RNCM Graduate School: Modules Available

Below is an overview of modules currently available to students following the MMus, MPerf and PGDip AS programmes.

Principal Study

Principal Study tuition is core to all programmes and consists of intensive one-to-one tuition, masterclasses, group classes, lectures and workshops.


This module, which is not available to Principal Study Accompanists, gives students regular performance opportunities and feedback from tutorial staff and from peers. A wide range of accompanied repertoire may be covered, including duo sonatas, song, and orchestral reductions of concertos, opera etc., and the various techniques required for working with different duo partners and in various genres are explored. Assessment is by practical test.


This module is open to all students upon successful application. Individual and group tuition from a member of the composition staff grounds students in a thorough understanding of the technical skills required to arrange works for designated ensembles. Where available, students have the opportunity to have work performed and recorded by in-house ensembles. Assessment is by portfolio supported by a written commentary.

Aural Analysis and Critique

The Aural Analysis and Critique module focuses on developing the ability to construct and convey spontaneous analysis without the aid of a score (deep listening), and to verbalize and defend this analysis in discussion with peers. Assessment is by a viva voce.

Composition Elective 

This module is open to all except Principal Study Composers. Application is by submission of previous work to the Head of School of Composition.

Students receive individual and group tuition from a member of the composition staff, through which they attain thorough knowledge of the technical, interpretative and communicative skills required for composition at a professional level. Assessment is by a portfolio.


Focusing on the practical skills required to conduct clearly and effectively, this course will be useful both for those considering full-time conducting study in the future and those who envisage doing some conducting as part of a varied career. Assessment is by a combination of self-evaluation exercise, practical portfolio and a final performance in class.

Contemporary Songwriting

This module focuses on providing the students with the technical and methodological resources to create a permanently- developing songwriting and composition tool kit. The module aims to broaden the student’s current musicianship through a range of techniques and strategies which incorporate tools both familiar and unorthodox. Historical analysis of past approaches will be proposed, not as an objective, but as a tool with which students construct their individual creative methodology. Assessment is by portfolio and written commentary.

Dalcroze in Context (research module choice)

Movement is intimately related to music perception, learning and performance. This module explores these ideas within the field of Dalcroze studies, connecting them to music education, music therapy and music psychology, amongst other fields. Students will engage with a wide range of concepts, methods and texts, and carry out a student-led research project into an aspect of Dalcroze practice, theory or history. Those wishing to take Dalcroze in Context are strongly encouraged to take it in conjunction with Dalcroze Eurhythmics and Dynamic Rehearsal, as it has been designed as a complementary module to deepen and contextualise the practical experience of Dalcroze. Assessment is by written work.

Dalcroze Eurhythmics and Dynamic Rehearsal

Music is experienced and expressed in and through the body. Movement is the key to improving musical perception, performance and teaching on this unique, practical course that offers technical, expressive and creative work and opportunities to work on repertoire. Assessment is through practical exercises and a written portfolio.

Dissertation - Major 60-credit/Minor-30 credit (research module choice)

Students undertake original research under the supervision of specialist staff in four possible areas: artistic research, musicology, music psychology, music education, allowing them to reflect on their musical practice, whether as composer or performer. Assessment is by dissertation of 5,000 words (minor) or 10,000 words (major).

Electronic Experimental Ensemble

The Electric Experimental Ensemble will combine pop-trained instrumentalists with classically trained musicians in the interpretative and rehearsal particularities of 21st Century chamber music performance. The ensemble will operate as a collaborative workshop curated and moderated by the tutor but fuelled by the students’ performative interests and artistic concerns. Several models including the Wandelweiser group, the Japanese noise scene, the British and American post free improvisation, and the new European Avant-garde will be addressed to unravel the instrumental, practical and philosophical developments their artists have brought forward. Assessment is via group performance and individual viva voce.

The Freelance Musician

The Freelance Musician module builds on the necessary entrepreneurial skills for the modern musician’s portfolio career. A series of workshops and lectures will introduce a variety of relevant topics, from musicianship and programming to marketing, recording and business planning. Both solo performers and groups are encouraged to consider this module, and there is also scope for students interested in building projects developing outreach skills. Assessment is via video submission of project and viva voce.

Musicianship for Instrumentalists

Musicianship for Instrumentalists (Singers and Composers can take this module with the approval of the co-ordinator, Dr Simon Parkin) provides an opportunity to perfect your aural skills (including rhythm) and your skills in improvisation. We will explore improvisation in a range of styles (including non-classical and world music), culminating in a practical test and written work consisting of improvised and/or transcribed items. Assessment is via a performance and written rationale.

Musicianship for Vocalists: Consort Singing

This module gives postgraduates the opportunity to refine their skills in consort singing. Consorts will receive tuition in a range of styles in consultation with teaching staff, ranging from early polyphony to modern repertoires. Assessment is by a short recital based on prepared repertoire and quick-study. Students having already formed their own consorts are particularly encouraged to apply, although individuals may also enrol. Assessment is via a group performance.

Practical Pedagogy (core for MPerf)

This Option equips students with the practical skills necessary to teach musicians of varied experience, including effective musical observation, reflection, and communication. It is run in partnership with the local education service, which will aid in providing placement opportunities. Assessment is by portfolio, including video documentation of teaching, and viva voce.

Professional Audition

This module offers advanced training in the specialised skills essential to auditioning for directed ensembles at a professional level, including in-depth study of relevant repertoire and advanced reading skills. It addresses the psychological and technical challenges of delivering both set and unseen repertoire under the conditions of an audition. The module will develop expectations of style, execution and interpretation, and an ability to adapt and respond to the possible prompts of an audition panel. Assessment is by portfolio and viva voce.

Professional Placement

This Option allows successful applicants to undertake a period of mentored work experience either in one of the RNCM’s orchestral Professional Experience Schemes or in a range of Arts Administration, Music and Health or Recording contexts. Placements can also be negotiated on an individual basis. The RNCM has developed placement opportunities with the Hallé, BBC Philharmonic, Manchester Camerata and with its own Performance and Programming department and Library. Assessment is by portfolio.

Recording Project (MPerf only)

This provides intensive practical knowledge of the recording industry and the recording session environment. You will collaborate with professional producers to make a demonstration recording showcasing your work. Teaching is delivered through lectures, masterclasses, team teaching and one-to-one tutorials.

Repertoire Project (research module choice)

This module complements your final recital/portfolio plans and offers the opportunity to write a professional quality programme note aimed at general audiences, and to research your own principal study choices through reflecting on relevant scholarship. Assessment is by written work.

Research Lecture Recital (research module choice)

This module offers an in-depth exploration of the necessary skills for delivering an original lecture recital. Students are encouraged to pursue topics relevant to them as performers and composers, with practical emphasis on a wide range of delivery styles, supporting materials and techniques of public speaking. Assessment is by 30-minute lecture recital and annotated bibliography (1,000 words).

Research Methods in Artistic Research, Music Education, Music Psychology or Musicology (research module choice)

The four strands of this module prepare students for research-level study through introducing students to the principal concepts in each discipline. Artistic Research encompasses current topics in practice-led research for performers and composers and would suit students considering doctoral level study in either discipline. Music Psychology is designed to prepare students to undertake original, empirical research projects investigating some aspect of listening to or making music that involve the participation of other people. Students can also opt to explore historical and theoretical research within Music Education. Through engaging with archival research methods and contemporary debates in history, students will have the opportunity to propose investigations into the people, practices and ideas that have influenced the development of music education. The Musicology strand will cover a wide range of topics relevant to the discipline. Additionally, there will be cohort lectures for all disciplines and opportunities to meet with current PhD students and visiting researchers. Assessment is by written work, including two PhD proposals.

PRiSM MMus Pathway

This named MMus specialism builds upon the ongoing research of PRiSM, the RNCM’s Centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music.

This elective will explore the interaction between music and computation, from the origin of musical intervals to the dawn of artificial intelligence, via sound synthesis, computer-assisted compositional techniques and the use of probability in the compositional process.

At each stage of this journey, students will engage with writing their own code to creatively explore musical and technological ideas, with an emphasis on the use of software techniques to communicate musical information between a variety of different software packages.

Students will also be introduced to the basic principles and practices of physical computing, i.e. the use & design of physical interfaces to interact with computer software and computer-vision.

Small Ensemble Performance

(Chamber Music/Small Jazz Ensemble/Historical Performance Ensemble)

This module provides students with a detailed insight into the wide range of skills, repertoire requirements and knowledge that are essential to mastering small ensemble performance at a professional level. It focuses primarily upon ensemble coaching, complemented by focused classes and workshops and intensive private study. Assessment is through performance and a written rationale.