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Higher Education > Session Muscian

Popular Music Practice (Session Musician) Foundation Degree


Access to Music and the Royal Northern College of Music have joined forces to offer a unique new Foundation Degree in Popular Music Practice (Session Musician): the UK’s only Foundation Degree for would-be session musicians.

The course provides vocational training for high-level musicians and vocalists who intend to work as session/freelance musicians/vocalists in all areas outside of the classical music sector.

'As a music artist who regularly employs session musicians, I wholeheartedly support this course as it gives a fantastic opportunity for aspiring musicians to get the training they need to work in this role.'
Jools Holland


The foundation degree is an industry-led vocational programme that delivers training for instrumentalists and singers with a high level of performing ability who intend to work as freelance session musicians in the popular music industry.

In addition to the development of musical skills, the programme also cultivates business acumen and entrepreneurial activity through employment and employability skills training.

The course is delivered at the RNCM and at state-of-the-art professional rehearsal and recording studios in Manchester, where students work alongside professional musicians, recording engineers and producers.


Areas of Study

1. Principle Study
Principal Study is available in:
vocals, keyboard, guitar, bass guitar, and drum kit.
This focuses on your technical vocal or instrumental development through individual and group tuition. You will gain skills in effective practice strategies leading to solo performance recitals and ensemble rehearsal techniques and on to live and studio performances.

2. Musicianship
Musicianship underpins your technical and practical skill development through the study of music theory, aural, sight-reading and improvisation. These are the core skills that will improve your vocal and instrumental performance and increase your employment potential.

3. Professional Studies
Here you develop the knowledge of how to establish and sustain a career as a self-employed freelance musician. You will study music business, finance, self-promotion, marketing and networking. All students are actively encouraged to devise their own projects and to begin the process of finding employment opportunities during the programme.

You will also gain a contextual understanding of the historical, psychological, sociological and political elements of the popular music industry, alongside the development of academic research and presentation skills.


On successful completion of the programme, you will have the opportunity to progress directly into employment, or on to further study on the third year of the Popular Music degree at Leeds College of Music. You may also apply to progress onto the 3rd year of the BMus degree at the RNCM.


Entry Requirements

  • A high level of performing ability – equivalent to ABRSM/Rockschool grade 8.
  • At least 18 years of age on 31 December on the year of entry.
  • Pass in GCE A level (A2) in 2 subjects, or a Rockschool Level 3 Music Practitioner qualification, or a National Diploma in a music-related subject.
  • 4 passes (A*-C) at GCSE including Maths and English Language.
  • Applicants with non-standard qualifications and/or experience are encouraged to apply and will be considered if they can demonstrate appropriate ability through their audition and interview.


Audition/Interview Requirements
All applicants will be auditioned ‘live’. The audition will last 45 minutes and will include a 10-12 minute recital, followed by sight-reading, improvisation and technical exercise tests and an interview.


Application Process

To apply for the Popular Music Practice (Session Musician) Foundation Degree at the RNCM you should apply through the Conservatoires Admissions Service UK: CUKAS:
CUKAS Registration & Application
You will needs to enter the following information:

  • Conservatoire Code Name: RNCM
  • Conservatoire Code: R57
  • Course Code: 113F
  • Short Form of Course: FdA/PMPSM

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