FdA Roots and Popular Music

Start date(s):
13 Sep 2021
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
This programme is validated by New College Durham


Course details may be subject to change

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!


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 1 - Work Related Learning 1 gives students the opportunity to explore and develop fundamental industry specific employability skills. The rehearsal processes are essential aspects of the music industry; therefore, this module develops and refines the necessary skills involved in appropriate preparation for performance and efficient rehearsal. ~ The Showcase - The Showcase gives students the opportunity to explore and develop live performance skills. This module places focus on the performance process, inclusive of the technical rehearsals in a professional venue.
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. ~ Professional Practitioner Skills Development - The module aims to promote the development of wider professional practitioner skills that will be essential for a successful transition into the music industry.]]]

At Level 5:
  • Work Related Learning 2
  • Major Music Project
  • Roots and Popular Music in Context 2
  • 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
  • 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:
  • Recorded performances (sound and visual recordings as required)
  • Portfolios
  • Presentations
  • 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. Students will be able to utilise personal reflection and evaluation feedback in order to assess themselves 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?


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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 20-21

View our refund policy for further and higher education programmes (page 2) and full cost courses.


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 £1000 but this could be subject to change each time we plan the visit. The next visit is planned for June 2021

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

Once an application has been received it is recorded and acknowledged by the College Admissions team. The application is then viewed by the course admissions tutor. The following outlines the specific admissions requirements for this course:

Candidates for the programme will be a minimum of 18 years old and are expected to hold a relevant level 3 qualification in a music related subject giving them a minimum of 32 UCAS points.

Mature applicants and those who may not possess the expected qualifications are welcomed and should display their knowledge and understanding of music in the interview.

All candidates will be interviewed either face to face, telephone or Skype. All applicants must perform two contrasting pieces of an appropriate standard. They will also be required to recite rudiments on their first study instrument.

A set of standard interview questions will be asked to all candidates.

All applicants will submit a typed personal statement equating to 500 words. This will assess the student’s academic writing, their attributes and aspirations, enabling staff to assess their suitability for study on the course.
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:
To gain entry to the programme a student must satisfy the standard or non-standard entry requirements to the course. Candidates with non-standard entry applications will be considered on the basis of relevant work experience and attainment of skills, which demonstrate an ability to study at this level. Non-standard entry applicants will display their knowledge and understanding of music in the interview.

Applications for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and Recognition of Experiential Learning (RPEL) are welcomed in accordance with the College FDAP Academic Regulations. However, these must be discussed as part of the admissions process.

Candidates will be expected to hold a relevant level 2 qualification in English language and maths (or a minimum 5.5 IELTS in each band for international applicants).