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Music (MA)

  • Duration: 1 year
  • Mode: Full time

Course options See other modes of study
Start date

Open day

Find out more about studying here as a postgraduate at our next Open Day.

Why study this course

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

Challenge yourself academically and musically while tailoring the programme to meet your ambitions for the future.


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.

Our MA Music programme is an opportunity to challenge yourself academically and musically, while developing a specialism in performance, composition or music studies.

We place an emphasis on flexibility and student choice. You'll be able to personalise a significant proportion of your study, tailoring the programme to meet your career goals and ambitions.

You'll study in a research-led university environment and have the opportunity to engage with new research from scholars at Cardiff University and beyond.

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

You'll follow one of three pathways on this programme.

  • Performance

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

  • Composition

You'll be equipped with the techniques and practical experience needed to pursue your own creative goals to a professional level with confidence and imagination.

  • Music Studies

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.

I cannot recommend the MA Music heartily enough. The modules I studied were especially helpful in providing some fundamental preparation for an academic future in musicology, as well as optional modules in really interesting and diverse sub-disciplines within musicology, which I found to be very engaging and intellectually stimulating. I found the course leaders and lecturers to be incredibly supportive of my personal growth as a student and very willing to advise me on my various assignments. They were generous with their time and efforts to answer all of the many questions I had.
Emily Masincup, MA Music

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

Academic requirements:

Typically, you will need to have either: 

  • a 2:1 honours degree in music or other relevant subject area such as anthropology, cultural studies, film and media studies, history, politics, or philosophy, or an equivalent international degree
  • a university-recognised equivalent academic qualification.

English Language requirements:

IELTS with an overall score of 6.5 with 5.5 in all subskills, or an accepted equivalent. 

Other essential requirements:

You will also need to provide:

  • two references, at least one of which should be an academic reference
  • a personal statement which
    • demonstrates your interest in the programme and your background in the field of study
    • states the name of the pathway you are interested in applying to - Composition, Music Studies, or Performance 
    • covers specific requirements for your chosen pathway (one of the following)
      • Composition - addresses your style and rationale for your compositions, looking at techniques, imagination and confidence in approach
      • Music Studies - information on your musical experience
      • Performance - discussion and evidence of your knowledge of performance, style, and technique
  • additional evidence for your chosen pathway
    • Composition - 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 - provide an essay which is the best example of your undergraduate work (in English or Welsh). The essay should be of 1500-2000 words about a specific topic (e.g., a composer, piece, musical practice) which demonstrates your knowledge of leading scholars, contemporary theories, and relevant literature in the field. The essay should include citations and a comprehensive bibliography. Unless discussing ethnography, narratives about musical experience should be in your personal statement rather than essay sample
    • Performance - provide a link to an online audition showing an unedited video performance of two contrasting pieces of music, with your face and hands visible at all times to show technique (performance evidence).

Application deadline:

We allocate places on a first-come, first-served basis, so we recommend you apply as early as possible. 

Selection process: 

We will review your application including all evidence you have provided and if you meet the requirements, we will make you an offer. 

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Student 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 2023/24 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2023.

Module titleModule codeCredits
MA Research SkillsMUT00110 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Thesis CompositionMUT30160 credits
Thesis CompositionMUT30160 credits
Public RecitalMUT30260 credits
Public RecitalMUT30260 credits
DissertationMUT30360 credits
DissertationMUT30360 credits
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
Music, Culture and PoliticsMUT21330 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.

"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 for 2023 entry

Your tuition fees and how you pay them will depend on your fee status. Your fee status could be home, island or overseas.

Learn how we decide your fee status

Fees for home status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £9,200 None

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national, your tuition fees for 2023/24 be in line with the overseas fees for international students, unless you qualify for home fee status. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.

Fees for island status

Learn more about the postgraduate fees for students from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Fees for overseas status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £20,450 £2,000

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

Financial support

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.

Living costs

We’re based in one of the UK’s most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.

Career prospects

You will gain a broad spectrum of knowledge relating to music and a variety of skills, making you highly attractive to both potential employers and research establishments. The MA programme has been designed to provide you with advanced knowledge, understanding and skills in your chosen area of study. It is ideal preparation for progression into practice or a research pathway, such as our PhD in Music.

Our graduates are sought after by employers, with 100% of our graduates in employment and/or further study within six months of graduating (DLHE 2016/17).

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.

What is unique about the MA Music course at Cardiff University is its flexibility. Not only can you tailor the course around your own interests and passions, but it also gives you the platform to gain experience in the ‘real world’ alongside your studies. For me, this made my MA year at Cardiff University the perfect bridge between being a student and professional musician. The MA Music furthered my skillset, supported my ideas and imagination, and gave me the tools needed to continue to progress beyond my time in education.
Iestyn Griffiths, MA Music


Master's Excellence Scholarships

An award open to UK students intending to study one of our taught master’s degrees.

UK Government master’s funding

If you are starting your master’s degree in September 2023 or later, you may be able to apply for UK Government postgraduate funding to support your study at Cardiff University.

Alumni Discount Scheme

The alumni discount is available for Cardiff University graduates who are planning to start an eligible master's programme in 2023/24.


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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HESA Data: Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2021. The Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from its data. Data is from the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey 2019/20, published by HESA in June 2022.