MA Music part 1

You will be introduced to the breadth and depth of the study of music including elements of historical musicology, ethnomusicology, feminist musicology, organology, music and technology and more. Case studies drawn from the research of every member of the OU Music staff throughout the module ensure a wide cultural and geographical scope. Independent study is a key part of the module, allowing you to pursue study into your own area of interest. The module is accessible and relevant to those who have a vocational or leisure interest in music.

Vocational relevance

Many of the skills you will acquire are relevant to, and transferable to, a range of career options. These include researching and communicating about music in different formats. Alongside Part 2 of the MA (A891) the module provides you with many of the skills needed to pursue a career in academia.


A890 is a compulsory module in our:

A890 is an optional module in our:

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

Block 1: Inclusions and exclusions
The first block introduces a range of musicological traditions, opening with an overview of the ways in which status or value have traditionally been assigned to particular groups of musical works, practices, practitioners and methods. You’ll explore themes including historiography and canon, gender and feminist musicology, and genre and tradition.

The research skills developed in this block will be focused on planning research projects and formulating research questions, as well as the skill of preparing a succinct abstract.

The assessment for this block will require you to submit an essay along with a plan and abstract/summary.

Block 2: Investigating practice
This block makes explicit the relationships between music practice and musicology, exploring current examples of research into various musical practices, practice-led, and practice-based research. Themes include performance practice, impact and engagement, mobile phone music production, and ethnographic study.

Research skills development is focused on identifying and evaluating sources, from scores, manuscripts and biographies to recordings, videos, web discussion forums and more. In particular, the wide range of sources relevant to musicological practice is discussed, including the practical and ethical issues around interviews and participatory research.

The assessment for this block will allow you to include an optional element of practice (unweighted) with a reflective piece, in addition to a shorter essay.

Block 3: Technologies, tools and techniques
This block reflects on how different tools, technologies and techniques are used both in the practice of music and in contemporary musicological practice, as well as the many new avenues opened up with technology-based areas of research. In addition, case studies on musical instruments (organology) and the use of software tools exemplify the many ways in which musicology deals directly with the matters of musical production.

Research skills involving identifying and deploying a range of different methods will be developed in this block.

The assessment for this block will be a conference-style presentation, produced simply using slides and voiceover, accompanied by an abstract.

Block 4: Communities and interdisciplinarities
The final block builds on many of the research specialisms of the department that foreground how music works in interaction with groups of people. Examples include music education, music and wellbeing, politics, and social history. You’ll examine ways in which musicology has drawn strategies and research areas from other disciplines, as well as its contribution beyond disciplinary boundaries.

The research skills focus here will be on using and developing theoretical frameworks.

The final assessment, your end-of-module assessment project, will allow you to develop these skills while focusing on a topic of your choice.

You will learn

By studying this module you will:

  • build upon and develop your existing knowledge of, and interest in, the subject of Music
  • provide you with advanced academic training in Music at postgraduate level, enhancing your research and analytical skills and upgrading your qualifications
  • develop your independent research skills and provide experience of the presentation of research findings in a piece of extended scholarly writing.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

This module is delivered entirely online. You will have a tutor who will provide online tutorials, help you with the module work and mark and comment on your written work, as well as supporting you to design and produce your end-of-module assessment project. You are encouraged to take part in the online tutorials with your tutor and tutor group, as well as the module-wide forum. Tutorials will be held throughout the year and can be accessed from any computer with internet access. There are four seminars including a presentation by an invited academic, with accompanying discussion forums. You will be encouraged to take an active role in these live seminars by preparing questions, comments and other contributions, and/or continuing the discussion in the online forum after the events. More details about these learning events will be available at the start of the module.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box.

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

MA Music part 1 starts once a year – in September. This page describes the module that will start in September 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in September 2035. 


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

The principal requirement to study the MA in Music is that you are able to write an essay to a good academic standard. The best way to provide evidence of this is to hold a UK honours degree (or equivalent from an English-speaking university), with at least a 2:1 classification. Although your degree does not need to be in Music, you will need a good knowledge of, or experience in, at least some areas of music to successfully complete this qualification. This may include performing or listening to music, and reading about music (for example books, magazines, blogs). The ability to read music notation is useful but not a necessity. There is no requirement to perform on a musical instrument.

If your degree or background is not in Music, we strongly recommend that you complete the preparatory work listed below.

If you do not already hold an honours degree or equivalent with at least a 2:1 classification, you will be asked to demonstrate your preparedness for the module in other ways. You should undertake study of the free OpenLearn course An introduction to music research and submit an essay of between 1,000 and 1,500 words on a topic of your choice, making use of what you have learned in at least one section of this course. You may instead submit an essay of a similar length that you have already written on any other arts and humanities subject. Your essay will be assessed on its written clarity and structure, rather than its subject matter. Your essay can be submitted alongside evidence of previous study at the point of registration. If you are unfamiliar with scholarly writing and academic practice, particularly regarding referencing, you should also study the free OpenLearn course Succeeding in postgraduate study.

It is expected that your spoken and written English will also be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum score of 7 under the International English Language testing system (IELTS).

Preparatory work

The following resources will be useful preparation for the MA:

There is a range of other free courses on music topics on OpenLearn. You may find it useful to work through some of these in order to begin thinking critically about music topics.


Start End England fee Register
07 Sep 2024 Jun 2025 £3715.00

Registration closes 08/08/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in September 2035.

Future availability

MA Music part 1 starts once a year – in September. This page describes the module that will start in September 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in September 2035. 

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

The study materials you will be provided include:

  • an interactive study calendar, available through a dedicated website
  • online study materials to introduce you to the essential resources and important issues relevant to each block of study
  • bespoke audio, video, and interactive resources to help you engage with your studies
    digital resources for studying Music and undertaking assignments and research projects, and training in the use of these, via The Open University library.
  • access to online forums.

You will need

Good-quality headphones or loudspeakers to help you gain the most from the various listening activities

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

A computer with a built-in microphone – or the means of connecting an external microphone for recording your voice – will be required to complete some of the activities, take part in tutorials and seminars, and complete one of the tutor-marked assignments.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

This module has no printed materials and is delivered online. The materials are provided as a series of web pages via the module website. Some online material may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader, and some archival materials, particularly where musical notation is involved or where you are required to study original documents, may be particularly difficult to read in this way. You should also be aware that this module demands a high level of independent study, including reading journal articles with music examples. Where certain activities are not accessible, we will provide suitable alternatives, but some activities, for example, studying digitised music manuscripts, may not be available in different formats. You will be expected to listen to music, engage with videos, undertake sound recordings and study a variety of musical scores and documents, although accessible alternatives are provided where feasible. This module also makes use of online databases. The module may therefore be particularly challenging if you have a severe visual or hearing impairment.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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