2021 start

Traditional and World Music (Distance Learning)

Department of Music, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

This course is intended for musicians, educators and other enthusiasts who want to know more about traditional and world musics and about ways of studying and understanding music in its social and cultural context.
World music

Course description

World music studies encompasses the study of any and all musical activity in the world: Western as well as ‘exotic’, popular as well as classical, amateur as well as professional.

The course allows you to specialise in an area of your choice, while providing the opportunity to study musical phenomena from a global perspective.

Some students take advantage of Sheffield’s position as a major hub of both English and ‘Celtic’ musical activity to pursue in-depth studies on traditional musics of the British Isles. Others enjoy the opportunity to develop new understanding of musical sounds, practices and cultures from elsewhere in the world.

In this course, ‘world music’ is interpreted quite literally as encompassing, in principle, the study of any and all musical activity in the world: Western as well as ‘exotic’, popular as well as classical, amateur as well as professional.

Traditional and world musics and their associated cultures are studied through practical methods such as fieldwork and direct participation in music-making, as well as library research and theoretical interpretation.

You'll gain both a deeper knowledge of the music and a set of skills for discovering and communicating new knowledge about music.


First year

Research Skills

This unit provides essential research and study skills necessary for successful completion of the MA in World Music Studies as a whole (bibliographic skills and accessing web resources; editing and revision skills; style sheets; music processing; note-taking and essay planning). It begins with one residential, which includes practical instruction in lectures, seminars and demonstration in several skills, covering both effective music research and efficient distance learning. A series of e-tutorials accompanied by skill-based work-sheets completes the tution element. Successful completion of the unit requires satisfactory completion of a series of academic study tasks.

15 credits
Music of the World

The unit provides a foundation in the study of music from significant traditions from each continent. It begins with one residential, which includes practical workshops in several musical studies, lectures and seminars, plus a series of e-tutorials. The remainder of the unit is taught through listening- and reading-based self study, leading to an essay on one musical tradition, a sample transcription or analysis with commentary and an annotated bibliography of sources for further research.

30 credits
Traditional Music of the British Isles

This unit cultivates a broad acquaintance with several contrasting musical traditions of the British Isles and a deeper knowledge of at least one of them. It also provides a foundation in a variety of approaches to the study of traditional music. It begins with the first residential, which includes practical workshops in several musical styles as well as lectures and seminars. The remainder of the unit is taught through listening- and reading-based self study, e-tutorials and participation in an online discussion forum, leading to an essay on one musical tradition, a sample transcription or analysis with commentary and an annotated bibliography of sources for further research.

30 credits
Case Studies in Ethnomusicology

The module focuses on analysis of selected key texts in ethnomusicology (e.g. Blacking, 'How Musical is Man?'; Lortat-Jacob, 'Sardinian Chronicles'; Berliner, 'Soul of Mbira'). Lectures during the residential will introduce the history of ethnomusicology as a discipline. Study of the three books will be supported by guidance sheets keyed to each chapter and e-tutorials. Assessment is by completion of a book review (c. 3,000 words) on any one of the three books.

15 credits
Approaches to Fieldwork

Introduction to designing an independent field project consisting of supervised fieldwork exercises (held in Sheffield during the residential) and subsequent self-study (supported by e-tutorials) and a programme of assisted readings. Initial instruction will cover project design, participant-observation methodology, ethical issues and use of recording technology. Assessed through a written project of three parts: 1) fieldnotes diary (c. 2,000 words); ii) sample recording with commentary (c. 10 minutes of music and up to 1,000 words); iii) essay reflecting on one selected issue, either within the tradition observed or on fieldwork more generally (c. 2,000 words).

30 credits

Second year

Teaching and Transmission

Taught at the beginning of the second year in the two-year part-time distance learning MA programme, Traditional and World Music, the unit builds on general knowledge and research skills established in the first year to explore an issue at the heart of all traditional music. With guidance provided through lectures at the summer residential, online study materials and e-tutorials, students pursue individual study projects on aspects of the teaching and transmission of music, leading to assessed work in the format of either an essay, a radio programme or a folio of teaching or research materials. The unit replaces MUS6006 Special Topic in World Music, reducing the choice of three topics offered in that module to a single shared topic for the sake of efficiency and increased dialogue between students, while keeping the flexibility of assessment formats to accommodate varying student interests.

30 credits

The unit provides the final element in the MA in Traditional and World Music, by distance learning. It comprises a library- or fieldwork-based dissertation of c. 15,000 words requiring original investigation and research by the student on a topic within the area of world music approved by the unit tutor. Original field materials may be submitted as appendices to the dissertation. Learning is supported by original research, seminars and tutorials at the planning stages, and by e-tutorials during writing up.

60 credits

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.


Distance learning means that most of the teaching is done through the University online portals where you can access course materials, library materials, and class discussion boards.

You will also be supported by email and online tutorials. 

Annual residentials

Annual residentials are an important part of the course. By attending these residentials, you'll have the chance to meet your tutors and peers. The residentials include introductory sessions on systems, lecture topics, seminars, world music performance workshops and tutorials. 

The residential will take place online for 2021. For the second-year residential we hope to offer both an online and onsite option for students. They will take place on the following dates:

  • Monday 23 August – Friday 27 August 2021
  • Monday 22 August – Friday 26 August 2022  

Learn more about your supervisors


Assessments take a variety of forms such as reports and essays, fieldnotes and recordings, and a final dissertation or folio.


2 years part-time by distance learning

Student profiles

Since completing my MA I have had the opportunity to make great strides professionally. I have presented my dissertation at conferences in Athens, Madrid, Lisbon and Florence, and assisted other international school teachers in setting up alternative percussion ensembles in their schools. The course helped me define a new direction in my teaching career and I am so thankful for that opportunity.

Joy Edenfield
MA World Music Studies

Entry requirements

2:1 undergraduate degree. If your undergraduate degree is not in music, you’ll need to provide evidence of substantial engagement with music.

We also recognise the value of experience, and may accept applications from people who have been in practice, or who bring other experience to their studies. 

Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent. 

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

Fees and funding

University and faculty funding is available each year. The department has a number of scholarships available for our strongest candidates.

Funding information on the Department of Music website

Financial information for postgraduate taught courses


You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

Apply now

+44 114 222 0495

Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

Our student protection plan

Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

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