Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Popular Music

Established in 2001 this programme of study is designed to enable our students in gaining transferable skills with a view to sustaining a portfolio career in the wider music industries as performers, composers, audio engineers, producers, teaching professionals, business entrepreneurs, and in the wider musical community. A selection of our recent alumni are featured in “Career destinations” at the foot of this page. This course accepts applicants with interest and skills in performance, composition and production. In performance modules we currently offer principal study in voice, guitar, keyboards, bass, or drums.

You’ll achieve a high degree of competence in a minimum of one specialism – on a principal study instrument, as a composer, or in sound production – becoming fluent in the use of music technology and extending your cultural, critical and creative abilities throughout this wide-ranging course.

Why Music at Edinburgh Napier?

Edinburgh Napier University is a recognised centre of creative excellence for music. Based in Scotland’s capital city that annually plays host to the biggest arts festival in the world, we are proud of the music school’s continuous innovation and improvement since its establishment in 1968.

Based at Merchiston campus you will:

  • benefit from the latest technology, well-equipped facilities and industry advances
  • receive conservatoire-standard training from experienced, professional musicians
  • take part in our lively programme of regular performances
  • attend lectures, tutorials, laboratory sessions
  • receive one-to-one tuition and support as well as studying independently
  • polish and enhance your musical skills
  • be living and studying in one of Europe’s most vibrant cultural cities

Visit: Living and studying in Edinburgh.

What you will study


Compulsory: Performance: Integrated Musicianship; Composition: Originating Popular Music; Music Technologies: Making Music with Technology; Contextual Studies: Sampling Musical Worlds; Western Art Music 1. Options from: Western Art Music 2; Recording Studio Theory and Practice 1.


Compulsory: Performance; Composition; Music Technologies; Contextual Studies; Music Industries. Options from: Jazz 1 – America; Recording Studio Theory and Practice 2.


Compulsory: Music in a Globalised World; Music Industries and Entrepreneurship; Independent Study. Options from Instrumental/Composition Studies; Jazz 2 – Europe; Recording Studio Theory and Practice; Instrumental/Vocal Teaching; Introduction to Music Therapy; Music Software Applications.


Compulsory: Major Music Project; Music Industries 2. Options from: Instrumental/Composition Studies; Jazz 3 – Local; Production and Professional Practice; Music and Aesthetics; Instrumental/Vocal Teaching 2; Music Psychology; Music Research Project.

Who you will study with

Core staff:

Dr Paul Ferguson
Dr John Hails
Dr Paul Harkins
Dr Dave Hook
Dr Haftor Medbøe
Dr Zack Moir
Renee Stefanie
Bryden Stillie
Taj Wyzgowski

Visiting Lecturers:

Ged Brockie
Andy Mitchell
Jim Walker
Georgia Smith


Rune Lilledal Hansen
Craig Ainslie

Entrance Requirements

Minimum year 1

SQA Higher

ABCC including Music at Grade A and English or other literary subject* at Grade B

Applicants must also pass ABRSM or London College of Music Grade 5 Theory test

A Level

CCC including Music and English or other literary subject*

Applicants must also pass ABRSM or London College of Music Grade 5 Theory test

Irish Leaving Certificate

Pre-2017 Grading System:

A1, B3, B3, C2 at HL including Music at A1 and English or other literary subject* at B3

New Grading System:

H1, H3, H3, H4 at HL including Music at H1 and English or other literary subject* at H3

Applicants must also pass ABRSM or London College of Music Grade 5 Theory test.

BTEC (QCF) Extended Diploma Level 3

Minimum grades MMM (Merit, Merit, Merit) in a related subject

Applicants must also pass ABRSM or London College of Music Grade 5 Theory test

BTEC (QCF) Diploma

Minimum grades D*D (Distinction*, Distinction) in a related subject

Applicants must also pass ABRSM or London College of Music Grade 5 Theory test

International Baccalaureate Diploma

Award of Diploma with 27 points overall with three HL subjects at grades 6,5,4 including Music and English or other literary subject* at Grade 5 or above. In exceptional circumstances, where the applicant’s school does not offer Music as an element of IB, applicants who are able to demonstrate practical music skill equivalent to Trinity Rock/Rock School Grade VII or above on the Principal Study instrument may be considered. In such cases, academic referees should clearly state that HL Music is not offered as part of the curriculum.

Applicants must also pass ABRSM or London College of Music Grade 5 Theory test

Minimum year 2


Pass HNC in Music Performance with Grade A in the graded unit

Applicants must also pass ABRSM or London College of Music Grade 5 Theory test

Minimum year 3


Pass HND in Music Performance with Grade A at SCQF Level 8 in all graded units

Applicants must also pass ABRSM or London College of Music Grade 5 Theory test

Literary subjects accepted

*Modern Studies, History, Psychology, Sociology, RMPS, Theology, Media Studies, Philosophy, Politics, Sociology, Geography, Latin and Classics.

Other entry requirements

Please tell us your principal/main instrument at the beginning of your personal statement. If you meet the minimum academic requirements, your application will be considered by the Department and you may be invited to an audition/interview.

All applicants are required, as part of the audition, to demonstrate practical music skills which equate to Trinity Rock/Rock School Grade 7.

These requirements apply to all years of entry.

English language requirements

If your first language isn’t English, you’ll normally need to undertake an approved English language test and our minimum English language requirements will apply.

This may not apply if you have completed all your school qualifications in English. Check our country pagesto find out if this applies to you.

Our entry requirements indicate the minimum qualifications with which we normally accept students. Competition for places varies from year to year and you aren’t guaranteed a place if you meet the minimum qualifications.

International students

If your qualifications aren’t listed above, visit our country pages to get entry requirements for your country.

Please note that non-EU international students are unable to enrol onto the following courses:

BN Nursing/MN Nursing (Adult, Child, Mental Health or Learning Disability)

BM Midwifery/MM Midwifery

Admissions policies

We’re committed to being as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to achieve higher education.

Our admissions policies will help you understand our admissions procedures and how decisions are made.

Visit: Edinburgh Napier Undergraduate Prospectus.

How to apply

Applications for all of our full-time undergraduate courses are processed through the centralized Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS) system. Whether you are at school or at college the application process is the same: apply online at

You’ll need the correct course code (W:341) and institution code for Edinburgh Napier (ENAP E59).

This course is also listed on the UCAS website. Please check this site prior to completing your UCAS application just in case the course title is changed in the future.

Visit: UCAS

Fees and funding your studies

Edinburgh Napier University has lots of funding options available. Visit the university’s main course page for current fees and links to the University’s rough guide to living costs in Edinburgh and options for funding your study.

Career destinations

92.3% of Edinburgh Napier undergraduates are in work or further study within six months of leaving (HESA, 2014). We also offer a unique personal development programme called Stand Out.

The music industry is notoriously competitive, particularly in the area of performing. The practical experience you’ll gain from this course, along with the industry contacts, will place you on a firm footing for entry into the field.

We offer industry informed courses which combine the optimum balance of theory and practice to equip graduates for success. Although the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes follow differing academic and musical industries paths, the pervading ethos, standards, and principles within the academic environment of the subject group produce well-rounded, proficient graduates with the capacity to thrive in a range of personal and professional contexts and settings in fields directly related to music, and in the wider graduate job market.

Our BA (Hons) Popular Music graduates go on to work as:
  • performing and recording artists in touring bands
  • composers (in a number of different industries, such as advertising, television, film)
and in:
  • studio and live sound production
  • community music
  • music education
  • music therapy
  • music management
  • music technology
  • and because creative skills are transferable and valuable to a number of other industries, a wide range of careers, such as arts administration and broadcasting.

Many go on to further study, such as our Masters Programme (MA) in Sound Production.

Visit: Stand Out – Graduate Support at Edinburgh Napier University.


Michael Lambert

After graduating in 2010, I developed a Youth Music Programme which was subsequently rolled out to 12 of Scotland’s top football clubs. During this time I also completed a Masters degree in Music: Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of the West of Scotland.

I now work primarily as a freelance artist manager, and through my management company, A Modern Way, alongside veteran music manager Bruce Craigie we look after Idlewild, Fatherson, Stanley Odd and Homework. A Modern Way also operates as a record label and has successfully released two albums in 2014.

I am also now the co-director of Born To Be Wide, a community interest company which stages regular music business seminars and networking events for the Scottish music community, as well as Scotland’s only music convention Wide Days.

My time at Edinburgh Napier gave me a good overview and understanding of many aspects of popular music. Being able to gain different music making experiences (eg theory, software applications and studio techniques) has given me a solid grounding that I call upon regularly, especially when communicating with musicians, producers and other creative musicians we work with. The course also allowed me to meet a great many musicians and individuals who I still work with regularly.

Caitlin Connor Caitlin Connor

After graduating in 2014 I started an internship at Soma Records in Glasgow. In 2016 I moved to London and after briefly working at Imagem Music I successfully gained employment with Universal Music Group where I am now part of the commercial team at Decca Records.

I studied vocals throughout my 4 years, and have since gigged in the UK with my own material and as a session vocalist/cellist for various Scottish and function bands. I felt well prepared for working life after my studies as I was made aware of the many different ways in which it is possible to make a living as an independent and confident vocalist. The business and entrepreneurship modules throughout the course were also paramount in building a working knowledge and deeper understanding of the commercial side of the industry.

I had a positive and well-rounded experience studying Popular Music at Edinburgh Napier, and I think back fondly to the time I spent there, surrounded by encouraging and supportive peers and lecturers. The course offers invaluable experience in many different fields of music, opening up new learning opportunities and inspiring students to step out of their comfort zones. The modules, and the lecturers who delivered them, provided me with an excellent tool set which enabled me to be ready to work within the industry; without it I would not be the musician and professional I am today. My experience as a Student Rep also helped immensely in the development of my interpersonal and communication skills.

Cat Myers

Cat Myers

I grew up in the North-East of England, started drumming at the age of 8 & completed the Napier Popular Music Degree between 2003-2007. I’m now a professional drummer & my work is pretty varied.

I play for a few different bands whom I write, record &/or tour with – I play drums in Discopolis and I’m currently on a tour (March/April 2015) of the USA with Honeyblood. I also do theatre work, session work & teach whenever I’m home. My time at Napier set me up with an invaluable network of friends & contacts which helps immensely when you’re starting out.

The modules gave me a great base from which to dive into the industry, I was confident taking new jobs, going for auditions & playing in a variety of styles, which is essential if you plan on making a living! The course is small enough to be friendly & encouraging, yet big enough that you always know someone who can help you get to where you want to go.

Jess Hurtado

Jesse Hurtado

During my third year in 2010, I worked to create the sound design and score for an animation film ‘Noel’ that was subsequently nominated for an award at the Encounters 16th International Film Festival. After graduating, I enrolled in an MSc in Sound Design at Edinburgh University and worked with a computer games design team in Beijing on a cultural crossover puzzle app for the iPhone called ‘Colour Captain’.

Following my studies, I now work freelance in Sound Design and Composition for computer games. I have worked in international competitions such as Brain’s Eden, Dare to be Digital and GameHack as well as for companies based across Britain. Recently I have started working with Krotos, a local startup company that develops plugins and applications for sound design and music.

Studying at Napier was an incredible experience that gave me insight into many different facets of music creation, performance and the music industry. Being surrounded with talented students and staff that regularly perform and record in the industry spurred my creativity and passion. The music technology learning was of particular inspiration for my career and helped me to embark on my aspirations in the games industry.

Garry Boyle

Garry Boyle

After graduating from Edinburgh Napier University in Popular Music course in 2008, I started freelancing as a Recording Engineer and Producer in a mixture of Recording Studios around the central belt of Scotland but most notably, Castlesound Studios in Pencaitland. In 2014 I opened a new high-end recording facility, Slate Room Studios, where I am now permanently based.

I have had the pleasure of working on a wide range of music projects with bands such as Broken Records, The Katet, Stanley Odd, Federation of the Disco Pimp, Jellyman’s Daughter and many more as well as projects for film (PIXAR Brave under producer Jim Sutherland) and television (several BBC projects).

Whilst I started the course at Edinburgh Napier as a musician it accommodated and encouraged my transition towards the studio side of the music industries with expert advice, contacts within the industry and exceptional facilities without which I doubt I would have progressed as far as I have.

Georgia Smith Press PhotoGeorgia Smith

I graduated from Edinburgh Napier in 2014 with First Class Honours. I greatly value my experience at Napier; I was surrounded by inspiring teachers and supportive peers. This has undoubtedly molded me into the vocalist, songwriter, and teacher that I am today.
I have since collaborated with award winning jazz pianist/composer Euan Stevenson on a project that I am extremely proud of; original compositions alongside fresh arrangements of jazz standards. I have performed across international jazz festivals, and most recently recorded a live session for the BBC’s Jazz House show.
I am also the Vocal Lecturer at The Academy of Music and Sound. Through my experience at Napier I learned the value of having excellent mentors. I too hope to impart knowledge and inspire the next generation of vocalists and songwriters.


Richard Kass

Since graduating in 2010 I’ve played drums for GRAMMY nominee Muhsinah, John Etheridge (Soft Machine, Stéphane Grappelli), John McLaughlin, Sugababes, The Wanted, Horndog Brass Band, Jud Mahoney (Michael Jackson), Somi, Adam Holmes and the Embers, Carrie Mac, The Discordian Trio, The Southern Tennant Folk Union, and many more.

Currently I am one third of Trio HSK (alongside Ant Law and Richard Harrold) and also a member of Thunkfish, Homework and Brass Gumbo. In addition to this I’m a drum tutor at Edinburgh College, an endorsee for several drum companies, and I am getting set to publish a book on my approach to polyrhythmic playing later this year.

Studying at Napier gave me the opportunity to learn from some great musicians, gave me access to some great facilities, and gave me some really valuable connections in the Scottish music scene.


Graham Coe

After graduating from the course in 2013, I have worked on many different projects, encompassing a wide range of disciplines; projects have involved composing, arranging, conducting, music for film, session recording, live playing, audio engineering/production and teaching. In addition to this, I’m one half of an acoustic duo called The Jellyman’s Daughter (with someone I met on the course). The things we learned in the various music business-related modules undoubtedly helped us run the band more effectively, and the tutors were always open and willing to provide help and advice when we needed it.

The Major Music Project module provided the impetus for me to produce an instructional book on cello technique which I’ll release later this year. An advantage on working on this at university was the cross-disciplinary aspect that meant that I could employ the skills of the Photography, Film and Video lecturer who kindly helped to film the videos for the project, along with advice from a Publishing lecturer. The Popular Music course overall gave me a solid understanding of the industry and provided me with knowledge and skills that prove useful across the various avenues of industry work I employ day to day as a musician.

33250784-ABB7-4114-BC98-8284CDD7D83FMichael Sebastian

I graduated from Napier in 2014, with vocals as my main subject. My final music project was an EP which kickstarted my solo project, helping me sign to an independent label in London. I have since released two EP’s with a funk band Filip Blast, and two EPs and an album with my solo project, Michael Sebastian.

I now split my work between busking with a loop-pedal guitar and beatboxing, stage managing at international festivals, and playing function and solo gigs. Without the course there would be no chance I would be where I am today. Napier gave me the privilege of four years of creative and musical exploration. I left with a good understanding of the industry as a whole, and have therefore been able to carve out a path which works for me. I have combined my love for performance with an interest in tech to create a career which allows me to be either playing or putting on music, (and nobody ever tells me what to play!)

As an independent artist, Napier gave me the knowledge to do my ideas justice. With minimal funding, it is often hard to create products that can compete professionally, but being able to produce, record and mix my own work, whilst having a good understanding of how to present yourself as an artist in the industry has greatly helped me to gain traction in a hugely competitive market.

Uni is only the beginning; but I look back on those years with huge fondness, because at the outset of your career, to be surrounded by peers to play in bands and share ideas with, as well as to have a team of mentors, loaded with specific experience and insight, is an absolute goldmine. I would say that anyone considering a career in music should definitely give Napier a shot, because there aren’t many courses like it!

Philip Curran

Philip Curran

I graduated from Napier University in 2006 with a BA (Hons) Popular Music. I have nothing but fond and nostalgic memories of my time there. It was an incredible 4 years that helped shape my career in the music industry and I’ll always be grateful for the experience, the teachers and fellow students who were part of it.

I started Napier as a guitar player and all I wanted to do was shred. That’s it. I didn’t know any other way I could succeed as a musician. However, in my third year, I took a class called Music for Screen (taught by Ged Brockie) and after that first lesson, everything changed. I knew that’s what I wanted to do once I went out into the big wide world. I’d been a massive fan of film scores for a long time but never thought I’d have the opportunity or skill to do it myself, until I took that class. It filled me full of confidence and desire and I have been obsessed every since then!

Since graduating, I’ve been working as a freelance composer for film, tv and theatre. It’s been a very long hard slog but I’m now working on some really great productions and earning a living from composing. I’ve worked on some amazing projects over the years and long may it continue. I’m currently scoring a kids sci/drama series for CBBC called Eve. I love my job!

Thank you Napier University!


Doug Kemp

Since graduating in 2012 I’ve been working as a self-employed musician as a tutor and performer. I work a lot with the Tinderbox Orchestra; bringing together different parts of the Lothian communities to teach and perform music at a variety of venues and events and generally helping individuals to develop as musicians and good people. I am also now, with extreme luck and endless gratitude to those who hired me, playing on a regular touring show with Nofit State Circus as a multi-instrumentalist as well as being a session player for various events and bands.

The research skills gained have been great for dealing with a range of situations, from further studying in other areas, sorting notes and paper work, planning performance logistics for an orchestra, and in general communicating complicated ideas in an accessible way. I enjoyed how the course was delivered by tutors from a range of backgrounds (via session musicians and PHD holders), which helps to bridge the gap between education and career.


Rosie Bans

Since graduating in 2009 my career has followed two strands. As a singer/songwriter I’ve been gigging, touring and recording as an independent artist for the past four years. As a singer, keyboard player and MD, I run a Ceilidh and Function band based in London as well as performing with many other London and UK based bands as a dep/session player. Throughout my studies at Edinburgh Napier I gained valuable knowledge and experience, without which I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today. The course allowed me to strengthen skills that have proved to be invaluable in the real world. Working to deadlines, organisation skills, learning how to collaborate with other musicians, learning how to identify good (and bad) opportunities. Above all, the course allows you to explore your musicianship in a safe, relaxed and encouraging environment. Lastly, all the lecturers at Napier had their own vast and ongoing experience to bring to the table giving each student an opportunity to learn first hand about the real nature of the music industry.

Michal Jankowski

Michal Jankowski

I started the BA course as a guitarist but with time I was drawn towards sound and music production. After graduating in 2011, I decided to continue my education at Edinburgh Napier and enrolled on the postgraduate course, MA in Sound Production.

Since then I have been working as a freelance sound engineer and technician. I have recorded a number of Scottish and foreign artists and acts including Haftor Medbøe, Anneke Kampman, Filip Blast, Kila, Red Note Ensemble, and others. I have also had a pleasure of co-working on several Youth Music Initiative projects. Additionally, I have worked as sound recordist, editor, designer, and mixer on several small film productions, some of which were screened at various film festivals around the world, including Short Film Corner at Cannes Festival and South Dakota Film Festival. On a more regular basis I work as a live engineer for PA and event companies including DM Audio, MCL Create, A-Line, Banana Row, Edinburgh Sounds.

Where I am today I owe in huge proportion to my time at Napier. The wonderful tutors and great facilities helped me lay concrete foundations for my career. Studying at Napier gave me a deep knowledge of the industry, and equipped me with a set of invaluable skills, which I use almost every day.


Stephen Maxwell

Since graduating from the course in 2013, I have been working to expand my experience as both a performer, and a teacher. After three months of volunteering, I have a job as a part-time college lecturer. This allows me to help develop the next generation of aspiring musicians, preparing them for the next step in their career, whether it is university or into the industry itself. Performance is still an important part of my career and I have the fortune of playing a diverse range of styles in several different bands.

The course offered me a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding of the industry, as well as having excellent opportunities to develop practical skills with instruments, software, or studio equipment. Every element I was interested in was available and was delivered by experienced staff.

My time at Edinburgh Napier University developed my understanding of many different styles of music, and a lot of the experiences I had inform my current practice, both as an educator and a performer.