FdA Roots and Popular Music

Start date(s):
7 Sep 2020
2 years
Level 5
Credit Value:
Course Code:
Ucas Code:
Study Mode:
Full Time
Attendance Type:
Attendance Pattern:
Framwellgate Moor Campus
Course costs:
£9000 per year
(previous year's fees)
This programme is validated by New College Durham


This exciting new programme is ideal for musicians who want to further their knowledge of roots and popular music.

You will explore the origins of various styles and contextualise them through performance and theory workshops. You will study music performance and theory in addition to developing valuable enterprise skills that will support your career as a performer, music service provider and in music education.

Experience Higher Education

We offer a wide range of degrees, higher apprenticeships and professional qualifications.  Find out how our flexible higher education programmes have progressed the career of our ex-students!

FE Dance

Take a tour around our Performing Arts facilities

Our drama, dance and professional recording studios give our students access to industry standard equipment. 


AHT music students 2018

The sound of music

Our music students accompanied beauty and hair students to perform at the prestigious AHT regional competition.

Through the Decades 2017

Through the Decades

Our HE Music students performed in two sell out shows in the drama studio at New College Durham.

Brooks Williams jam session

Jam session

Our music students took part in an incredible jam session with American blues singer and songwriter Brooks Williams.

Colorado Roots Music Camp

Colorado Roots Music Camp

Foundation degree music students visited Colorado in the United States to attend the Roots Music Camp.

Songwriters Showcase

Starbucks houses songwriters evening

Students showcased their creative ability in our on-site Starbucks.

Adam from DurhamBID

Durham BID and Filament PR share expertise

Students gained insight into the marketing and events management industry.

Paul Elliott (HE Music)

World class drummer visits HE Music students

Paul Elliott visited New College Durham to spend the day with our HE Music students.

Music Show

Music Showcase

Our Roots and Popular Music students showcased their skills and performance material this December.

inspiral carpets news

An inspirational visit

Aspiring musicians and music fans were invited to a free seminar at New College Durham.


The programme aims to promote the development of key skills derived from the following areas of music practice:
  • Musicianship - encompasses all elements of music practice – technical ability, stylistic interpretation, feel and all aspects of a well-rounded musician.
  • Creativity - the source of all new music and aptitude, which all musicians develop as a way of expression. Creative writers are among the highest earners and most sought after professionals within the industry.
  • Theory knowledge - feeds into every aspect of the course. It informs practice, synthesis, analysis and can be related to written, aural and investigation of all established and new music.
  • Context Knowledge - helps musicians understand where music came from. The course will allow students to delve into its effects on society, its character as an industry and the part they play as musicians.
  • Employability - focuses on presenting transferable skills as sellable skills. Whether for employment or self-employment, students will analyse strengths and development points and forge them into a functioning musical package.

All of the skills developed relate directly to the music industry and help to promote employment opportunities.


At Level 4:
  • Work Related Learning - This module will provide you with the opportunity to explore and develop live performance skills. The rehearsal and performance processes are both essential aspects of a live music production and it is necessary to develop and refine the skills involved to ensure efficient rehearsal and accurate performance.
  • Writing and Arranging Roots and Popular Music - Through exploring creativity and originality, this module will give you the chance to construct musical concepts from existing stimulus and generate stylistically accurate original works.
  • Roots and Popular Music in Context - This module provides the opportunity for you to take a close look at contextual influences and the development of popular music through British and Americana Roots. Informed by economical, sociological, political and technological analysis of the first popular music.
  • The Language of Popular Music - Musicians communicate in a universal language which is constantly evolving. This module will promote the importance of musical literacy, develop the skills needed to communicate effectively with other musicians and equip you with high functioning music theory skills.
  • Personal and Professional Development - You will develop the skills needed to succeed within Higher Education and the wider music industry. This module focuses on skill building through reflective practice and action planning in relation to personal and professional development.

At Level 5:
  • Work Related Learning
  • Major Music Project
  • Roots and Popular Music in Context
  • Music Theory in Practice
  • Personal and Professional Development.

Time commitment

Average number of hours per week

Work Placement
Assignment Feedback
Independent Learning


*Days and times of study are subject to change. Timetables are confirmed at the start of term.

Teaching & assessment

You will engage in the following:
  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • One-to-one tutorials
  • Instrumental lessons
  • Group tutorials
  • Workshops
  • Performance projects.

Management and organisation skills are essential for successful performing and recording musicians, therefore, you will be required to plan and manage your own projects, workshops and individual and ensemble sessions. Modules will be assessed through a combination of:
  • Practice diaries
  • Recorded performances (sound and visual recordings as required)
  • Written reports
  • Essays.

All of the above will be supplemented and further developed through the incorporation of visits from industry specialists.

Research skills will be delivered and assessed via review and modelling of several analytical models. You will be able to utilise your practice diaries and evaluation feedback in order to assess yourself qualitatively.

You will have access to several student support services, including Higher Education academic support, Personal Learning coaches and our Additional Learning support team.

Maths and English


Maths & English

Maths and English skills are essential for the workplace and university.

Industry links:

A selection of employers and current practitioners working within the music and creative industries are involved in the development of our higher education music courses. This includes music agencies, freelance performers and educators, singer songwriters, colleagues at Durham BID and artist managers.

Our music department has established links with the Gala Theatre in Durham to provide you with opportunities to perform on the main stage as part of your core assessment. Your tutors are practicing professionals who have links with professional venues, studios, producers, theatre companies, musical directors and agencies.


There are no formal placement requirements for the FdA Roots and Popular Music, however, students are encouraged to gain skills for the workplace.

You could progress to a relevant top-up degree programme at New College Durham, such as BA (Hons) top-up Popular Music, to gain a full honours degree.

Alternatively, you could progress into employment as a musician or music educator. You will have the skills to choose to work self-employed.

Meet our students

Thomas Lee - HE music

Thomas Lee

Thomas progressed from Level 3 to Level 6, at New College Durham, and is now a musician and teacher.

HE Robbie Pick

Robbie Pick

Robbie is currently in a professional band, who are starting to build a national profile. 

Meet the lecturers

What else?


Please note these prices are for the current academic year and may be subject to change for our courses starting in future years.

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Fees and funding

Find out more about course fees and financial support for UK, EU and non-EU students, plus how to pay your fees.

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Refund Policy 19-20

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Additional Costs

You will need your own instrument for your first instrument of study. Much of the required equipment, such as PA systems, microphones, guitar and bass amps, drum kits, and keyboards are provided in the rehearsal rooms.

We plan to visit the Colorado Roots Music Camp every two years. This is not a compulsory component of the foundation degree but is an outstanding opportunity to further develop your roots music knowledge and experience. The fee per student for the current visit was £850 but this could be subject to change each time we plan the visit. The next visit is planned for June 2019.

We would advise you invest in a laptop with music software and a music interface as past graduates have expressed that they have found this to be beneficial. Again, this is not compulsory as we are fully equipped in the department for you to complete assignment work.

Interview Instructions

You will be invited to attend an audition meeting with a member of the music team at the College.

Please ensure you bring your instrument with you and be prepared to perform two pieces of music, to demonstrate your performance skills. You will also be asked to demonstrate your knowledge of music theory by completing a short music theory paper (LCM grade 5 standard), which will include a context question.

Further Education

Getting ready for your college interview

Find out more information about your college interview.

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System Credits:


Entry Criteria

UCAS tariff points:
You will be required to hold:
  • A minimum of 80 UCAS Credits
  • A Level 3 qualification in Music or a relevant equivalent
  • A Level 2 or equivalent in English Language (or be working towards).

Experienced musicians may be considered depending on successful audition, and demonstrating appropriate music experience or employment.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)
If you have previously studied on a similar award and have gained higher education credit at an equivalent level it may be possible to take this into account to gain exemptions from one or more modules.