May 07

So you Want to Study Music at University?


So You Want to Study Music at University?

If you’re passionate about playing and serious about study, you might be thinking about continuing with your music education at university or conservatoire. Making the decision to study music at university is the first step, but where do you go from here? If you’re still at school, you probably don’t know too much about music as a degree subject, and the choices available can be rather confusing at first!

This article is intended for those wanting to study music at university in the United Kingdom – other countries have very different systems and requirements, so unfortunately you can’t apply this information across the board!Β One method of study that can be accessed worldwide is through online degree courses. If you are interested in the field of music production, there are several types of online courses in music production you can take. But if you have a mind to go the more classical route and attend campus to pursue a university degree, read on.

So, here are some questions that you may or may not have thought about!

  • What grade do I have to be to get on a university music degree course?
  • Do I have to be able to play the piano?
  • What’s the difference between university and conservatoire?
  • What do BA (Mus) and BMus mean, and what’s the difference?
  • What career prospects are there with a music degree?
  • What’s life like for music students at university?

What grade do I have to be to get on a university music degree course?

If you want to study music at university, you will normally need to be at least at grade 8 standard on your main instrument. If you play other instruments, it will often be an advantage, even if you are not at such a high grade on them.

Do I have to be able to play the piano?

No, you don’t. However, having some basic piano skills will definitely be an advantage to you, so if you are thinking about going to study music at university some time in the future, it might be a good idea to get some piano lessons organised as soon as you can. Being able to play the piano makes life easier for several reasons – you will understand the both the treble and bass clefs with ease, you’ll be able to understand chords more quickly, you will learn score-reading skills more quickly, and it is in so useful to have an instrument to hand which can play several notes simultaneously.

What’s the difference between university and conservatoire?

The courses offered by universities and conservatoires overlap to a certain extent, but there are a few clear differences. Usually, a university will offer a more “academic” course which will include a broad range of musical subjects, from music history to composition, tonal analysis, music technology or performance. You take “modules” in a number of different subjects, and can usually decide for yourself which subject has the major focus for your studies. At conservatoire, you are primarily a performance student, and as such will be an excellent player. You study the other subjects as subsidiaries to your performance. Conservatoire students are expected to put in several hours a day of self-study practice on their instruments, and often go on to careers as orchestral or solo musicians, or become composers. University students spend more time reading, writing essays (and playing!), and often go on to become teachers, librarians or take on management roles in the music industry.

Being a student at university also means that you will meet people from a wide range of backgrounds who are studying a diverse range of subjects. Universities are often huge institutions with several thousand students. Conservatoires, on the other hand, are much smaller, and you will form close-knit friendships with other students who share your talent and passion.

What do BA (Mus) and BMus mean, and what’s the difference?

BA (Mus) stands for “Bachelor of Arts degree in Music”, and BMus stands for Bachelor of Music. Both are recognised undergraduate degrees. The BA(Mus) degree is more usually offered at universities, and the BMus is more often at conservatoires, but both institutions sometimes offer both types of degree. A BA degree is less specialised and more general. A BMus degree is more about performance or composition, whereas a BA degree can be about a wide range of musically related topics. A BMus degree sometimes lasts for four years, whereas a BA usually only takes three. A 4-year BMus degree might include a year spent abroad, studying at a conservatoire in a foreign country.

What career prospects are there with a music degree?

Finding a job connected with music is not a easy option! The competition is great, and the earnings are usually low, sadly. The vast majority of people decide that they want to study music at university because it is something they enjoy doing, not because they want to get rich! Having said that, most music graduates do go on to have fulfilling and enjoyable careers. Here are some options that you may not have thought of (some careers would entail further study in other areas).

  • Music librarian
  • Music copyright lawyer
  • Record company manager
  • Peripatetic teacher
  • Examiner for the ABRSM
  • Studio engineer
  • Jingle writer
  • Computer games music composer
  • Tour manager (for orchestras or soloists)
  • Music journalist

What’s life like for music students at university?

So you’ve made your mind up to study music at university – what should you expect life to be life when you get there?!

You might be surprised to see that you weekly timetable is almost empty. Many universities schedule only a few hours of classes or seminars or tutorials per week, which can be a (pleasant!) shock to a student who has come straight from school. It can be easy to think of those gaps in the timetable as “free time”, but really that time is meant for self-study. To get a really good degree, you should fill those gaps up with reading, practising and performing!

If you are not majoring in performance, it’s unlikely that your university will arrange any instrumental lessons for you. They will probably point you in the right direction if you are looking for a local teacher, but you will need to organise (and pay for) your lessons yourself.

All universities and conservatoires have a lively student social life, and as a music student many doors will be open to you. The Student’s Union (club for students) will often organise stage productions which need a small band to play for musicals etc, and there are normally several amateur groups such as symphony orchestras, wind/string ensembles which you can play in during your free time. This is a great way to make useful contacts too! If you can’t find the right ensemble for you – start your own!

I hope that’s given you a better idea about what it’s like studying music at university. I was a student at the University of Leeds in the 1990s, and had the best three years of my life there. If you still haven’t made up your mind about whether you want to study music at university or not, I’d recommend going on an open day and perhaps chatting to some of the current students. Have fun!




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  1. JIMMY

    You have to say “If you want to study music at university, you will normally need to be at least at grade 8 standard on your main instrument.” This implies ABRSM has more than 8 grades. Every site I’ve been to that talks about ABRSM grades says that there are 8.

  2. admin

    Hi Jimmy! The ABRSM does indeed have eight grades, but after that there are other exams you can take, which are different in format. After grade 8 you can specialise in performance, teaching or music direction. There are three levels you can do in your specialism – first is a Diploma, next comes Licenciate and finally Fellowship. These are extremely demanding, high level exams! For more info see http://www.abrsm.org/en/home?page=exams/diplomas. The gap between grade 8 and Diploma standard is huge, so a lot of music undergraduates would be somewhere between the two levels.

  3. hugh


  4. Joanne

    Do you know if at conservatoires, social life is as ‘lively’ as at a university?

    1. Victoria

      Hi Joanne, I believe that the social life at university will probably be livelier. Conservatoires have a small number of students compared to uni’s plus you have a much more diverse group of people since everyone is studying different subjects. Conservatoires also tend to have more gruelling schedules in terms of what you are expected to do day to day, because you have to spend x hours a day practising as well as studying. At uni, if you haven’t opted to specialise in performance (you could choose music technology, history, composition, musicology etc.) then it’s possible that you don’t end up playing much for your course (although you might still play a lot in extra-curricular activities, but they would be your choice). I majored in musicology so the uni were not very interested in how much I was actually playing, from the 2nd year. If you want to be a performer, the conservatoire is usually the best choice, whereas if you want to study the academic side or be a school music teacher then Uni is a good choice.

  5. James

    Hey, I’m looking to become a music producer however I’m not sure whether to apply for a Music or Music Technology/Production/engineering degree. Which would you recommend? Is taking a music degree safer than a music tech degree?

    1. Victoria

      Hello Jamesthebrains πŸ™‚ What do you mean by “safer”? Easier to get accepted on, easier to do well at, or will take you further in life? Choosing the right degree can be a bit of a gamble – if you choose a broad subject then it’s easy to get lost in the crowd as many other people have the same qualifications, whereas choosing a more specific degree might narrow your career choice in the long run. It depends on how determined you are to become a music producer, in my opinion. If this is what you have your heart set on, then I’d recommend a music production course alongside PLENTY of hands on experience in the real world. Lots of students walk out of university with no real life experience, but in the cut and thrust world of music production you would need to demonstrate to a potential employer that you have already got your hands dirty, so to speak. Do some google searches for the kind of jobs you’d be interested in, and take a look at what qualifications the employers are asking for. If they don’t mention it in the ad, drop them an email and ask them outright (they don’t need to know that you’re not actually applying at this stage!) If music production is just one idea among others, then a straightforward music degree might be less restricting, but probably not very much. There are not many jobs which lead on directly from a music degree as it’s not really a vocational qualification. At the end of the 3/4 year BA course you would then need to specialise and qualify further, so you could do a BA in music and a year’s MA in production, or something like that. Also look carefully at the reputation of the university you choose – sometimes employers are more impressed with where you studied, rather than what.

  6. Joseph Lee-Doktor

    Wow. I have been surfing the web for info like this for ages. I am only 13 but have had my heart set on a musical career for years and luckily I am already a grade 8 with my guitar, but I’m thinking of learning Sax and/or piano. What advantages can I see in Uni for learning those extra instruments ?

    1. Victoria

      Both have advantages. Learning the piano gives you a much deeper understanding of harmony, since you can play the chords and experiment. It also teaches you another clef (bass clef), and gives you lots of opportunities to accompany other people. The sax will allow you to join mainstream music groups such as jazz bands, wind bands and so on. The sax is a cool instrument and it’s easy to carry round of course! Personally I think the piano would help you more academically, whereas the sax might be better for your social life πŸ˜‰

  7. SUNIL

    hey i want to be music composer.. i have learnt guitar.. so which course should be prefeered ? for becoming composer this 8 grade is necessary or not. ?

    i live in india will i have to go abraod ? or is there any university in india which provides this type of education ?
    pls guide me i little confuse

    1. Victoria

      You will need to enquire at the universities in India – I can’t help you there I’m afraid.

  8. Ezekiel Mwololo

    Im a 23 year old Kenyan, I love music, but the problem is, I couldn’t get a chance to do music in school because I was in a public school and its not offered in public schools. Its only in private schools en they are very expensive and I couldn’t afford. I went to a multi media college and I learnt some basic things in music, but majored in video production. I taught my self how to drums, some basic chords on the guitar and some on piano. I thought that was enough but my passion didn’t give me a chance. I so badly want to get to a professional music school.en do a degree in music that I may go back and help those that aren’t able to afford music classes. Can I get a university that can accept me without a grade 8 in playing a musical instrument but with a perfect passion?

    1. Victoria

      Hi Ezekiel,
      I don’t know of any universities that accept students without a high level of practical skill and/or a school qualification in music. However, it is always possible that there are exceptions. I suggest you write a letter or email directly to the university where you want to study and ask them for advice. In any case, it’s not necessary to have a degree in music in order to share your passion for music. Why not set up an informal group and share ideas together. What sort of music do you want to teach? There are franchise opportunities e.g. Kindermusic which train people up to teach music to kids and run a home business that way. Don’t give up hope.

    2. Benjamin

      Hi Ezekiel

      Check out the University of Eastern Africa Baraton in Kenya for an opportunity to study Music, you don’t need the grades there. Good luck

  9. Kris

    Hello! First of all, thank you so much for this article. It has really helped me think about whether I should study music when I get to college or not… I’m fifteen years old and I just started learning how to play the piano about a month ago and I’m asking whether, with my age right now, I might still be able to make it and be accepted in a university to take a major in piano.. Is it too late already with my age? College here in my country starts when I turn 17. Thank you! And oh, are there other courses in music where it’s okay if I’m not really highly-skilled at playing any instruments? You know, just in case I don’t get there in time… It’s because I’ve only focused on singing up until now… Thanks a million πŸ™‚

    1. Victoria

      It is probably too late to become good enough to major in piano in 2 years. Think of the competition for places – lots of kids start before they are ten, how will you out-perform them? But if you’ve been concentrating on singing, why not major in that? There are plenty of music courses where you don’t have to be highly-skilled at an instrument, but you need to know where your focus/interest lies: Music technology, music & business, composition, music therapy. You could use the UCAS search function for ideas http://search.ucas.com/cgi-bin/hsrun/search/search/StateId/ENo2ZNSBwOwJl99AaxWfj6BGTGQ4u-3XIx/HAHTpage/search.HsSearch.submitForm?txtSubject=music&cmbQual=&cmbAttend=&cmbInst=&button1.x=32&button1.y=14

      1. Kris

        Oh, thank you very much for the information and advice, Ms. Victoria.

  10. Taddeo

    Hi, I am a classical guitar player and I don’t really understand the system of the BMus program and I’ll be entirely thankful if you could answer some of these questions as you’ll be guiding me the right way. Besides, this is the closest of the explanations to answering the enquiries I have.

    Firstly, in the BMus course, does everyone play different instrument?
    Secondly, I have looked into a lot of universities and all I read about is orchestral instruments and no-one mentions guitar at all, I’ve e-mailed some universities asking the same questions but none of them have given me the answer I’m looking for. BTW, I’m currently studying for my grade 8 guitar.
    Thidly, none of the universities apart from from the guildhall school of music specify what songs will be required for what instruments for the auditions.The question is, will I able to audition playing classical pieces?

    I truly hope you can erase these doubts in my head. In the meantime a sicerely thank you if you take part of your valuable time to answering my questions and for the effort put into it.

    1. Victoria

      Hi Taddeo,
      To your first question the answer is yes – although there could be more than one student on a particular instrument.
      To your 2nd and 3rd questions, each university has its own entry requirements so I can’t give you a specific answer. Finding the right course means doing a lot of research beforehand! I just looked at the BMus page at Leeds University (because that’s where I studied), and it doesn’t mention particular instruments but the image on the page is of a guitar player. http://music.leeds.ac.uk/ug/bmus-performance/ I expect you would be required to audition by playing classical pieces. When I auditioned for the BMus program I was able to choose my audition pieces, but again, each university can set its own rules. If you don’t get an answer by email, perhaps try phoning them?

  11. Millie

    Hi, I have taken up singing quite late in life (I am 26) and I would like to take it further. I am currently having private lessons and working through the grades, around 7-8 and I am doing this to get the grades in order to apply to university. However the cost is putting me off doing a degree. So… how do I study for a diploma etc? DO I just keep on studying with a teacher privately or will I still need to be on a university course (or some other type of academic course) to do these diplomas? Please help I cant find an answer anywhere else. Thanks!! πŸ™‚

    1. Victoria

      You can do a diploma with a private teacher. More info here http://gb.abrsm.org/en/our-exams/diplomas/

  12. Isobel

    Hi im 13 and apparrently have a very adult singing voice and im desperate to be an opera singer when i grow up what would you suggest the best path for me is? im already doing grade 5 singing grade 3 flute and music gcse, i would love some guidance! thanks soo much


    1. Victoria

      Hi Izzy,
      The path is basically the same whatever your instrument/voice, if you want to be a performer in classical music. GCSE music, A level music, Conservatoire. At the same time, get involved in as much music as you can. Join choirs, start your own ensembles. Make contacts with people in the profession, go to as many concerts as you can manage, never miss an opportunity to perform in public and develop a thick skin so you can deal with criticism effectively. Listen to a wide range of music and constantly seek out things which are new to you. Develop your ear by listening critically – grab a few youtube clips of the same piece sung by different people and work out how they differ and which you like better. Practise, practise, practise! And finally, have a back up plan. Not many people make it as professional musicians, so don’t neglect your other school subjects.

  13. Elle


    I’m applying to university for either a Music BA or BMus course in a couple of months time and was just wondering how long a typical audition would last for? Would it be 1 piece, 2 pieces, 3 etc? Thanks πŸ™‚

    1. Victoria

      Hi Elle,
      I think it very much depends on where you are applying. You could contact the music department of the unis you are interested in, or why not try posting on thestudentroom.com to ask around. My audition lasted about half an hour and I played one piece and had to do some technical exercises, but that was a *long* time ago!

  14. Lem

    I want to know the things and qualifications which I required before I start taking B.mus….
    Thank you!

  15. Johnny Santiago

    Hi, I am interested in majoring in composition, can you give me some advice on this, such as would universities still expect grade 8 performance? what else in the way of qualifications do they expect? would i be able to do this at a university or would i be better off at a conservatoire?

  16. Megan


    Any tips on how to write a personal statement for a music application? I am struggling to find a suitable intro, and I am unsure as to whether to make it mostly about me and my experience, or more about the course and why it interests me. As well as that, I don’t know how to write why it interests me?! help


  17. Cameron

    I want to be a peripatetic music teacher, at the moment i am in my last year of high school and will be studying Music at AS and A level in sixth form. Are there other subjects I need to take to be able to study Music at University?

    1. Victoria

      Hi Cameron! You need to look at the entry requirements for the specific course that you want to apply for, but usually only A level music is required plus a high grade on an instrument (usually grade 8, but it will depend on the university). Getting on to a music degree is very competitive – even more so these days as more and more students are getting high grades in their school exams. So you need to make sure you stand out from the crowd by showing lots of extra-curricular musical activities – taking part in various ensembles, performing in public, composing – whatever interests you. You might find this page useful http://www.prospects.ac.uk/private_music_teacher_entry_requirements.htm

  18. Sandra

    Hi. I’m going to uni next year and have started researching, I’m wondering if I take bachelor of music, do I get to only choose to major in one instrument as in piano, or would I be able to major in both piano and voice? I took some vocal lessons but didnt take any exams, would it be possible to study BM majoring in voice? I’m also came across something which I’m confused, what’s the difference between bachelor of music and bachelor of performing arts majoring in contemp music? Thanks alot for your blog entry and really hope you can help with my questions.

    1. Victoria

      Hi Sandra,
      You need to look at the details for each university you are interested in applying to – they will all have their own rules about things like how many instruments you can major in. If their website doesn’t help, email the music department with your questions. I am sure they will be happy to help. A Bachelor of music degree normally focuses on performance and related topics. You would cover music from all eras. A Bachelor of performing arts majoring in contemporary music would put the emphasis on modern music. You need to compare the syllabuses for each degree though, because they will vary considerably from one uni to the next.

  19. Cameron

    Hi, I am hoping to apply to University for studying music. I was a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to music but by the time it comes to go to Uni I hope to be Grade 8 Voice, Grade 7 working on Grade 8 Violin, Grade 8 Music Theory and Grade 6 Piano, I also am doing very well in GCSE Music. So I’m wondering how am I looking for a Uni application as I really want to go on to do music but am ot sure whether I am qualified enough. I hope to specialise in Composition and maybe eventually go on to being a Music Teacher in Secondary Schools.

    1. Victoria

      Hello Cameron
      It sounds to me as though you will be qualified enough, (and you don’t sound like a particularly late bloomer!) but it will of course depend on your A level grades. Your uni application is not only about grades and exams – to shine above the other applicants you need to convey your enthusiasm by including details of your musical activities and interests as well. Candidates applying for a performance degree would probably need to be somewhat beyond grade 8 in order to compete with other applicants, but for a normal undergraduate degree your grades sound fine. Good luck!

  20. Lauren

    I really need an advice, I have been going to music school for long time learning to play the double bass and its been three years now that I didn’t play.. however I miss playing double bass every day and it led me to thinking maybe I should take gap year to start learning again and prepare for university. What would you do being 21 years old with huge passion for bass but with lack of self confidence to do music degree?

    1. Victoria

      So you’ve finished music school and haven’t played for 3 years, and don’t have much confidence? In all honesty, I would forget about going to university and just pick up your instrument again and play for pleasure. It will take some time to get back to the level you were at when you finished school, and to enter university you will competing with students fresh out of school and at their peak. Not to mention that a 3-year break from playing and (I assume) not taking part in any music performance activities is not going to make you stand ahead of the other candidates – quite the opposite. Start playing for pleasure, and then re-assess your situation in year or so’s time. When you have got back into playing you will be better placed to decide whether applying for a degree is the right route for you.

  21. Maria

    hi, i need some info; i am 18, Portugal, already finished high school and i want to study music at university; the problem i think i have is that i only have 6th grade in music (piano, theory and vocal); is it enough? can you help me in this situation? thank you! ;)))

    1. Victoria

      Hi Maria,
      I can’t help you with information about universities in Portugal I’m afraid! In the UK, grade 6 would not be high enough for many universities, but there are probably some that would accept you, if you wanted to focus on something other than performance. You can check the entry requirements for UK universities here http://search.ucas.com/.

  22. Mime

    I really appreciate this article! I’m 16, I have two years of school left. I’m a flutist, currently doing a Grade 7 exam, and I plan to do the diploma one roughly when I finish school. I want to be an orchestral flute player, but I’m worried about how competitive that would be–to actually get into a professional orchestra. My other option is to teach high school music. Simply put, I don’t know which to study at uni–performance or education. Do you think a Bmus/BEd double major would be enough to get me into an orchestra (so I can have a back-up plan if I don’t make it)? I work very hard and know how to put the effort into practice. Is it better to have a back up plan or lose inhibitions and go for gold, if you catch my drift? Thank you!

    1. Victoria

      Hi Mime! Firstly, about how competitive it would be to be a professional flutist – very. There are very few positions available, orchestras are losing funding all the time, people tend to hold on to their positions for many years, so openings are few. It is certainly not impossible however. Teaching high school music will be a safer job choice, although the government seems intent to cut back on music funding for schools too, so even that job isn’t a safe as say a maths teaching job! But, although becoming a professional flute player may be difficult, that should not put you off doing a performance degree, if you are good enough to get a place. Very many teachers start by studying performance, and then take on pupils to earn cash, then find that is their vocation. The opposite scenario, where a teacher “accidentally” becomes a performer is rare to non-existent. So doing performance can lead to a career in teaching, but it’s unlikely to happen the other way round. Many teachers do performance or a general music degree first, then specialise in music with a PGCE. Another thing to consider is that a performance degree will give you some incredible transferable skills, such as self-discipline, confidence and attention to detail. To help you in your decision, I would suggest doing some research about the realities of being an orchestral player, to see whether it really is what you want to do. You might be able to get some real advice if you can do some sleuthing and find the email address of a pro flute player somewhere. If, after that, your heart is set on it, then I would say go for it. If you don’t get a place, you will end up on a different journey, but you will have nothing to regret. The last thing you want is to spend the rest of your life thinking what if I’d done that….. Think smart – go for gold AND have a backup plan. There is no reason why you can’t have your cake and eat it! Good luck!

      1. Mime

        Thank you so much! I didn’t actually realise PGCE was an option. Your reply was hugely helpful, and I really appreciate it.

  23. Danilo Ward

    Hi there,

    I am 17 years old and in my final year of schooling and music is my passion and hobby. I am looking at universities in the UK as I want to study music. However, apart from performances I did here and there (I record some music, I sang for a film, I play several instruments..), I never took a grade exam, I do this mostly as a hobby. Now that I researched into music courses i’m chocked at what level you need to get in! I don’t know what to do, should I study something else from music and have music as a hobby (and maybe later with more time I can make it my job), or would I have a chance to get into a university without any formal qualifications? I haven’t really learnt any theory either. What I wanted to study is Sound engineering or the more scientific side to music, and not as much the performance. So are there any courses that take in students with a low level of basis in music?

    1. Victoria

      Hi Danilo,
      Each university has its own entry requirements. If you don’t have any formal qualifications in a musical instrument, I expect it will be difficult to compete for a place against those who do – I can’t comment on whether your level is high enough, of course. For a sound engineering degree however, I think most universities would not require you to have taken practical music exams. You need to do a lot of research. The main website for searching info on UK universities is http://search.ucas.com/. Click on a course provider and then check their individual entry requirements. There is a box on the right hand side of the screen which will detail any course specific qualifications such as music exams, if any exist. I just checked a couple of courses and they did not require music exams. However if you search for a BA Music for example, most likely you will see a box saying you need grade VIII etc. Good luck!

  24. Alric

    Hey there ! I’m seventeen, from india and am about to finish school. I began listening to western classical music just 2 years back and since then I really badly wanted to become a composer . So I started playing the piano when I was just 15 . I’ve been practicing very hard daily and have now finished my grade 4 trinity (although I can play grade 6 level ) so is there any chance that I could join composition this year ?do they require me to be very talented in performing or is it okay if I just have the required theory knowledge ? I have taken commerce ,computer,economics,accounts course at my school as there’s no music course available at any school in India so would I require school marks or is not necessary . Is there any music college that is not very expensive like around $2000 per year ?cause my parents can’t afford much . I really am beginning to panic so pls do tell me .

    1. Victoria

      Hi Alric, I’m afraid I don’t know anything about the entry requirements or costs in India. I would suggest you ask a local music teacher, or phone the university entry office and ask them for some advice.

  25. Ella

    Hi there πŸ™‚ I am looking to go back to university as I would like to teach music in secondary education. I would be a mature student (31). I am a talented musician on multiple instruments, but have no A levels, just an A at GCSE and no grades in any instrument at all… whatsoever. I have always relied heavily on my ear and found I have never needed them…. until now that is! I would ideally like to study a music course specialising in composition, could you tell me what would be the best route? Many thanks in advance for your help πŸ™‚ Ella

    1. Victoria

      Hi Ella!
      I can’t necessarily give you the “best route” – I can only give you my personal opinion. If you apply to do a BA course you will be in competition for a place against school leavers with A level music and grades on their instruments. I know that many universities are more flexible on entry requirements for mature students, so you would have to prove in your application that what you have achieved musically is at least equal to having an A level and grades – perhaps you have done some private teaching work, performed in public or had something published, for example. However, I think if you want to go into education yourself the best route would be to sit A level music at an adult education centre. If you’ve never studied at that level, you might not be aware of what it is you would end up teaching! I would also look at taking a graded exam in your best instrument at the highest level you can manage – I think that when it comes to comparing the applications of hundreds of students it will only make your application smoother to deal with if you are more easy to “pigeon-hole” as being at a certain level. I would recommend going the ABRSM route and taking grade 5 theory too. These are the exams that your future students will be taking, so it’s essential to know what’s involved in them. Good luck!

  26. Denise

    I want to learn how to sing better and play the piano n a guitar I live in zambia but at the moment. am in congo I want to study in the us so which university is better for me please help

  27. Bertram

    Hi there:)

    I’m 24, I have been playing piano since I’m 13, I want to become a secondary school music teacher just like Ella in the previous post. In my family no one has studied music professionally and no one is a musician. I discovered all the music I listen to alone or by friends.
    I don’t know if I count as a more mature applicant. I already have a degree in business and work experience in it as well.
    I would like to specialize in teaching Secondary Music and Business on a PGCE course in the UK.

    I’m from Hungary have done 7 years of classical piano, studied music theory and I have my final exams about them. I have a really eclectic and versatile experience in music. I have been playing keys with amateur/advanced rock, metal, funk bands but had only 2 live band concerts and many solo concerts, 2 with my own compositions. Since I’m 17 I’m listening to prog rock, prog metal, jazz, jazz fusion as well and playing with bands on and off (but the bands were not so successful)
    When I was 16 I started learning the blues and rock n roll, I was playing metal, rock and classical back then. When I was 22 I started composing electronic music (house, dubstep, glitch, ambient, dub and kind of alternative stuff) but I’m kind of beginner in them. I have composed piano pieces that could be considered film music.
    In the past 4 months I started learning jazz because that’s what I always wanted to learn and I finally managed to analyze the steps I need to take to learn and develop my jazz language. I jammed with some other pianists on 12 bar blues and some standards, but my improv language is really not elaborate. I know a lot of concepts, but they are yet to be mastered, with phrasing and timing, and I have to transcribe or learn some solo lines by ear and add them to my language. I’m mostly good at the swing feel, and I know quite a bit of theory for improv concepts, but I have a hard time at having enough patience to learn full pieces, I always learned parts that I liked by ear, by tutorial videos or by midi, or short sheet music.
    Basically I’m okay with any type of BA (Mus) course be it Electronic, Classical, Jazz, Popular Music. I would like to get into Jazz the most, but I just want to teach because I have a passion for teaching and I already taught guitar as camp counselor, and many people ask me to teach piano basics all the time when they hear me play. I always learned by ear, even at classical school I memorized my piano pieces, sometimes with more sometimes with less success, which made my teachers frustrated cause I just wouldn’t read the sheet music in front of me (I already memorized them at home before the lesson most of the times). My piano teacher knew that my family couldn’t afford buying a piano ever, so I always saved my money for synthesizers, but at the end of my studies when she heard me playing other genres and JS Bach stuff she said that I should apply for Conservatoire. And that was my plan, but my mom said I should make a living from something more secure so I went and graduated from a great Business school, and now I’m here, I want to teach music (and Business because I like it too).
    My aural skills are not that good. I don’t have perfect pitch ability, but I can guess any interval or pitch or rhythm (mostly excluding crazy odd time signatures) after the 3rd try with the help of an instrument. I’m kind of slow at sight reading, and I never notated my compositions, I always recorded them with the help of midi editors, and edited them afterwards.

    So my question would be at which course do I have the most chance to get in if now I have 1,5 months to send my recordings for the auditions? Should I make an effort and spend my dayoffs with improving myself on aural, sight reading and improv skills? Or is there a program that would fit my current skills easier and still would make me able to teach at Secondary level afterwards? I don’t want to give up on my dream.

    Thank you,

    1. Victoria

      Hi there!
      I don’t personally know all the details of all the possible university courses available – there are literally hundreds of different options. If I were you I would start by narrowing down the possibilities – where (geographically) do you want to study, how long for, and what sort of qualification do you want. After doing a degree in music you can do a PGCE to allow you to teach in secondary school. If you like jazz the most, then I would look for a course which suits that interest. You might find it harder to compete with other candidates on classical course, if you don’t read music well and you don’t have any qualifications in music already (e.g. GCSE, A level, ABRSM/Trinity graded exam certificates). I can’t say which course you will get into the easiest – do some research of courses that interest you and then compare their entry requirements against your experience and qualifications. Also take a look at the music scene at the university – what can you get involved in when you are there. Good luck!

  28. vuyisile

    hey Ms Victoria
    I’m vuyisile I’m 23 and I’ll be in Germany next year and I want to study music at a university.I play guitar(rock,pop,classical )but I have no certificats like the grades and stuff.Will I be able to get accepted by a university without certificats because I learnt guitar through YouTube and my sightreading is bad because I’ve had to rely on tabs.I can play heavy metal to soft music like fur elise and a lot more classics by Beethoven and mozart Iccan play them without reading I know them by head. I plain play percussive fingerstyle techiniques on acoustic guitar and I have videos a channel on YouTube I’ve been playing for three years. so are my chances of getting into a music university high or nothing at all or do I first have to have to get my grade eight. if I’m to start studying the grades stuff how long will it take me to reach grade eight?will a year be enough or I’ll need more? thanks please reply πŸ˜€

    1. Victoria

      Hi Vuyisile,
      Each university has its own entrance criteria. You didn’t mention where you want to study – wherever it is, take a look at their specific requirements and call them if the details you need are not on the website. If you are studying a traditional music degree, you will normally be expected to be musically literate – that is, you can read notation. I can’t say what your chances are or how long it will take you to get to grade 8, as a) I have no idea how good you are at the moment and b) everybody progresses at different speeds. My advice would be to first research exactly which degree you want to do, find out what the entry requirements are, then book a lesson with a local teacher who can assess your playing and give you further advice. Good luck!

  29. Barjam

    PLEASE help me πŸ™ . Iam a 18 years old boy from Albania (a cuntry in europe) and my whole life I try to follow my dream. But its so hard here. I wanna be a singer and here we dont really have a academy or good university for and music industry here is so bad. I was in an audition last year for a music show and I was great, and the juges telled me that I was the bes they ever heard. You would think I was happy when I heard em but its not, I feeled so bad cus I really love music and I cant sing. I didnt go next audition cuz my parents didnt let me to. Iam in a private hight school and my parents pay a lot for it. Iam really good at school, and my parents think I should go for doctor my teachers too. But I cant imagine myself a doctor. I wanna be a singer to inspire the whole world I wana sing its the oly way I talk to people. Iam so tired of living here. I wanna follow my dream, I wanna be a singer cuz I think I DESERV IT. I really dont know what to do cus my parents dont even support me for this. well this is my ugly history. I want from you to tell me what should I do? I have some money i my personal bank and Im thinking to come in Uk to study for music. Can you please tell me were can I study to be a vocal singer? I mean what university? How much university cost? How much accommodation cost? And how much years should I study to named proffesional and able to start my carrer? Please I need your help. Answer please

    1. Victoria

      Hello Barjam,
      You have quite a complex problem here. You need resolve things with your family, you live in a country with a difficult political and economic climate, and you want to add to this by moving to a different country to study. I don’t think your goals are unachievable, but they will certainly be challenging. It might help to write a list of specific problems you need to overcome, or questions that you need answers to, in order to make your possible paths clearer.

      I can’t advise you about which university you should apply to. There are many, many options, and you will need to spend time researching each one – look at the entry requirements, what’s on the syllabus, and also find out about the area and other student facilities.

      Regarding costs of study in the UK – it’s not cheap. This page http://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/student-finance/how-much-does-it-cost-study-uk has more information on that, but they suggest around Β£24,000 a year will be needed.

      Perhaps you don’t really need to go to university at all though? If you are already a great singer and you motivation is to get out there and sing for people, may be that’s what you need to do. University is an academic environment, where you’ll also be expected to attend lectures, write analytical essays and so on. There are plenty of rich/famous singers out there that never studied music formally.

      As always, I would highly recommend getting some advice from someone who can actually assess your performance.

      Best wishes!

  30. Katie Little

    Hi, I’m 15 and will be taking grade 7 trumpet in a few months time. I have been playing for just over two years and have taken all exams with trinity guildhall (from grade 5), will this impact my changes of getting into somewhere like the RAM in London? I have done grade 5 abrsm theory and grade 1 saxophone with abrsm and intend to continue my sax grades with them (probably from grade 5) but as trumpet is my principal instrument, and abrsm is seen as more sophisticated, what do you advise I do? I’ve been told that trinity is a bit of a cop out but it wasn’t my choice, my teacher enters me for the exams, but I do much prefer trinity as I hate having to sing for the aural exams. I was just wondering whether the music academies and schools would rather I had grade 8 with abrsm?

    1. Victoria

      Hi Katie,
      Taking practical exams with Trinity will not adversely affect your application to study music. Some people think the ABRSM is more sophisticated it’s true, but that doesn’t make it a correct assumption. The exam boards differ in their requirements, but the overall standard is considered to be the same. Having said that, I think you will need to overcome your dislike of singing if possible – you don’t need to be a great singer, but singing helps with many aspects of music and you will probably have to sing at some point during your studies! You should choose the exam board which helps you to improve the most – not one which lets you cut corners – it won’t help in the long run.

      Regarding applying to places like the RCM – they will be looking for a standard much higher than grade 8 in any case. You will have to audition for your place, and you will be expected to play sufficiently difficult music to show off your skills. They may also ask you to sing in the audition (I don’t know for sure though!) Wherever you apply, having a graded certificate is really the minimum you need for your CV. To compete against the other candidates you need to show that you are involved in music making as a large part of your life, and for university programmes you need a good academic standard too of course.

  31. Leroy

    Hi Victoria,

    I would like to ask you a few questions. Firstly, my university offers a BA in music where you do not need to play an instrument as you can collect enough papers in other fields like Music Technology and Electronic Music Production. Sadly it is madatory to have to complete the Materials of Music papers for which they have an intro paper that leads into 100 level higher levels. My question for you is assumiing most university’s have a similar workload and level in the Materials of Music papers how hard is it for someone like me to study all the theory?? Like I mentioned there is an intro course but I am worried my brain will spend the semesters (doing 100 and 200 level) frying under the wait of hours and hours of symbols and relationships that are not natural to my previous experience. What are your thoughts, is it possible to get by with 10 hours a week toward the theory papers for a novice as I feel that anymore would be too much especially as my interests lie in other areas of music like electronic production?? Look forward to hearing from you soon. Leroy

    1. Victoria

      Hi Leroy!
      I’m afraid I have no answer to your question. Even if I knew your current ability level and what was precisely in the Materials of Music course (I don’t), I still couldn’t tell you how many hours you would need to study. I can tell you that I have taught children who are aged about 15 how to pass grade 5 music theory with a very high score from scratch, in about 6-8 weeks, and I can tell you that I know of other children who have studied for months or years and still not passed (not with me as their teacher though!) It all depends on whether you learn quickly, whether you study efficiently, whether you have access to a good teacher or not, and what your innate abilities are. In your position, I would try to speak to someone based at the university you are interested in applying to, and ask for their opinion. Another possibility is posting the question on a student forum board like thestudentroom.co.uk – you might be able to find someone who has actually done the course, who can give you some concrete information. Good luck!

  32. Chloe

    hi, just wanted to ask because I am in Grade 7 for Piano Practical ABRSM. Is it possible for me to still go in and to study Music in University ?

    1. Victoria

      Hi Chloe!
      Each university has its own requirements – some require grade 8 as a minimum, but others don’t. You will need to look carefully through the entry requirements on the website of the universities you are interested in. For example, if you want to do a straight music degree (has the code W300 in most universities), Manchester Uni asks for grade 8, Liverpool Uni requires grade 7, but if you have grade 8 the A level requirements are less (BBB instead of ABB), Oxford Brookes Uni requires Grade 7…. and so on. Whatever the minimum entry requirements, you will be competing for a place against other students, so aim to get your qualifications as good as you can before you apply.

  33. Wilson

    How about having grade 8 in music theory, and grade 6 in piano, will that be ok for a university admission?


    1. Victoria

      Hi Wilson,
      All universities have their own entry requirements – you will need to check with each university you are considering applying to. Entry requirements also vary from course to course – you need to do some research. If you want to major in performance, it’s unlikely that grade 6 will be enough, but you never know!

  34. Emma K

    Would anyone know if a BMus theory component is equivalent to ABRSM Grade 8 Theory? Perhaps it is lower. I completed my BMus and GradDipTch in New Zealand in 2013, and am now teaching. I have students that wish to enter grades 6-8 theory, but am unsure if I am able to enter them under my ABRSM G5 theory. Thanks!

    1. Victoria

      Hi Emma,
      I can’t say whether they are equivalent as it will depend on what you studied in the BMus component, but in any case it does not matter for what you want to do. There are no required qualifications for entering exam students at any level – anybody over the age of 18 can make an exam entry (e.g. a parent can do it for their child even if they don’t read music!) Whether you have covered the material or not in your degree is another question, which I can’t answer, but if you get some past papers and model answers to look through, you should be able to answer that yourself! Good luck.

  35. Locke

    Hi there. Good job on explanation πŸ™‚ I would like to ask some questions. Before I do I would like to tell you my story briefly.
    I am 21 years old and started piano last year and with my piano teacher I studied LCM (London College of Music) grade 5 in two to three months and I passed the exam. I was going to take the theory of grade 5 as well but didn’t have time for that because I was busy with grade 5 performance already.
    I love playing piano and now that I’ll be leaving to start a university again in Europe or U.S, I need any advice I can get. According to your well explanation, I should choose a uni. of Music instead the Conservatoire. Is it possible for me to start in a university of music with my current level of grade 5? I would be eager to learn all about music. I am very passionate about it and very quick learner.
    Before of my this thought, I thought maybe I would go and study international business and hire a very good teacher to learn play piano but the problem with this I hate to work and try my best on two different subjects. I must give myself (concentrate) on music so everyday I can practice those notes and everything about music in my head.

    Please help me what are my options? The money isn’t problem for me. I just… would love to follow what I love so I can be in serenity in future.

    Kind regards.

    1. Victoria

      Hi there!
      Firstly, congratulations on getting so far in such a short period of time! Studying music at university for an ordinary BA will normally require at least grade 7 standard on an instrument. However, each university sets its own requirements, and you may find some that accept grade 5 if you research thoroughly. You might also want to look at other degrees which are not “BA Mus” but still music based – e.g. there is a degree in opera on offer from Rose Bruford college, which (I think) doesn’t have any practical requirements.

  36. Lim

    Can i enter music college or universiti although i dont know how to play all the music intrusment

    1. Victoria

      You don’t need to know how to play “all” musical instruments, but you will normally be expected to play something at a high standard, or be a singer.

  37. Fahmi Dhel

    Hi there Victoria.. Im Fahmi from Dubai,. My daughter is playing drums grade 5 and she is taking GCSE music and needs to improve on her theory. It is however, difficult to find anyone who can teach GSCE music theory but there are classes offered for ABRSM.

    Do you think this ABRSM class can help her in her GCSE music as well? Will the syllabus be similar, almost similar or totally different?

    Appreciate you thoughts and ideas on this.


  38. Suz

    Hello Victoria …Quick question ..My son is. Currently grade 5 in classify jazz and grade 5 in jazz.
    He is currently in year 10 studying GCSE music ….
    Just wondering what will his options be …If he gets an grade c or grade b in his GCSE?

    1. Victoria

      Hi Suzanne – I’m not sure exactly what you are asking – are you asking about what he can study for A level? A pass at GCSE would mean that he should be able to do A level music, but it will depend what options are available at your school/college.

  39. Sara

    Hello!if im a selftaught ,and have been playing music for many years ,byt i dont know how to read music sheets ,would they accept me in the university?
    Do they care about school grades ,or no?

    Thank you!

    1. Victoria

      Hi Sara,
      University study entails study at the highest level. If you want to study music, it will be expected that you are proficient at reading written music. Yes, they do care about school grades. Competition for places is high in most universities, and they will look at your previous academic performance as well as extra-curricular musical activities. Good luck!

  40. Victoria

    Hi Jubin
    Sorry I have never heard of an SCL certificate.
    I am not sure whether you are asking about how much time, or how much money, is needed for grade 8. You can find lots of information on the ABRSM website: http://www.abrsm.org including fees. It takes many years to progress to grade 8 standard. Best wishes!

    1. Taneika

      I’m moving from Australia to Europe soon and I wish to pursue classical music. I’m only in yr 10 but I was wondering is it difficult to do this.

      1. Victoria

        Hi Taneika,
        Europe comprises many countries, all of which have their different systems for education, employment and hobby music making. I’m not sure what you mean precisely by “pursue”, but in most countries there will be an opportunity to study an instrument, for example. The exam boards of the ABRSM and Trinity (similar to AMEB in Australia) work across Europe. Best wishes!

  41. William

    Hi.I am a 17 years old Hong Kong student.I would like to study music in university.But I want to be a music composer which means I create songs for people.But I am confused about their education are only focus on one type of music(I mean I would like to compose music like Japanese anime soundtrack or Korean drama Ost and movie soundtrack or maybe pop music)Is it impossible to compose all type of music?and btw I am only have a grade 8 violin and as a self learner in piano.Do I need to have theory lesson or piano lesson to help me with the composing before I go to the university?I am not interested in performing classical music anymore but creating music.So I should major in violin minor at composing or another way?

    1. Victoria

      Hi William,
      I can’t comment about studying music in Hong Kong – I would suggest you ask a local teacher so as to get the best advice possible for you. Good luck!

  42. Joshua Alwin

    So I’m thinking of studying at point blank at London
    So Basically I Just quit keyboard at grade 2 because it was so boring but now (I’m 17 Years old) and I’ve been a
    fl studio producer for about 14 months probably and I Just forgot piano completely..But I’d learn with all my heart again if i had to have it for music production,So I’m just thinking whether it is too late for me to learn now and go for the college the next year..(I’m learning basic music theories side by side as well) So considering the above mention
    Would It be an asset for myself if I join the edm production school without any instrument knowledge but just with
    the experience of working On a DAW.

    Please Reply ASAP.
    Thanks πŸ™‚

    1. Victoria

      Hi Joshua,
      Sorry my knowledge is of the classical route and I don’t have any experience/advice re studying music production or using DAWs. But basically the more background knowledge you have in any subject can only help you become more successful. Good luck!

  43. Christina Zhou

    Hello admin! I am a high school student currently on level 5 for cello studies, but it’s been a few months since I stopped my lessons because of financial problems in my family. I always wanted to study major/minor in music in college, but right now I’m seriously rethinking my career paths. But I really have a passion for music, so I wasn’t sure and wanted to ask if I could apply to study music at a university or conservatory maybe a few years after I get my degree in something else? I could always go back to study it once I’ve reached that level of professionalism right? What do you recommend? Lastly, if I get a degree in music performance, could I still teach as a private tutor? It doesn’t have to be music education right? I’m really confused on this point. Am I only limited to being a performer if I chose music performance, or can I only teach if I chose Music Education? Thank you so much!

    1. Victoria

      Hi Christina,
      There is often an opportunity to study as a mature student if the time is not right for you now – but I can’t offer advice on the best choice for you at the moment, as that is very personal to you. I’m guessing you are not in the UK. While it’s common for students to go back to university later in life here, the same may not be true in other countries, so you would need to ask around locally. In many places you can work as a private music tutor without any formal qualifications – you will need to check the legislation in the country where you live. In the UK for example, it is fine and very common for music teachers not to have a degree. Here, we do not have restrictions for private music teachers, but if you wanted to teach in a school you would need a teaching degree or equivalent qualification. Performers don’t necessarily need qualifications – only amazing talent.

  44. Caroline

    I am 14 years old and have grade 8 harp aswell as grade 5 piano.
    Im taking music gcse and plan on taking an a level. Im not sure whether to go on to study music but I do want to get a diploma and hopefully when I’m older I can get a licenciate or even fellowship if I try hard. Music is my ultimate passion and I would love to progress further in it however I would like to know just how competitive it is for a harpist to be in an orchestra. I Make a decisive choice on what I want to do next year and would really appreciate any advice on the competition for harpists before I make that choice.

    Many thanks,

    1. Victoria

      Hi Caroline,
      That’s quite a difficult question! I’m not a harp player and it is rather a specialist instrument, so I would not like to guess about how competitive it is for orchestra places. The best person to ask would be your harp teacher, and he/she is likely to know lots of other professionals who you may be able to contact for advice. Congratulations on reaching grade 8 already and best of luck!

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