Musical instruments drawing

Open Foundations – Music

Approx. Duration: 12 months at 8hrs/week


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The Open College of the Arts is the distance learning college of the University for the Creative Arts – one of the UK’s leading specialist art and design universities.

Open Foundations Music is a bespoke course designed to help you develop as a composer,  musician, or music appreciator. It will give you a firm grounding in many aspects of this multi-faceted subject including music theory, basic composition and arrangement, ear training and music history. You will also develop skills in the use of the notation software Sibelius (not included) which is integral to the course.

Whether you are starting completely from scratch or identifying gaps in your knowledge and topping up your skills, our Open Foundations course is designed to give you a well rounded basic music education, taking an approach from beginner/novice to higher education ready. The course is suitable for students who are unsure whether they are ready to engage in degree level study and require a re-introduction to the subject, or to those who wish to study a single stand-alone course to develop their skills and understanding.

During the course you will learn music theory to around Grade 5 standard (ABRSM/TCL) and utilise this knowledge practically in a range of manageable compositional and arranging tasks. You will also learning how to start writing about music, how to perform basic research and how to write academically, in small steps and with personalised guidance from your tutor. The course helps students to  learn independently and to reflect on their listening and learning experiences.

The course has five sections and with feedback from your tutor, you can expect to make rapid progress. On completion of the course you should have gained sufficient skills and enough confidence to go on to further study at HE level with the Open College of the Arts, or elsewhere, and be able to decide on the nature and direction of your studies or musical practice.


The course aims to:

  • familiarise students with the language, history and terminology of music
  • develop a solid knowledge of music theory and its practical application
  • help explore and utilise the Sibelius* notation software
  • encourage and develop independent learning and research skills
  • prepare students for successful transition to undergraduate degree level study


  • You will learn music theory to c.Grade 5 (ABRSM/TCL)
  • You will gain skills to apply this theoretical knowledge to practical tasks
  • You will develop basic compositional and arranging techniques
  • You will have gained an understanding of the main historical musical periods
  • You will have begun to critically reflect on your learning and listening
  • You will have researched a personally chosen subject, with guidance from your tutor, and written academically about it
  • You will have acquired basic skills in using the notation software, utilising it to organise and experiment

Unit Leader

Chris Lawry

Unit Leader for Foundations in Music

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“I am primarily a freelance composer and arranger but also work as a session musician and accompanist, teacher and consultant, working with theatre companies, performing arts groups, media companies and schools in a wide range of styles. I find that the varied work I undertake as a musician and composer positively influences all aspects of my musical life and teaching…”

Read the rest of Chris’s profile here