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MA Music (by research)

Explore your research interests and develop key skills, guided by an expert in the field.

  Length Start dates (semester dates)
MA by research

1 year full-time
2 years part-time

Apply for MA by research


Our MA in Music (by research) is ideal for those individuals who would prefer to study independently through a research project, with guided supervision from an expert within their chosen field of research.

Your research

This course is aimed at both high-level creators interested in composition, production and musical analysis, and those wishing to develop tools for other content, including composers, performers and analysts.

Guided by your supervisor, you'll work through a series of structured elements, with your final submission being either:

  • a dissertation between 30,000 and 40,000 words on your registered topic, alongside a comprehensive resource list (including scores, analyses, articles, books and concert ephemera, internet and audio-visual resources). Candidates in musicology, ethnomusicology or analysis will normally follow this route, but it is not exclusively limited to these subjects; or
  • a portfolio of compositions for any instrument, voice, ensemble, audio media or multimedia, with an accompanying critical commentary. The commentary will draw out the research embedded in the practice, discussing aspects of the compositional processes and situating the work in a research context; or
  • a portfolio of performance projects, fully documented through video/audio recordings, and submitted alongside a critical commentary. The commentary will draw out the research embedded in the practice, discussing aspects of the performance processes and situating the work in a research context.

You may elect to apply to the MPhil/PhD programme subject to satisfactory completion of the MA by Research.

Our research areas

Explore the various research areas available to you.

Using analysis to uncover and evidence the workings of a given repertoire, you'll focus on the musically intuitive process of rationalisation rather than studying the theory of analytical techniques in isolation. Discovering the compositional grounds that have engendered an emotional response to music, or considering how and why a composer has created particular effects ensure that analysis is kept relevant.

You should have a research proposal that sets out to apply analytical investigations within a wider context. Some indication of how analytical evidence may be used to support a larger thesis should also be outlined. Examples may include the study of a particular composer, period, style or genre.

For more information on submitting a proposal for the MA by Research in Musical Analysis contact Dr Daniel March.

Delve deeper into creative processes in contemporary music and sound art, and consider related cultural and critical issues.

You should have a research proposal that sets out the topic and research techniques to be used, with experience in your chosen mode of research. This can be primarily practical, rooted in performance, composition, and/or improvisation, or more theoretical and musicological. You have the option to combine practical and theoretical perspectives on the chosen topic by submitting a portfolio of work that includes creative research alongside theoretical investigation.

You should also have some understanding of the range and variety of current musical practices (in composition, performance or improvisation, installation, sound art, music theatre, radio and web-based work, etc), and ability to contextualise this in relation to recent musicology or other theoretical perspectives.

For more information on submitting a proposal for the MA by Research in Contemporary Studies contact Professor Catherine Laws.

Our links with York Minster and the presence of the Minster Library (with its extensive historic collections) makes the study of English Church Music through individually-focused study unique. Subjects ranging from music within the Sarum liturgy through to church music of the present day can be studied, and projects relating to the editing of church music are particularly encouraged.

You should have a research proposal that sets out the topic and research techniques to be used. Examples may include the study of a particular institution, composer, period, style, or genre.

For more information on submitting a proposal for the MA by Research in English Church Music contact Professor Jonathan Wainwright.

This area sets out to help you create music which through the medium of sound itself, can be experimental and forward-looking. We seek individuals who are inspired by contemporary uses of digital and analogue media, rather than choosing to emulate existing musique concrète or acousmatic styles.

You should have a good contextual knowledge of recent developments in any contemporary electro-acoustic genre. Wider knowledge, extending into domains such as data-mining, crowd-sourcing, urban revival, global digital cultures, hack technologies and aesthetics, analogue systems, algorithmic processes, projection mapping, graphics or processing, is an advantage.

You are free to make your own work that crosses media boundaries and encompasses hybridity, or alternatively, concentrate on reductive aesthetics and new post-postmodern practices. You may involve any combination of digital, or non-digital instruments or techniques. You should have good technical command of your chosen software environment but may seek individual assistance on specific matters in software programming - (MaxMsp, Pd, C, iOS) - from our dedicated Research Support programmer.

For more information on submitting a proposal for the MA by Research in Electroacoustic composition contact Dr Federico Reuben.

Focusing on the application or study of musical processes that prioritise improvisation, you should be able to demonstrate a secure understanding of an improvised practice that is relevant to your chosen area of interest. Both equally valued, this understanding can be theoretical or practical and we encourage interdisciplinary proposals.

Our archives hold a range of material directly relevant to research in jazz and improvised music, including the JRT Davies collection of pre-1950s jazz (mainly on 78rpm disk) and the ECM Records collection. Our programme is directly supported by individual coaching and workshops from members of the Julian Argüelles Octet and other visiting musicians. The University Jazz Orchestra is a key resource for practical work, as well as the recording and rehearsal facilities of the CMRC.

For more information on submitting a proposal for the MA by Research in Jazz and Improvised Music contact Dr Jonathan Eato.

This area aims to develop pedagogical skills and an understanding in a context in which you can draw upon and deepen your existing professional practical experience as teachers and as learners.

You will explore a research area of your choice relating to any aspect of instrumental/vocal teaching and learning. Topics could include the pupil-teacher-parent relationship; characteristics, qualities and motivations of effective teachers; materials for teaching; teaching particular skills; preparing students for performance; working with students of different ages, abilities and needs; and group or individual learning.

For more information on submitting a proposal for the MA by Research in Instrumental and Vocal Pedagogy contact Dr Liz Haddon.

This area is aimed at those with a strong interest in opera as it is practised today and who wish to pursue individual research projects on the institutions, staging or theory of opera. You should have acquired substantial experience in opera-related fields, either through undergraduate studies on opera-related topics, or through employment in the opera industry.

We aim to equip students with the research skills necessary for further academic studies, but also to prompt students to engage practically with opera and to reflect critically on these practical experiences. You will be encouraged to find opportunities for internships with professional opera companies, and to take advantage of our many opportunities for opera performance/staging.

You should have a research proposal that sets out the topic and research techniques to be used.

For more information on submitting a proposal for the MA by Research: Opera Studies contact Dr Áine Sheil.

This area is suitable for those wishing to research and express their understanding of specific areas of performance practice either by thesis or by performance with commentary.

You may submit a dissertation of between 30,000 and 40,000 words investigating the agreed topic; this should present a fresh understanding of an acknowledged area of performance practice based on primary sources. Submission by performance involves a portfolio of recorded performances supported by a critical commentary. The commentary will draw out the research embedded in the practice, discussing aspects of the compositional processes and situating the work in a research context. It may be appropriate to submit critical or performance editions of the music to be discussed or performed.

For more information on submitting a proposal for the MA by Research in Performance Practice contact Dr Emily Worthington.

York is a UNESCO certified Creative City of Media Arts

York as a city is recognised as a hotbed of creative talent, acting as a gateway to international markets. For two millennia York has been the meeting point for ideas and creativity. Today it is nicknamed the 'City of Festivals'.


Explore Arts and Creative Technologies funding for MPhil/PhD researchers and wider postgraduate support.


We'll help match your research interests to our supervisory expertise. You'll have regular meetings with your supervisor during semester time.

Training and support

PG Research Forum

This discussion group for postgraduate research students, engages with common research challenges. You'll also have the opportunity to present aspects of your research topics to the group.

You will be able to attend the Research Seminar series where invited speakers, staff members and PhD students give presentations about their latest work.

Here, there are also opportunities for you to meet and network with other postgraduate researchers.

Course location

This course is run by the School of Arts and Creative Technologies.

You will be based mostly on Campus West. Most of your training and supervision meetings will take place here. Some of our facilities are based on Campus East, and your research may take you further afield.

Entry requirements

You should have a 2:1 or above in relevant university degree or approved equivalent qualification, or equivalent professional experience.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must provide evidence of your ability.

English language requirements


Apply for the MA in Music by research

Take a look at the supporting documents you may need for your application.

Find out more about how to apply.

Research proposal

You should include a research proposal detailing your proposed topic and how you plan to investigate it. This should include a paragraph explaining the relevance of your academic and/or professional experience to date and another explaining why you think your work has the potential to make a new contribution to your field of interest.

In addition, please include a selective resource list (maximum length: one page) of significant items (eg scholarly articles addressing relevant technical, aesthetic and/or cultural issues, software, audio productions, internet and audiovisual resources) that you have consulted in exploring your topic and preparing your proposal.

Careers and skills

The MA Music by research course will help to extend your knowledge to understand the importance and real impact of music making through research and exploration in composition, production and analysis. You will develop your critical and creative thinking, technical and musical analysis, and/or composition and production skills, opening the door to a wide range of career opportunities. 

Our dedicated careers team offer specific support including a programme of professional researcher development and careers workshops and 1:1 career support sessions. They will help you to build up your employability portfolio and to engage in activities that will build up your skills and experience within and outside of your research work.

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