credits
Composition 1BMU120810 credits
Fundamental AcousticsMU121710 credits
Practical Musicianship IMU131410 credits
Elements of Tonal Music IMU112520 credits
Elements of Tonal Music IIMU122720 credits
Repertoire StudiesMU131720 credits
The Full WorksMU112710 credits
From Page To Stage: Dramaturgy in Musical TheatreMU123010 credits

Year two

In year two you will take 80 credits through core physics and mathematics modules, plus 40 credits through a range of optional music modules.

Year three

In your final year the core physics modules include a 20-credit physics-related research project and optional music modules include a dissertation, a project in music analysis or a field project in ethnomusicology.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

Teaching is carried out using a range of techniques, such as traditional lectures, tutorials and laboratory work and computer-based, project-based and skills-based exercises. Physics is a hierarchical discipline so the structure of the course is systematic, building on fundamental understanding.

Exercises are an integral part of all lecture-based modules, and these give you the opportunity to apply your knowledge, increase your critical awareness and enhance your problem-solving skills.

You will undertake weekly laboratory classes in the first two years, to prepare you for a major experimental study as part of your final-year project.

Mathematics is taught alongside the major Physics and Astrophysics concepts in all years, with specific modules in the first year. It is fundamental to understanding the subject and is incorporated into many physics modules. IT skills are taught throughout the course as well as elementary programming using Python.

Regular small-group tutorials are held in years one and two. These meetings will allow you to meet with other students in small groups (typically four or five students to one tutor) and receive feedback on your continuous assessment. In the first year these sessions are usually given on a weekly basis, in year two they take place fortnightly.

Exercises and tutorials are also used extensively in the School of Music but essays form a large component of the assessed work. You are expected to participate in practical music-making.

How will I be supported?

Your main interaction with academic staff will be through lectures, laboratory practical sessions, workshops or small-group teaching sessions (tutorials).

You will also be allocated a personal tutor, a member of academic staff who can provide pastoral support and academic advice during your course.

All lecturing staff can be contacted by email and have either an ‘open door’ policy for students with specific queries about course material, or a system to book meeting times. The School Office can answer most administrative queries immediately.

You will be given access to relevant multimedia material, presentations, lecture handouts, bibliographies, further links, electronic exercises and discussion circles through the University’s virtual learning environment, Learning Central. Opportunities for you to reflect on your abilities and performance are available through the Learning Central ‘Personal Development Planning’ module.

The University offers a range of services including the Careers Service, the Counselling Service, the Disability and Dyslexia Service, the Student Support Service, and excellent libraries and resource centres.


Feedback on progress is typically provided through a combination of discussion in class, written comments on submitted work and review of outline solutions to problems. You are encouraged to discuss any queries related to specific modules with individual lecturers.

How will I be assessed?

There are a wide variety of assessment methods. Some modules are assessed purely by an end of semester exam, some combine continuous assessment with an exam and others are all continuous assessment.


What skills will I practise and develop?

Studying this course will enable you to acquire and develop a range of valuable skills, both discipline specific and general employability skills. You will:

  • Use laboratory classes to develop your experimental, analytical and investigative skills
  • Learn how to design experimental equipment, electronic circuitry or computer data acquisition or data reduction algorithms
  • Use precise calculations or order-of-magnitude calculations in appropriate situations
  • Use computer packages and/or write software
  • Conduct independent research using source materials such as textbooks, scientific journals and electronic databases
  • Develop your communication skills, both orally and in writing
  • Enhance your team-working skills and ability to critically appraise your own work and the work of others
  • Develop your ability to undertake independent learning and effectively manage your time

Based on responses from the 2013-14 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, 90% of the School of Physics and Astronomy’s graduates were in employment and/or further study six months after graduating.

 In 2013/14, 98% of the School of Music’s graduates who were available for work reported they were in employment and/or further study within six months of graduation.

This course gives preparation for possible employment in sound engineering, acoustics, the media (including composition for film/TV), the technical aspects of music and music theatre, industrial or academic research and development, education and areas needing a pragmatic, numerate and analytical approach to problem solving, such as business and finance.


  • Sound engineer
  • Academic research and development
  • Education

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2016/17)

EU students entering in 2016/17 will pay the same tuition fee as UK students for the duration of their course. Please be aware that fees may increase annually in line with inflation. No decisions regarding fees and loans for EU students starting in 2017/18 have been made yet. These will be determined as part of the UK's discussions on its membership of the EU and we will provide further details as soon as we can.

Tuition feeDepositNotes

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our Funding and fees section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Students from outside the EU (2016/17)

Tuition fees for international students are fixed for the majority of three year undergraduate courses. This means the price you pay in year one will be the same in years two and three. Some courses are exempt, including four and five year programmes. Please check with us for full clarification.

Tuition feeDepositNotes

Additional costs

The School covers the cost of essential equipment, including core course textbooks in the first two years. All other suggested textbooks are available through the University libraries.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

The University will provide all essential equipment. It currently also provides the core first-year physics and maths textbooks. You may choose to buy other textbooks following advice from staff.

The School of Music offers two modules in year two which are designed to help you better understand the music profession. They also offer the opportunity to undertake – either in one block or as a series of regular workplace visits – a short placement in an area related to music or the arts.

Key Information Sets (KIS) make it easy for prospective students to compare information about full or part time undergraduate courses, and are available on the Unistats website.