Common Interview Questions for a Music Degree

For many university courses you won’t need to attend an interview, you just submit your UCAS application and wait for the offers to start coming in. However, for talent-based courses, such as Music, Drama, or Art and Design you might be required to interview and/or audition as part of the application process.

Whether you’re a performer, composer, or musicologist studying Music at university isn’t just about the music that you make and people are often surprised by how academic Music courses can be.

Here’s more about applying for a Music degree and what you can expect during the interview and/or audition:

What qualifications do I need to apply to study Music?

In order to be successful in applying for a Music course you’ll need to have taken A Level Music and most universities will ask that you’ve taken an essay based subject such as English or History.

You’ll also need to have achieved Grade VII or Grade VIII for your main instrument and the university may specify that you need to play more than one – usually the piano/keyboard and your main instrument.

Where can I study Music?

If you’re considering studying Music you have the option of either attending a university or a conservatoire.

At a university you’ll have performance based modules, as well as theoretical ones, and you’ll gain an academic qualification at the end.

Courses taught at conservatoires are largely performance based, so if you’re considering becoming a practicing musician after graduation, this option might be better for you.

Here are just some of the UK universities that offer Music degree courses:

  • Oxford
  • Manchester
  • Durham
  • Cambridge
  • Birmingham
  • Glasgow
  • Edinburgh
  • King’s College London
  • Bristol
  • Royal Holloway, University of London

What does a Music degree involve?

Aside from the obvious aspects of a Music degree – performing and listening – there are many other areas of a musical career that a Music degree will give you the skills to excel in.

Although each degree course is different, modules usually offer students the chance to learn skills in areas such as:

  • Teaching
  • Composing
  • Conducting
  • Orchestrating
  • Arranging
  • Recording
  • Reviewing
  • Administrating
  • Marketing
  • Archiving
  • The historical and social use of music (musicology)

All of these diverse skills will help you in your future career in the music industry and many of the skills you’ll develop will be highly prized by employers in other industries if you decide that working in music isn’t for you in the future.

What happens at a Music degree interview/audition?

As Music is a talent based course the majority of universities ask applicants to attend an interview and audition.

In some cases this takes on a day, and other cases – for example, if you’re applying to Oxford – you’ll be asked to stay at the university for two or three days. You could be asked to submit essay examples, examples of your harmony or counterpoint work, and you’ll be interviewed and play your instrument and/or sing depending on the exact course you’re applying for.

Some universities ask you to take an Aural, Theory and Musicianship test as part of the application process. This involves answering questions about a piece of music and you’ll be asked to identify things such as keys, key signatures, modulation, instrumentation, pitch in treble and bass clef, and put the music into its historical context.

For the aural and musicianship component of the test you’ll be asked to identify intervals, cadences, and major/minor triads.

Auditions are done individually, with an accompanist if you require one, and usually only last 3-5 minutes.

If you’ve opted to have lessons for two instruments during your course you may be asked to perform on both during your audition.

There often isn’t a formal interview for Music applicants, although many universities ask applicants to participate in a discussion about music with a small group of other candidates.

Remember, they’ll be looking for your ability to communicate effectively, enthusiasm, how you engage with the subject, and they’ll also give you an opportunity to ask your own questions about studying Music at that university.

Common interview questions for a Music course

Formal one-to-one interviews for a Music course aren’t particularly common – usually you’ll be assessed based on your performance and other practical tasks.

However, it’s always good to be prepared for anything you might be asked on the day.

Common questions to be asked usually involve analysing a piece of music, discussing any essays you’ve submitted, what you enjoyed about studying A Level music, and issues around musicology.

Of course, you should also be prepared for questions including – “Why do you want to study Music?” and “Why do you want to attend this university?”

If you’re applying to Oxbridge then you’ll probably also have heard of notoriously strange questions such as “If you could invent a new musical instrument, what kind of sound would it make?”

The key to answering curve ball questions like this is to stay calm, go back to your basic musical knowledge, use your imagination, and think outside the box.

Don’t just think in terms of classical music or try to stick to a purely academic answer.