The OU hosts a thriving music research culture encompassing historical, theoretical, ethnographic, social scientific and empirical approaches to musicology, as well as interdisciplinary fields including music computing and musical acoustics. Music research is developed through high-profile individual and collaborative projects, many of which have attracted substantial grants from research councils and other funding bodies. Our individual researchers are internationally renowned in their own right, but our strength in collaborative work is just as important to us. A number of our researchers work with colleagues in different departments and faculties, and one of our most distinctive features is our strength in interdisciplinary research.

We accept applications for our PhD programme in January (for an October start). Students are encouraged to submit early.

Key facts

  • Between 2014 and 2022 nine of our PhD students were awarded AHRC-funded studentships.
  • Our research facilities on campus include music computing and acoustics laboratories.
  • Recent AHRC-funded projects include ‘G. F. Handel: Collected Documents’, ‘The Listening Experience Database’ and ‘Tinnitus, Auditory Knowledge and the Arts’.
  • We host a wide range of research conferences, international symposia and seminars in music.


Most of our research students are based away from our Milton Keynes campus, but are resident in the UK; for details of residence requirements for different modes of study see Full-time study and Part-time study.


The University offers a range of services and facilities to support individual projects. These include the facilities of the Acoustics Research Group: two anechoic chambers, a laser laboratory, an ultra-high-speed camera, a scanning Laser Doppler Vibrometer, professional quality microphones, as well as a wide range of measuring apparatus, recording equipment and high-performance computing hardware.

The Music Computing Research Group hosts a Music Computing Laboratory stocked with a range of music computing software, electronic musical instruments, motion trackers, pitch trackers, sensors and diverse technologies for gestural control and data capture. In close collaboration with the Pervasive Interaction Group, the group constructs and evaluates new musical interfaces using a variety of multi-touch, gestural and whole-body tracking systems. It also carries out experiments to cast light on how music works.



Find your research topic

Explore specific areas of research, current and prospective projects, entry requirements, fees and funding, available supervisors, how to apply and contact details for advice.


Film music

Historical musicology

Music and gender

Music computing

Music education

Music technology

Popular music

Sound studies


Related topics

Consider linked topics from other research areas.

Musical acoustics

Creative geographies: engaging, knowing, experimenting


I don’t think I could have balanced work, home and part-time studies anywhere other than OU. My research has developed in ways I never imagined. I have presented at conferences and seminars across the country, published a journal article and am now writing a chapter for a book! None of this would have been possible without the expertise and positive encouragement of my supervisors and the wider Music Department.

Natalie BurtonPhD Student, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

The Music Department at the Open University provides a supportive and open environment, and I have always felt like a valued member of the research community here. During the past year I have especially appreciated the workshops and seminars run by the department, which have brought research students and staff together virtually, helping to maintain a sense of togetherness in the face of the restrictions that we have all faced.

Tristan HarkomPhD Student, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences