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Foundations Music: Resources

Sometimes during study we can hit a stumbling block which we can’t immediately solve by ourselves. When this happens, please don’t suffer in silence or let your studies fall by the wayside. Instead, reach out to your fellow students or your tutor if you’ve hit a brick wall and don’t know how to overcome it. Often they’ll be able to offer a solution, resource or alternative way of thinking that you haven’t yet considered which will help get you back on track in no time. 

The Foundations Music course has a number of key strands and I’ve listed some additional resources below which should help during your studies:


One of the most common sticking points for new Foundations students is getting to grips with Sibelius notation software. In addition to the guidance in the course materials, there is also an official support section on Avid’s website: https://www.avid.com/sibelius/learn-and-support and a user managed help forum (which is searchable through Google) here: https://www.sibeliusforum.com. However, probably the most useful tool for getting to grips with Sibelius is YouTube which has many tutorial videos for beginner and more advanced topics alike. Having a more knowledgeable user walk you through solutions can often provide a more accessible way through such problems. If you have a specific problem then searches on these sites will often quickly bring up an answer for you!

Music Theory

The course materials introduce and explain different concepts with a series of different practical tasks to put these into context. An additional effective way of consolidating new theoretical knowledge is in extending these exercises using online resources, particularly where the diagnostic exercises in the course materials, or from tutor feedback, have highlighted any weaknesses. The following websites have customisable theory exercises which can aid deeper self-study and development:

Ear Training 

Similarly, in addition to those above, there are a good number of quality web resources for augmenting the ear training and aural skills exercises in the course. The following have also been mentioned in a recent OCA web session on diagnostic ear training, a recording of which can be on OCA Learn:

For those who are looking for a more advanced programme of ear training then there are some very useful books such as Steven Laitz’s The Complete Musician: An Integrated Approach to Tonal Theory, Analysis, and Listening (Oxford University Press, 2003) along with others listed and discussed at the end of the web session mentioned previously.


Whether you are working on a history of music project or historical instrument research point, there are a range of resources to help you. First and foremost, there is the Library Guide for Foundations, which has an array of useful study guides to build information gathering and writing skills. This resource also contains a list of more scholarly collections for initial research: ‘Where to start searching?’. In additional, a further list of music sources can be found HERE.

Academic writing 

The above library guide also has information on academic writing and referencing, and don’t forget that there are a number of really useful guides on the Course Resources section of OCA Learn, including lists for critical listening, formatting references for music students etc.

Finally, it is once again worth highlighting your course section on OCA Learn (learn.oca.ac.uk) as a place to get to know! This developing resource brings together elements mentioned above, along with announcements, web based study opportunities and forums where you can connect with other Foundations Music students, and tutors, to ask questions or just say ‘Hello!’.


Questions on any of the above: chrislawry@oca.ac.uk

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Posted by author: ChrisLawry
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