Music: Popular Music and Recording
BA (Hons)

Work placement opportunity
International Students can apply

3 good reasons to study Music: Popular Music and Recording at Salford:

  • You will be taught by practicing professionals on a course well-known for producing graduates who excel in their chosen careers
  • As the first UK institution to offer pioneering and distinctive courses in band musicianship and popular music, we have an international reputation for innovation and excellence in these areas
  • You’ll be part of a large and vibrant music department, and benefit from numerous performing and showcasing opportunities at MediaCityUK and around Greater Manchester

Key Information

Course Code: J931, W341 (with foundation year)
Start Dates: September

Three years full-time
Four years full-time with Foundation Year

Course Summary

This is a contemporary and creative course which combines music- making, academic study and enterprise. The course is designed to help you develop a detailed understanding of key popular music concepts, techniques and processes relevant to the areas of performance, composition, music technology and professional practice.

Building on our long-standing reputation for Popular Music and Recording, our course is well-known for producing artists such as Christina Miles, Mike Walker and the British art rock band Everything Everything.

You will study popular music as a discipline from a broad range of perspectives, developing technical and creative skills while placing an emphasis on academic and theoretical aspects. Our masterclass series involves leading professionals including the likes of Johnny Marr and is designed to assist you in your professional development and career management.

Salford is fast becoming the national centre for the creative industries, with MediaCityUK hosting some of the country's leading creative organisations. Our students regularly contribute to programmes, theatre productions, concerts and gigs as music performers and composers, and the course provides ample opportunity for you to engage with like-minded creative artists. Salford’s proximity to Manchester city centre means you will be able to take full advantage of the region’s world renowned music scene as both an active participant and enquiring spectator. We have a large and vibrant student body and welcome musicians from all musical backgrounds.

Watch our video

BA (Hons) Popular Music and Recording Student Kalvin talks about his course as he gears up to perform at the Create@Salford Festival, an end-of-year showcase held at Salford's MediaCityUK campus.

Course Details

The Popular Music and Recording pathway hones in on the areas most appropriate to the world of popular music. It enables you to develop a detailed understanding of key popular music concepts, techniques and processes relevant to the areas of performance, composition, music technology and popular musicology. It deals with popular music as an academic discipline from a broad range of perspectives, placing considerable emphasis on the academic and theoretical aspects, as well as assessing practical ability in composition, arranging, performance and the creative use of recording technology.

In addition to the traditional three year degree route, you have the option of pursuing additional training and academic tuition by undertaking our four year Foundation option. While the Foundation Year is listed as an option below, it is by no means a pre-requisite to the BA (Hons) Music: Musical Arts course.

Foundation Year

Semester 1

This module develops both your individual and ensemble instrumental ability. You will receive weekly one-to-one instrumental tuition from a specialist tutor, focusing on technique and its application across a broad range of repertoire. You will also join one of the many Ensembles within the Directorate, including Popular Music Choir, Big Band, Brass Band, Wind Band and Classical Choir.
This module aims to provide the theoretical foundations for all further areas of study. You will learn to recognise and confidently use fundamental theoretical terms in your work, notate all perfect, major, minor, augmented, diminished intervals, and identify and notate a range of basic chords and progressions. The assessment requires you to compose idiomatic music incorporating all these elements. You will also develop your Aural and Transcription skills with focused ear training tuition.
This module will equip you with the necessary analytical skills, IT skills and research techniques to complete written academic assignments. You will analyse a broad range of musical styles within the Popular, Jazz and Classical idioms. It will provide you with the appropriate reference framework from which to critically evaluate examples of these styles, as well as the use of harmonic and analytical terminology within the discussion of music.

Semester 2

This module consolidates and expands the instrumental skills developed in semester one, with a continuation of the weekly one-to-one instrumental tuition with your specialist tutor. For your assessed Ensemble activity you will have the option to form your own Popular Music group, or join Big Band, Brass Band, Wind Band or Classical Choir.
Building upon the theoretical knowledge gained in Semester 1, this module introduces more advanced concepts and techniques including extended chord progressions, notation and recognition of diatonic melodic lines, moving bass lines, and complex rhythmic patterns, and SATB scoring. You will also receive further ear training within the Aural and Transcription tuition.
This module introduces software based solutions for recording and composition. You will learn to notate musical ideas appropriately with respect to instrumentation and genre and to identify appropriate software pathway to communicate musical ideas effectively. You will work with notation, sequencing and recording interfaces and interrogate the relationship between them.

Year 1

Semester 1

Focusing on your instrumental proficiency, this module will develop your skills across three different assessed activities. Individual Performance consists of weekly one-to-one tuition with a specialist tutor, based upon an instrumental syllabus (pieces, technical exercises and sight reading). The Ensemble component requires you to join either a Latin Percussion group (Rhythmic Awareness), Big Band, Brass Band, Wind Band or Classical Choir. You will also choose an Associated Study, either Session Musicianship (a tutor led group rehearsal focusing on a broad range of Popular Music styles) or Classical Conducting.
The core aim of this module is to provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary for composing and arranging music in a variety of styles. You will gain a working knowledge of the key aspects of instrumentation voicing, score layout, formal design and the manipulation of texture. The module also provides an introduction to location recording techniques, appropriate sequencing software, musical acoustics and their relationship to music technology.
Providing a historical overview of English-language popular music, this module begins to examine the concept of genre. You will develop an understanding of music style analysis as well as improve your aural skills throughout this module.

Semester 2

Continuing on from Musicianship Skills in Semester 1, this module consists of Individual Performance (weekly one-to-one instrumental tuition), Ensemble Musicianship, and an Associated Study (either Session Musicianship or Classical Conducting). Within the Ensemble component, you will have the opportunity to form your own Popular Music group (writing and rehearsing original material to be presented at a concert at the end of the semester), or join Big Band, Brass Band, Wind Band, or Classical Choir.
This module explores the continual interaction between “art” music and “popular” music, demonstrating the relationship between musical techniques/practices, ideology and historical contingency. You will be introduced to a broad range of repertoire and explore the historical development of competing canons in relation to social class, available technologies and prestige.
This module will provide you with a strong understanding of advanced diatonic harmony, melodic writing, fundamental musical forms, and practical skills concerned with rhythm as applied to the broad field of composition. You will explore the creative uses of a range of microphones in relation to musical instruments and acoustic environments, and be introduced to techniques of sound synthesis using a range of hardware and software based synthesisers.
Throughout this module, you will explore the social, political, and economic contexts impacting upon the production of popular music. This module presents key ideas from Culture Theory, Critical Theory, and Postmodernism in order to provide you with a strong understanding of popular music within these various cultural contexts. You will be introduced to a systematic and rigorous method by which to critically examine popular music and develop abstract thinking.

Year 2

Semester 1

You will choose three of the following options:

This module consolidates and expands your performance development within the three assessed areas of Individual Performance (weekly one-to-one Instrumental lessons with your specialist tutor, based on an advanced syllabus), Ensemble Musicianship, and an Associated Study (either Session Musicianship or Classical Conducting). The Ensemble component allows you to form your own Popular Music group, or join Big Band, Brass Band, Wind Band, or Classical Choir. The Session Musicianship component now places the emphasis on you  to bring in prepared scores and lead the band through the arrangement, guided by your tutor.
During this module, you will examine theoretical issues and practical skills concerned with the manipulation and control of modal harmony and melody within composition. This will introduce you to the principles of contrapuntal composition as well as provide you with the opportunity to explore and experiment with harmonic and melodic processes.
You will be introduced to the creative use of sound and a range of hardware and software interfaces. This module instills a flexible and considered approach to musical interface by covering various sonic installation possibilities and a range of studio composition techniques including synthesis, sampling, interactive and generative.
The purpose of this module is to introduce you to the creative use of sound and music within a range of media. You will explore techniques for recording stereo drama in a recording studio; sound and image synchronisation techniques; and how to apply and develop audio digital editing techniques.
You will explore the ways in which the needs and demands of technology and performing artists can best be reconciled. This module will enhance your working knowledge of sound mixing consoles, audio recorders, signal processing equipment, Digital Audio Workstations and software audio applications. You will develop strategies for analysing existing recordings in order to appreciate and utilise the technology involved in the recording process.
This module explores ways in which gender and ethnicity are constructed in popular music texts as well as enhances your awareness of international music, including instruments, styles, and patterns of organisation. You will apply analytical critique to a range of repertoire and engage with cross-disciplinary approaches to the study of music.

Semester 2

You will study one core module:

Focusing on current economic structures and potential development, this module provides an in-depth examination of the UK creative economy. You will explore concepts of copyright, authorship and ownership and gain an understanding of the processes involved in successful personal development planning.

You will choose two of the following options:

This module encourages more specialised forms of composition and arrangement through the introduction of theoretical and analytical issues concerned with the articulation of form and structure, and an advanced study of harmony. It also explores the ways in which the colouristic, formal, harmonic, textural and rhythmic aspects of a given work may be reconsidered within the context of the creative arrangement.
The aim of this module is to fully prepare you for Elective Performance study at third year level. The Individual Performance aspect (weekly one-to-one tuition) requires you to undertake a formal exam based on your instrumental syllabus (pieces, scales and sight-reading).  Ensemble Musicianship provides the opportunity to develop specialist skills in either Latin Percussion, Improvisation, or Vocal Harmony, or join the Big Band, Brass Band, Wind Band, or Classical Choir.  The Associated Study component allows you to choose between Classical Conducting, or Musical Directing which focuses on aspects of band leadership such as score preparation, arranging, and conducting a Popular Music ensemble.
Continuing on from Studio Composition in Semester 1, this module begins to explore the integration of live sound, live instrument recording, and signal processing within studio composition.
Building upon your learning from Studio Recording and Production in Semester 1, this module aims to provide you with confident, genre-appropriate mixing, mastering and signal processing skills. You will develop a range of detailed recording strategies in relation to acoustic considerations.
This module provides an overview of journalistic methodologies as applied to the fields of music and the music industry. You will examine and construct a variety of forms of journalistic output as related to music as well as develop a critical understanding of the interrelationship between market, industry and culture.
You will develop an understanding of the scope, methods and aims of Ethnomusicology with reference to the historical development of the subject; the analysis of music in culture and music as culture with special reference to enculturation and acculturation, the stature of the musician in society and cultural identity. You will develop performance skills and an understanding of a musical tradition from outside your own practical musical experience.
This module explores and promotes collaborative practices of which music forms a part (theatre, dance, digital theatre, contemporary music theatre, media, new media, internet art, installation, interactive art, and other creative environments real or virtual). It encourages interdisciplinary practice and assesses the skills needed when collaborating with other artistic disciplines.
This module consolidates and extends ideas and theories introduced in Interpreting Popular Music. It develops skills in research methodology and in self-management and provides practice in the presentation of short papers. You will apply theoretical models and methodological techniques to investigative research and learn how to defend critiques and analyses.
You will be introduced to the creative use of sound and music within a range of media. It explores techniques for recording stereo drama in a recording studio and introduces sound and image synchronisation techniques. You will develop audio digital editing techniques, and techniques of sound design and music integration.

Year 3

Semester 1

This module is designed to enhance an artistic skills base in two areas of specialist study. It assists the realisation of creative work that will feed into the negotiated major project and encourages the exhibition of a high level of individuality, versatility and confidence within the chosen fields.
By broadening your work experience in areas requiring a leadership and/or team role, this module gives you the opportunity to further develop your own professional practices. You will gain experience in one of the following areas of professional practice: band management and promotion, arts administration, musical directing, business enterprise and community music in its broadest sense.

Semester 2

This module enables you to undertake a comprehensive project encompassing two areas of specialist study. It assists the realisation of creative work (practical and/or written), encourages the development of a personal style within the chosen fields of study, and hones your artistic and academic skills base.

Entry Requirements

Qualification Entry requirements
UCAS tariff points 260-300 points
FY: 180 points
GCE A level 260-300 points including B in music. Appropriate subjects to include music, General studies not accepted
BTEC National Diploma DMM to include music
Scottish Highers 260-300 points. 180 points for Music: Popular Music and Recording with a Foundation Year. To include Music.
Irish Leaving Certificate 260-300 points. 180 points for Music: Popular Music and Recording with a Foundation Year. To include Music.
International Baccalaureate 31 points, to include 5 (Higher Level) in Music. 24 points for Music: Popular Music and Recording with a Foundation Year.

Salford Alternative Entry Scheme (SAES)

We positively welcome applications from students who may not meet the stated entry criteria but who can demonstrate their ability to successfully pursue a programme of study in higher education. Students who do not have the traditional entry requirements may be able to apply through the Salford Alternative Entry Scheme. Support in preparing for the written assessment is available from the University.

English Language Requirements

International applicants will be required to show a proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.0 (no element below 5.5) is proof of this.

Applicant profile

You should be able to read notation, have a good understanding of chords, scales, rhythms and harmony, and have the ability to transcribe ensemble performances.  

All applicants are required to undertake a Theory test for the course.

We positively welcome applications from students who may not meet the stated entry criteria but who can demonstrate their ability to successfully pursue a programme of study in higher education. Students who do not have formal entry qualifications are required to sit a written assessment which is designed for this purpose. Support in preparing for the written assessment is available from the University. Please contact Beth Hewitt the Director of Admissions for further information.


  • Lectures are enhanced with audio/visual material. A lecture on a topic is usually followed up by a relevant seminar
  • You will be encouraged to prepare materials in preparation for seminars, where you’ll contribute to discussions
  • Masterclasses - Visiting speakers and performers from relevant areas of the music industry
  • Supervision both individual and in groups
  • Individual Instrumental Tuition to develop you performance technique and musical vocabulary
  • Ensemble Tuition in order to develop your performance technique and musical vocabulary in an ensemble setting
  • Workshops to explore concepts and develop research techniques within a workshop environment, mixing class-based discussion and activities with library and archive work, providing you with the opportunity to develop creative ideas and to interact with leading scholars in the field
  • Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) – ‘Blackboard’, supports every module within the course. 

Instrumental tutor list

Les Bolger
Glenn Cartlidge
Paul Cusick
Mel Dean
Andy Duffy
Brian Kelly
Adam Palma
Carl Barnett (Bass Guitar)
Ollie Collins (Bass Guitar)
John Wilson (piano)
Laurina Sableviciute (piano)
Rob Gibney (Piano)
Matt Steele (Piano)
Clare Hogan (voice)
Sue Hickey (voice)
Gair Carson (clarinet / flute)
Munch Manship (sax / clarinet)
Tim France (sax/ensembles/ Big Band)
Helen Tonge (Strings)
Mark Wilkinson (flugel / cornet)
Brian Taylor (cornet)
Richard Marshall (cornet)
Mike Eccles (flugel)
Helen Varley (tenor horn / French Horn)
Peter Christian (baritone /ensembles)
Billy Millar (euphonium)
Les Storey (bass trombone)
Gary Curtin (euphonium & tenor horn)
Brett Baker (trombone)
Lee Hallam (jazz trombone)
Les Neish (tuba)
Neil Yates (trumpet)
Dave Hassell (drums)
Steve Gilbert (drums)
Gaz Hughes (drums)
Mark Landon (percussion)


Examination and coursework.


On graduation many students go on to develop careers as freelance composers, performers and producers, as well as music educators (teachers, advisors, lecturers) and arts administrators. We have many students that go on to study at Masters and Doctoral level.

Career Prospects

Salford’s music courses are renowned for producing graduates who excel in their chosen professions. Our graduates have forged careers as signed recording artists, professional performers, studio producers/engineers, live sound engineers and freelance composers/arrangers. Many have become events organisers, promoters and entrepreneurs while others have developed successful careers in music education as teachers, lecturers, senior administrators and educational advisors. Those who continue their studies at a postgraduate level find themselves well-equipped to cope with the academic and technical demands of a higher degree.

Alumni Profile

The following profiles demonstrate the diverse range of successful careers our music graduates have embarked upon:

Two members of the band Everything Everything (lead singer/song-writer Jonathan Higgs and Bassist Jeremy Pritchard) are popular music graduates from the University of Salford. They will support Snow Patrol on their 2012 UK Stadium Tour, and have performed live on BBC2’s Later with Jools Holland and at the 2011 Mercury Prize Ceremony. Everything Everything have been nominated for two Ivor Novello Awards and were shortlisted for the Mercury Album of the Year award for their debut album Man Alive.  

Recording artist and singer-songwriter Kristyna Myles graduated from Salford in 2005 and has since featured on albums by Chris de Burgh and Rick Guard. She has supported Mick Hucknall on a UK tour, and performed her own songs on television programmes such as Songs of Praise and Play it Again. In 2009 Krystina was nominated for Best Gospel Act at the MOBO Awards as part of the gospel collective DTWG. She has since signed a five album deal with Decca Records.  

Popular music graduates James Cook (lead singer) and Rick Boardman (keyboards) are members of 3-piece Indie Electronica band Delphic, and have supported acts such as Orbital and Kasabian. Their debut album Acolyte received a Times 4 star review, and they were placed third on the BBC Sound of 2010. Their music has been regularly utilised within the wider media, for example, promoting Sky Sports’ coverage of the 2010-11 Premier League.  

Andrea Leonelli studied popular music and then a Masters in Composition at Salford and now works full-time in digital production at Universal. He has also created a Podcast dedicated to the latest trends in Digital Music interviewing start-up CEOs, technology experts and journalists. The show has a wide following within the industry.  

Popular music graduate, Caroline Redman Lusher, is the Founder and Director of Rock Choir TM which has received widespread praise for its community ethos and extensive membership. Caroline’s entrepreneurial success has resulted in numerous television appearances on ITVs’ documentary The Choir That Rocks and BBC’s Breakfast, and she has been widely praised for her inclusive teaching methods.

Popular music graduate, Stuart Avery, has developed his own successful music promotions business, SA Promotions. He also works as a record producer / mastering and post-production engineer on a freelance basis for bands and London-based dance labels Energise Records, Klone Records and Rumour Records. Another of our music graduates, Kelly Wood, works for the Musicians Union in the North West. Kelly studied aspects of arts administration as part of her course, during which time she attained a placement with Granada Studios.

The Head of Music at LIPA, Mr Martin Isherwood, graduated with a BA in Band Musicianship and then an MA in Compositional Studies from Salford (Martin also went on to win the BBC Song for Europe in 2003). Also working in the popular music education sector, Mr Mark Acton, another popular music graduate, is the Programme and Quality Leader for Music at Trafford College, Manchester.   David Connolly graduated in 2010 and is now working as a composer and sound designer for London based creative music and sound company, Radium Audio Ltd. His latest projects have involved creating music for a Blackberry commercial and music and sound for Sky 3D.

Links with Industry

We have direct links with professional institutions such the BBC Philharmonic, Halle Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain as well as the ‘Sounds from the Other City’ festival. We have a good working relationship with many venues in the local area including Islington Mill.

Further Study

Fees and Funding

Fees 2015-16

Type of StudyFee
Part-timeYour annual fee will be calculated pro rata to the full-time fee according to the number of credits you are studying
Full-time InternationalTBC

Additional Costs

You should also consider further costs which may include books, stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits.

Financial support for this course



Watch our video

A virtual tour of the Music Technology facilities in the University of Salford's Directorate of Music.

The Music Directorate houses 5 fully equipped professional recording studios with access to a variety of recording/performance spaces. We have created a creative and educational environment that aims to mirror contemporary professional studio practise. Our general philosophy is to facilitate the use of both analogue and digital recording platforms, software and hardware signal processing. All studios centre around a large format mixing desk which can feed hard disk recording systems and 24 track analogue tape machines. All studios make use of professional level outboard and software plugins as well as comprehensive balanced patch bays, giving students the opportunity to fully explore traditional signal routing, a skill vital to ones progression into professional practice.

Studio 1

Mixing Desk:
Audient ASP 8024 (36 Microphone Preamplifiers / 72 channels on mixdown)

PMC IB2S / Yamaha NS10M

48 channels of A/D – D/A conversion through MOTU 24 I/O interfaces – Mac Pro
Tascam MSR24s 24 Track analogue tape machine.

A selection: 2 x AMS Neve 4081 preamps, Empirical Labs Distressor x2 / TL Audio 5051 x 2 / TL Audio 5021 / Lexicon PCM 60, MPX1, MPX550, TC Electronics reverb and multi-effects units / Drawmer Compressors and Gates.

Live Rooms:
Studio 1 has a large main live room with a variable acoustic and is also ‘tie lined’ to a more reverberant live space (“Studio O”), to enable complete acoustic separation of sound sources.

Tama Superstar Drumkit / Rhodes Stage 73 MK2 Electric Piano / Yamaha Upright Acoustic Piano (with MIDI) / Roland RD300sx.

Laney vc 30, Fender Deluxe Tweed, Line 6 Spider 100w, Roland KC 550, Ampeg BA 300

Studio 2

Mixing Desk:
Audient ASP 8024 (24 Microphone Preamplifiers / 48 channels on mixdown)

Quested VS3208 3-Way Active Studio Monitors/ Dynaudio BM5a.

24 channels of A/D – D/A conversion through MOTU 24 I/O interfaces – Mac Pro Tascam MSR24s 24 Track analogue tape machine

API 3124+ 4 channel preamp, TL Audio 5001 / DBX and Alesis compressors / Lexicon and TC Electronics multi effects

Live Rooms:
Large acoustically 'dead' room with isolation booth for separation of sound sources.

Korg SP200 stage piano. Wurlitzer EP200a electric piano. Sonor Force Drumkit.

Line 6 Spider 100w, Marshall JCM 900 (x 2), Orange Ext Cab 120w, Peavey Renown, Peavey Bandit 112, Peavey Blazer 158, Peavey TNT 150, Ashdown Mag 250

Studio 3

Mixing Desk:
SSL Matrix

Genelec 8030 / Dynaudio BM6a

24 tracks of A/D-D/A via RME – Mac Pro. Tascam MSR24s 24 Track analogue tape machine.

Live Rooms:
Tie lines to “Studio O” live room.

Roland Juno 106 / Access Virus C / Yamaha DX7 / Novation Supernova / Korg MS2000

Studio 4

5.1 surround mixing room with up to 8 x Genelec 8030a and 8040a monitors. Avid control surfaces with Lynx Aurora audio interface.

Studio 5

Mixing Desk:
Audient ASP 8024 (36 Microphone Preamplifiers / 72 channels on mixdown)

Genelec 1030a / NS10s

24 channels of A/D – D/A conversion through MOTU 24 I/O interfaces – Mac Pro.

A selection: DBX, Alesis, SPL compressors. Lexicon and TC Electronics and Yamaha multi effects.

Live Rooms:
2 live rooms with tie lines to the lecture theatre housing a Yamaha baby grand piano.

Full Mapex drum kit, Baby grand piano, Clavia Nord Stage EX

Laney vc 30, Fender Deluxe Tweed, Line 6 Spider 100w, Roland KC 550, Ampeg BA 300

Computer suites

Our suite of 24 iMacs are equipped with sequencing, wave editing, synthesis, signal processing and post-production software. The software in the computer suite is, on the whole, the same as that found in the recording studios, so that work can easily be transferred from one facility to another. Logic Studio 9 and Sibelius 6 are standard across all the machines.

Location Recording

There are a variety of facilities available for location recording assignments, ranging from simple stereo microphone and SD/compact flash card recorder kits to 3 x 24 track recording systems. We stock location microphone kits adequate for recording both large acoustic ensembles and venue based band performances.

Microphones and Other Equipment

In addition to the equipment permanently installed in the recording studios, there are a variety of synthesizers, preamps, and effects units stored in the studios' facilities office that can be booked out for use in sessions. This office also houses our extensive microphone collection. We stock microphones from manufacturers such as Neumann, Brauner, AKG, Beyer Dynamic, Electrovoice, Blue and many more. Access to microphones is streamed as students begin to specialise in music technology.

Opening Hours

Monday - Friday:  9.00am – Midnight
Saturday: 10am – Midnight
Sunday: 10am – 9pm

The recording facilities are always looked after by a full time member of technical staff and / or an evening and weekend 'technician / demonstrator', on hand to deal with technical issues and provide students with advice.