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Undergraduate study

Why a Music degree?

At Durham you will engage actively with music both familiar and unfamiliar, and be challenged to think about music in new ways. Our research-led teaching allows you to work closely with internationally renowned experts, who support and encourage you to develop independent study skills. By the end of the course you will be producing independent project work that engages with the latest research in your chosen area of study. Our curriculum provides you with a diverse but well-balanced university education that will stimulate your curiosity, while developing the skills necessary to give you a head start in further study or future employment.

A copy of the new Music Department Brochure can be viewed here.

What will you study?

The single-honours degree is organised around six pathways, which reflect the Department’s broad range of expertise: music history; ethnomusicology; analysis; composition; performance; and musical techniques. You will progress from core foundational modules in first year, to specialised third-year options, which place stronger emphasis on autonomous learning, including the dissertation, recital and composition portfolio. These pathways are augmented by additional subjects, including Music and Science, and Psychology of Music.


Music History

The core music-history component in first and second year gives a comprehensive introduction to Western music from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. There is also a range of second- and third-year special options, which have previously included subjects as diverse as Music and Politics in France, Music in Italy 1850-1950, Studies in the History of Opera, Popular Music, and Music Theology.


We offer a broad grounding in the cultural study of music, with modules which have previously included a first-year Introduction to Ethnomusicology, a second-year study of World Music Traditions and a third-year Advanced Ethnomusicology component, as well as specialised modules including Music of India.


The first-year module introduces you to key concepts in the analysis of the tonal common practice, focusing on music of the baroque and classical styles. In previous years, we have offered a second-year option surveying the recent development of music theory, exploring music from Beethoven to Stravinsky. Third-year options have in the past included Studies in Symphonic Analysis, and Time and Rhythm.


We offer a comprehensive variety of composition modules. This ranges from foundational modules in first year to the composition portfolio in third year, supported by workshops and performances. We also have internationally renowned expertise in electro-acoustic composition: the Department currently houses three studios and a music-technology lab.


The performance programme combines classes in performance practice with recording projects, specialised subjects (in the past this has included contemporary music performance) and the option of a major recital. We also have a large adjunct staff of instrumental and vocal teachers, and offer financial support for performance tuition across the degree.

Musical Techniques

Your study of music history, analysis and composition is complemented by modules in musical techniques, which develop practical skills in Renaissance and Baroque counterpoint, four-part harmony and the composition of classical forms. We have also offered a third-year stylistic composition portfolio.

How will I study?

Modules are normally taught through weekly lectures, complemented by small-group seminars and tutorials, which help you to develop autonomous research and learning skills. Final-year dissertation, the free composition portfolio and the stylistic composition portfolio are supported by individual supervision.

“The lecturers always have an interesting and exciting approach to teaching, and they allowed me to discover many new areas and aspects of music”

Charlotte Benger - UG Level 3

Find a course that's right for you

Why not look at the range of courses available