Bachelor of Music (Hons) Popular Music

The BMus (Hons) Popular Music provides intensive training for instrumentalists and singers who wish to establish careers as freelance musicians, bands and artists in the popular music industry.

Young Monarch

Unistats data

Principal Study available in:

Piano / Keyboard
Bass Guitar
Drum Kit


The curriculum seeks to develop your musical identity through creative composition, production and performance-based modules that enable you to be a high quality performer and an original artist in your own right.

Course Structure

The course comprises of 480 credits over four years, with half of the programme dedicated to developing skills in the Principal Study instrument/voice.

In addition to instrumental/vocal teaching, the programme also develops academic and creative skills, and cultivates business acumen and entrepreneurial activity through employment and employability training.

Blueprint Studios

Blueprint Studios

The course is delivered at the RNCM, Blueprint Studios and Lever Street Studios where students work with teaching staff who are high-standard academics and active professionals in the music industry, working as session musicians, producers, songwriters, recording artists, composers, musical directors, writers, managers, promoters and performers.

You will benefit from the invaluable expertise of a team of Visiting Tutors who have a wealth of industry experience working with renowned singers and bands including Adele, CeeLo Green, Incognito, Jamiroquai, Al Jarreau, James Morrison, One Direction, Simply Red, Sting, Take That, Amy Winehouse, and Steve Winwood.

Principal Study (160 credits)

Principal Study is at the core of your training and focuses on enabling you to realise your true potential both technically and creatively on your instrument/voice through individual tuition with some of the world’s leading teachers.

You will learn how to critically evaluate and perform a broad range of repertoire inspiring a cultural connection between historic, contemporary and progressive material, and will be encouraged to develop your own musical voice through the composition and performance of original material.

You will also learn how to integrate music technology into live performance, and in the final year will have the opportunity to devise, produce and realise a public final recital.

Ensemble Performance (60 credits)

Ensemble Performance focuses on the development of a technical and critical understanding of the role of your instrument / voice within a range of musical environments and styles. You will gain skills in effective ensemble rehearsal techniques and will learn how to integrate music technology into performance within a range live and studio performance situations.

You will work with a number of different musicians from across the college throughout the first half of the programme before creating your own ensemble project in your third year. You will also have the opportunity to perform in the Northern Session festivals and live recordings, both at the RNCM and at venues across Manchester.

Musicianship (60 credits)

Musicianship underpins your technical and practical skills development and establishes a theoretical understanding of key musical components through creative improvisation based performance. You will develop your musical literacy to a professional level, enabling you to employ your theoretical, aural, and improvisation skills across a range of musical settings. You will also have the opportunity to apply these skills to original work in the Artist and Repertoire and Optional Modules.

Artist and Repertoire (60 credits)

Artist and Repertoire focuses on artist development, both in terms of creative practice and entrepreneurial activity. You will compose original music and develop the skills required to promote yourself and your music to a broad audience. You will study song writing through the analysis of established and emerging repertoire and will produce a portfolio of original work. You will also develop a knowledge and understanding through research and academic study of the music industry and business practice in the context of you as a professional performer and artist, enabling you to begin your career in conjunction with, and informed by, your studies.

Original Ensembles Project (40 credits)

The Original Ensembles Project follows on in year 3 from the Ensemble Performance modules studied in years 1 and 2, and allows you to specialise further in areas of research and creative practice that will form the basis of a professional career. In this self-devised project, you will build your own ensemble, compose original material, rehearse and record to professional standards, and give live showcase performances in professional venues in Manchester and across the UK.

RNCM Popular Music students at Band on the Wall

Professional Engagement (60 credits)

Working with our industry partners and partner institutions, the Professional Engagement module is designed to allow you to experience life as a professional freelance musician, band or artist, before returning to College to reflect, plan and realise your individual and collective goals as you graduate from the programme. The engagement takes place in the first semester of your final year and provides you with the opportunity to gain valuable experience and make influential contacts that will pave the way into your career as a full time professional musician. Opportunities include work and study abroad as well as within the UK – click here to discover more.

Optional Modules (40 credits)

The Optional Modules are designed to allow you the opportunity to tailor your studies according to your areas of interest and to specialise in areas that will best complement your artistic and academic goals. The options are contemporary and relevant to today’s music industry and are available to students from all RNCM Schools of Study, actively encouraging cross-school collaboration and diversification. The modules have been designed to promote a collegiate approach in areas with genuine crossover potential, including Musical Theatre, Film Music, Composing for Media, Recording and Production, and Music Education.


Student Stories

‘Everyone is very supportive of each other in what they do. People are very open-minded. You also make lots of contacts because your own classmates are all going to be a foundation for what you do in the future.’
Augustus Clark, BMus (Hons) Bass Guitar

‘The whole week of lectures itself is exciting for me – whether it’s Principal Study or Ensemble Practice – the timetable has a really good balance. It’s not too full on but you do enough of everything. I’ve always liked working with bands and collaborating with other musicians.’
James Bradshaw, BMus (Hons) Popular Music Vocals

Discover more about the RNCM student experience by browsing our student stories page.

Application Factfile

Four years, full-time
UCAS Conservatoires code: 201F
Applications for September 2019 entry: Open July 2018, via UCAS Conservatoires.
Deadline for on-time applications: 1 October 2018

For further information on entry requirements and how to apply, please visit our How to Apply section.