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Music (MA)

  • Duration: 1 year
  • Mode: Full time

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Start date

Open day

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Why study this course

Watch Professor Kenneth Hamilton talk about our School's thriving international community.

This MA is an opportunity to challenge yourself academically and musically, while developing a specialism.


Specialist pathways

Choose Performance, Composition or Music Studies, tailoring your studies to your career aspirations.


Taught by experts

Teaching delivered by internationally-recognised experts in Performance, Composition and Music Studies.


Live and study in a musical city

Cardiff is one of the UK's liveliest musical capitals, with a national opera company, and several professional orchestras and choirs.


Workshops and masterclasses

Regular workshops, seminars and masterclasses given by visiting composers, musicologists and performers.

This MA is an opportunity to challenge yourself academically and musically, while developing a specialism in a research-led university environment. We place an emphasis on flexibility and student choice and have designed a programme that allows you to personalise your course of study.

A significant proportion of module choices will be determined by your abilities and interests so that you can tailor your programme of study to best meet your career goals and ambitions.

This programme is ideal for performers, composers and music scholars with an interest in developing their area of expertise, learning valuable skills, and exploring a relevant course of study.

Areas of Study

You will have the opportunity to follow one of three pathways: Performance, Composition and Music Studies.


This pathway is designed for performers who are committed to improving their skills as instrumentalists and/or singers, both as soloists and in ensembles.


This pathway will equip composers with the techniques and practical experience to pursue their own creative goals to a professional level with confidence and imagination.

Music Studies:

This pathway is designed to allow students to develop a solid basis in research techniques and methods in the fields of Historical Musicology, Music Analysis, Popular Music, and Ethnomusicology, whilst exploring different music styles and traditions in their historical, analytical, and theoretical perspectives.

Where you'll study

School of Music

Our lively, community-led School offers rigorous musical training and rich opportunities for performance, composition and music studies.

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  • Telephone+44 (0)29 2087 4816
  • Marker31 Corbett Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF10 3EB

Admissions criteria

Entry requirements - A first or upper second class Honours degree, or equivalent in a relevant related subject area, such as Music, is required.

Applicants whose first language is not English are expected to have reached a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (with no subscore less than 5.5).

Application process – You should complete the University’s online application form and upload your supporting documents (two references (preferably academic) and copies of academic transcripts).

Please supply a personal statement which demonstrates your interest in the programme and your background in the field of study.

You should name the pathway you are interested in applying to in your personal statement and also provide the below supporting materials:


You will need to provide a link to an online audition showing a video performance of two contrasting pieces of music. Face and hands should be visible at all times to show technique. The video recording must not be edited. Your personal statement will need to discuss and evidence your knowledge of performance, style, and technique.


Experienced composers with relevant qualifications will be considered for the composition specialism. Please supply a personal statement which addresses your style and rationale for your compositions, looking at techniques, imagination and confidence in approach. You will also need to provide three notated scores in either Sibelius, Finale or PDF. Audio links of these pieces would also be helpful but you will not be penalised if these cannot be provided

Music Studies

We welcome applications from students with backgrounds in music and cognate areas e.g. anthropology, history, politics, cultural studies, philosophy, film and media studies. As well as a personal statement, you will be asked to provide an essay which is the best example of your undergraduate work (in English or Welsh). The essay should be of 1,500-2,000 words about a specific topic (e.g., a composer, piece, musical practice) which demonstrates a knowledge of leading scholars, contemporary theories and relevant literature in the field. The essay should include citations and a comprehensive bibliography. Please note that applicants are advised that unless discussing ethnography, narratives about musical experience should be in the personal statement rather than essay sample.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements

Selection or interview process

Decisions are made based on your written application and references which are received on a continuous basis throughout the year.

Applicants are not routinely invited to interview but this is at the discretion of the admissions tutor.

Criminal convictions

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course.

If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement, including the ability to travel to outside of the UK or to undertake a placement/studies outside of Cardiff University
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Course structure

This is a one-year full time programme covering a total of 180 credits.

Stage one

Modules taken vary according to the area of study chosen. All include basic music training via Research Skills and two core modules that are taken in the Autumn term. These are: Disciplining Music (Music Studies pathway) and Music Leadership and Public Engagement (Performance and Composition pathways). 

Each pathway also includes specialised modules which are also taken in the Autumn term. These are: Practising Musicology, Studying Popular Music, Composition Portfolio, Doing Ethnomusicology and Closed Recital (subject to availability).

In addition, you choose from a large selection of optional modules in the Spring term which allow you to hone your interests.

Stage two

Modules in stage one are followed by a major project, relevant to your chosen pathway: a public recital (Performance), a thesis composition (Composition) and a musicological dissertation (Music Studies).

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

Module titleModule codeCredits
MA Research SkillsMUT00110 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Music Leadership and Public EngagementMUT00320 credits
Music Research in PracticeMUT00520 credits
Composition PortfolioMUT10130 credits
Closed RecitalMUT10230 credits
Introducing Music StudiesMUT10830 credits
20th and 21st Century MusicMUT20130 credits
Postgraduate EnsembleMUT20230 credits
Cultures of PerformanceMUT20430 credits
The World of MusicMUT20630 credits
Studio TechniquesMUT20830 credits
Studying Musical MultimediaMUT21030 credits
Teaching Music: techniques, disciplines and genresMUT21130 credits
Thesis CompositionMUT30160 credits
Public RecitalMUT30260 credits
DissertationMUT30360 credits

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.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

Teaching of academic modules is delivered primarily through seminars and small-group tutorials, and you will have the opportunity to develop your own interests through fieldwork, interdisciplinary study, and other areas of work.

Our regular series of workshops and masterclasses allow you to work directly with distinguished composers and performers.

You will be expected to attend and participate in a weekly Postgraduate Forum and to attend the School’s research lecture series, which attracts visiting speakers from around the world.


In addition to the academic modules delivered through tutorials and seminars, instrumental/vocal tuition is delivered on a one-to-one basis with your allocated instrumental/vocal tutor. Instrumental/vocal teaching will total no more than 24 hours throughout the duration of the programme. In addition, you will be expected to pursue private reading, listening, instrumental/vocal practice, attend and participate in the seminars of the weekly Postgraduate Forum (including presentations) and John Bird research lectures. Attendance at all seminars and tutorials, including the Postgraduate Forum and John Bird lectures is compulsory.

You will also participate in a range of ensembles (e.g. University Orchestra / Choir, Contemporary Music Group) and will be required to perform in the Advanced Performance classes along with the opportunity to take part in Postgraduate Performance seminars.

Recital programmes will be your own choice made in consultation with your allocated instrumental/vocal tutor and the recital module leader who will also give formal approval of the proposed programmes.

The dissertation-equivalent Stage Two Public Recital requires a work composed within the last fifty years to be included. (Exceptions are made for those who may be period instrument specialists, e.g. Baroque flute).


Teaching of the composition modules is via individual one-to-one tutorials. Teaching of the academic and technical areas of the discipline is delivered through tutorials and seminars (for each module).

Attendance at all seminars and tutorials is compulsory. You will be expected to pursue private study and participate in the seminars of the weekly Postgraduate Forum (including presentations), John Bird research lectures, and Composition Seminars.

For the Stage Two Thesis Composition Portfolio, you will be allocated a supervisor who will guide and advise during the Spring Semester through five 60-minute individual sessions.

Music Studies

Teaching of academic modules is delivered via tutorials and seminars (for each module). Attendance at all seminars and tutorials is compulsory. In addition, you will be expected to pursue private study and attend and participate in the seminars of the weekly Postgraduate Forum (including presentations) and John Bird research lectures.

For the Stage Two Dissertation, you will be allocated a supervisor who will guide and advise during the Spring Semester through a minimum of five 60-minute individual sessions.

How will I be assessed?


The taught modules are assessed in a variety of ways including:

  • Oral presentations
  • Ensemble performance
  • Musicianship examinations
  • Music editing (in musical notation)
  • Solo performance (involving an accompanist as required) in a 30-minute Closed Recital (Stage One) and a 45-minute Public Performance (Stage Two)
  • Printed programme with scholarly programme notes and performance diary (Stage Two).


The taught modules within the programme are assessed through the following:

  • Composition portfolios
  • Essays
  • Written reports and/or commentaries
  • IT computer-based notational assignments (incl. editing)
  • Oral presentations
  • Orchestrations.

Music Studies

The taught modules within the programme are assessed through the following:

  • Extended essays
  • Written reports
  • Field work, as needed
  • Oral presentations
  • Dissertation (12–15,000 words).

The opportunity to test knowledge and understanding will also be provided through reflective seminar participation reports.

How will I be supported?

At the start of the year you will be given a guide to module aims, learning outcomes, methods of assessment, module syllabuses, and reading and listening lists. Your allocated personal tutor will be able to provide advice and guidance on module choices and you will have regular meetings with them.

For the stage two projects you will have a supervisor to monitor progress and provide individual consultations by arrangement.

Instrumental tuition for performance pathway students is fully funded by the School of Music on your principal study instrument, including accompaniment at recitals. You will receive 24 hour-long lessons over the duration of the course.

You will have access through the Learning Central website to relevant multimedia material, presentations, lecture handouts, bibliographies, further links, electronic exercises and discussion circles.

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.


You will receive written feedback on all assessments. The opportunity to test knowledge and understanding will also be provided through the weekly seminars of the Postgraduate Forum.

What skills will I practise and develop?

You will acquire and develop a range of valuable discipline-specific skills, as well as employability, research, communication and presentation skills.

Performers will acquire specific skills, such as the practical and interpretative musical skills associated with your chosen instrument or voice, an understanding of the relationship between the history and practice of music, knowledge of repertoires and recent developments in performance practice, as well as participating in lecture-recital, public recital and ensemble recitals.

Composers can expect to acquire specific skills, such as knowledge and understanding of contemporary compositional techniques, IT skills in music notation inputting and editing, the ability to rehearse an ensemble, communicate musical intentions to performers via notation and written instructions, direct a rehearsal of your own composition as a conductor, and illustrate how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge.

If you are following the music studies pathway, you will acquire specific skills, such as the ability to analyse and process  complex texts, ideas and concepts, develop different forms of academic writing, experience of oral and written presentations, gain an understanding of standard bibliographies, catalogues and other reference material in music, develop research techniques and choice of appropriate sources to aid individual research, undertake complex library-based research, undertake field work and interpret a range of quantitative and qualitative data.

Other information

Our Postgraduate Suite provides dedicated, 24-hour study facilities for postgraduate students, including computer workrooms with networked Macs and PCs, Sibelius notation software, listening rooms, photocopying facilities, a kitchen, and a social space.

Other facilities include a 250-seat Concert Hall equipped with a concert grand Steinway, Bösendorfer, and organ, chamber organ, period keyboard instruments, electro-acoustic studios, and performance-recording facilities.

An extensive onsite Music Library provides access to books, journals, CDs, and electronic resources covering western music from the medieval period to the present, as well as traditional, classical and popular music from cultures around the world.

"If anyone ever asks whether I have a ‘second home’, Cardiff will definitely be my answer. Although I had lived in Bath and London before, neither of them gave me the same impression as Cardiff has. Here, one can experience both the beauty of a British town and the prosperity of a national capital. To me, this means that I can concentrate on my studies, have a healthy and safety life, but without losing the opportunities to enjoy world-class arts, cultural and social events. These factors prompted me to come back here for my master degree.The School of Music has shown great care since the first day I received my offer. From visa, accommodation to financial supports, the school was always keen to help. Upon arrival, I received a comprehensive introduction to the course and the school. I was really surprised by all kinds of supports that are available to me, including personal tutoring, music-dedicated English sessions, and career advices for international students. Most important, I found the School open to all people, regardless of their age, backgrounds, and views. I was able to participate in a large variety of music activities, and to share my view in different academic occasions — all without worrying about doing or saying things ‘wrong’. This atmosphere is so precious for foreign students, and I still appreciate it everyday."
Yue Zhuo (MA in Music 2016-17)

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2020/21)

Tuition feeDeposit

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding 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.

EU students entering in 2020/21 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. The Welsh Government has not yet confirmed fees and funding for EU students starting in 2021/22. We will provide further details as soon as we can.

Students from outside the EU (2020/21)

Tuition feeDeposit

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding 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.

Additional costs

If you are on the Music Studies pathway you may choose to undertake fieldwork as part of your stage two Dissertation research. You will need to cover any fieldwork research costs.

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

Apart from a performer’s principal instrument, any equipment required will be supplied by the School.

Career prospects

Our graduates will have a broad spectrum of knowledge relating to the specialised subject and variety of skills, making them highly attractive both to potential employers and research establishments. Preparing for, and leading towards, the PhD in Music, the MA has been designed to provide graduates with advanced knowledge, understanding and skills in the chosen area of study.

93% of responding graduates between 2010 and 2013 reported that they are in full-time, part-time, self or unpaid employment and/or continuing study. Those graduates have entered a range of roles, including musicologist, administrator, music manager, freelance musician, research development officer and music teacher.

Our annual series of talks on Careers in Music offer a great chance to meet professionals active in a range of fields such as performance, music education, music journalism, arts and artist management, production and licensing, and composing for media.

"I cannot recommend the MA music programme at Cardiff University heartily enough. My year spent in Cardiff was one of the most academically nurturing times of my life. While the first term courses were especially helpful in providing some fundamental preparation for an academic future in musicology, the second term provided courses tailored to really interesting and diverse subdisciplines within musicology, which I found to be very engaging and intellectually stimulating. I believe that this structure is very balanced and facilitates more specialized study while not "skimping" on the more basic concepts of music scholarship. I also found the course leaders and lecturers to be incredibly supportive of my personal growth as a student and very willing to advise me in regard to various assignments. They were generous with their time and efforts to answer all of the MANY questions I had. I had a truly great experience completing the MA in music at Cardiff and, like I said, I cannot recommend it heartily enough."
Emily Masincup (MA in Music 2015-16)


Master's Excellence Scholarship

This award worth £3000 is open to UK and EU students intending to study one of our taught master’s degrees.

Postgraduate Master’s Finance

If you’re starting your master’s degree in September 2020 or later, you may be able to apply for postgraduate student finance to support your study at Cardiff University.


Students on the Music Studies pathway may choose to undertake fieldwork as part of their Stage 2 Dissertation research. (Any fieldwork research costs are to be covered by the student).

Next steps


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