MU4004 - Essential Skills for the 21st-Century Musician

What will I learn on this module?

In this module, you will develop skills which you will find to be essential for advanced study in music, and for your future career in music.

You will need to be able to make sense of music at the keyboard, whether as an academic researcher trying out a piece of music for which there is no recording, or a performer, or a teacher needing to provide some sort of an accompaniment for their pupils. You will develop the keyboard skills necessary for a freelance career, including chord progressions, sight-reading, accompanying, and how to simplify accompaniments to make them playable at your level of keyboard proficiency.

You need to be comfortable and confident in directing other musicians of all abilities and experience. The module will develop your skills in conducting, giving guidance on score preparation as well as the practicalities of communicating to players and singers.

Often, musicians need to be able to communicate with one another through the use of the singing voice, and you well develop the vocal skills you need to give you confidence to do this.

You will also cover the knowledge and skills needed by freelance musicians in marketing and self-promotion, time management, finance and tax, contracts and copyright, health & safety and safeguarding.

How will I learn on this module?

Keyboard skills will take place in small tutorial groups determined by the level of previous experience of piano playing.

Conducting/musical direction, vocal skills and generic skills will be taught in workshops that will sometimes include a lecture element.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be given considerable support and encouragement by those teaching on the course. The programme leader and Course Tutor will be on hand to offer help and guidance, either in person during the advertised office hours or via email, and you will be working in an environment where you and your peers will offer one another mutual support. You will be given appropriate material both in class and via the eLearning environment.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. You will have a knowledge of how to adapt material to the piano, how to play chord progressions at the piano, and the principles underlying approaches to sight-reading and accompaniment.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
2. You will develop keyboard skills needed for further study leading to a career in music, including accompaniment and sight-reading.

3. You will develop skills in conducting and musical direction.
Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4. You will demonstrate a capacity for independent, self-motivated learning and time management through regular practice.

How will I be assessed?

1. Mid-year practical assessment (50%). MLOs: 1, 2, 3, 4. Feedback will be given on a report form.
2. End of year practical assessment (50%). MLOs: 1, 2, 3, 4. Feedback will be provided on a report form.

Individual and group feedback will also be given in class so that you can monitor your own progress.


Entry to BA (Hons) programme and Grade 4/5 standard piano OR Foundation Year (Music)



Module abstract

In this module, you will develop some skills that are both essential for your further studies, and for careers in Music. You will develop keyboard skills including chord progressions, sight-reading, accompanying, and especially how to adapt accompanimenst to your level of proficiency. You will learn some conducting skills, and how to prepare scores before directing other musicians in performance. Being able to use your voice effectively is also vital, even if you are not a singer, so you will develop some vocal skills. Keyboard skills are taught in small groups; conducting/musical direction and vocal skills are delivered through workshops that will also introduce you to some of the business skills you will need when managing a freelance, portfolio career.

Course info

UCAS Code W320

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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