Skip to main content

Physics with Music

Physics with Music

BSc
Apply now

If we make you an offer for this course for 2022 entry, we guarantee to confirm your place even if one of your final A-level results is one grade below those you have received in that offer. Equivalencies and exclusions apply. Full details here.

Key information

Duration: 3 years full time

UCAS code: F3W3

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham

UK fees: £9,250

International/EU fees: £23,200

The course

Physics with Music (BSc)

Choose Physics with Music at Royal Holloway, University of London and you'll combine two of the subjects you love across three years of study. You’ll develop a wide range of skills including mathematics, experimental skills, computing, communication, composition and historical musicology, all while maximising your graduate employability with a desirable honours degree. 

You'll study in one of the University of London's major centres for physics teaching and research, with research strengths including Quantum physics, condensed matter and particle physics informing our teaching. Physics is studied as the major subject, and you'll learn the mathematical, conceptual and experimental skills expected of a graduate physicist.

This degree is run jointly with the Department of Music, where our expert academics have worked hard to build excellent industry connections. You'll learn about music composition, theory and analysis, together with historical musicology, and issues that shape contemporary music, including politics, urban development, gender and globalisation.

You'll graduate with excellent employability prospects across a range of sectors, with employers valuing graduates with the diverse skillset offered by this degree.

  • Physics is studied as the major subject with the addition of music as a significant component.
  • This degree is run jointly with the acclaimed Department of Music at Royal Holloway (no. 5 in the UK, Complete University Guide, 2018).
  • You will learn about music composition, theory and analysis together with historical musicology and issues that shape contemporary music.
From time to time, we make changes to our courses to improve the student and learning experience, and this is particularly the case as we continue to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as we can.

Core Modules

Year 1
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how to solve problems involving one variable (either real or complex) and differentiate and integrate simple functions. You will learn how to use vector algebra and geometry and how to use the common probability distributions.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how to solve problems involving more than one variable. You will learn how to use matrices and solves eigenvalue problems, and how to manipulate vector differential operators, including gradient, divergence and curl. You will also consider their physical significance and the theorems of Gauss and Stokes.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of good practices in the laboratory. You will keep a notebook, recording experimental work as you do it. You will set up an experiment from a script, and carry out and record measurements. You will learn how to analyse data and plot graphs using a computer package, and present results and conclusions including error estimations from your experiments.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how to apply the techniques and formulae of mathematical analysis, in particular the use of vectors and calculus, to solve problems in classical mechanics. You will look at statics, dynamics and kinematics as applied to linear and rigid bodies. You will also examine the various techniques of physical analysis to solve problems, such as force diagrams and conservation principles.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the macroscopic properties of the various states of matter, looking at elementary ideas such as ideal gases, internal energy and heat capacity. Using classical models of thermodynamics, you will examine gases, liquids, solids, and the transitions between these states, considering phase equilibrium, the van der Waals equation and the liquefaction of gases. You will also examine other states of matter, including polymers, colloids, liquid crystals and plasmas.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the building blocks of fundamental physics. You will look at Einstein’s special theory of relativity, considering time-dilation and length contraction, the basics of quantum mechanics, for example wave-particle duality, and the Schrödinger equation. You will also examine concepts in astrophysics such as the Big Bang theory and how the Universe came to be the way we observe it today.

  • This course aims: 1. to develop basic music-analytical literacy, 2. to introduce basic concepts concerning counterpoint, harmony, melody and form that underpin the analysis of music, 3. to put these concepts into practice in the analysis of pieces from a variety of repertories. The course addresses the contrapuntal, melodic, harmonic and formal elements of tonal music. Weekly lectures, in which students are introduced to analytical concepts and then practise deploying them, through listening, score study and the completion of practical exercises, are supplemented by private study based on Moodle and recommended readings, to consolidate concepts learnt in the lectures and provide further opportunities to practise new skills.

Year 2
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how electric and magnetic fields are generated from static charges and constant currents flowing through wires. You will derive the properties of capacitors and inductors from first principles, and you will learn how to analyse simple circuits. You will use complex numbers to describe damped harmonic oscillations, and the motion of transverse and longitudinal waves.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the mathematical representation of physical problems, and the physical interpretation of mathematical equations. You will look at ordinary differential equations, including linear equations with constant coefficients, homogeneous and inhomogeneous equations, exact differentials, sines and cosines, Legendre poynomials, Bessel's equation, and the Sturm-Liouville theorem. You will examine partial differential equations, considering Cartesian and polar coordinates, and become familiar with integral transforms, the Gamma function, and the Dirac delta function.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the physical properties of solids. You will look at their structure and symmetry, concepts of dislocation and plastic deformation, and the electrical characteristics of metals, alloys and semiconductors. You will examine methods of probing solids and x-ray diffraction, and the thermal properties of photons. You will also consider the quantum theory of solids, including energy bands and the Bloch theorem, as well as exploring fermiology, intrinsic and extrinsic semiconductors, and magnetism.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how computers are used in modern science for data analysis and visualisation. You will be introduced to the intuitive programming language, Python, and looking at the basics of numerical calculation. You will examine the usage of arrays and matrices, how to plot and visualise data, how to evaluate simple and complex expressions, how to sample using the Monte Carlo methods, and how to solve linear equations.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of quantum mechanics and its role in and atomic, nuclear, particle and condensed matter physics. You will look at the wave nature of matter and the probabilistic nature of microscopic phenomena. You will learn how to use the key equation of quantum mechanics to describe fundamental phenomena, such as energy quantisation and quantum tunnelling. You will examine the principles of quantum mechanics, their physical consequences, and applications, considering the nature of harmonic oscillator systems and hydrogen atoms.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of thermal physics and elementary quantum mechanics. You will look at the thermodynamic properties of an ideal gas, examining the solutions of Schrödinger’s equation for particles in a box, and phenomena such as negative temperature, superfluidity and superconductivity. You will also consider the thermodynamic equilibrium process, entropy in thermo-dynamics, and black-body radiation.

Year 3
  • Advanced Skills
  • Experimental or Theoretical Project
  • In this module you develop an understanding of the properties of light, starting from Maxwell’s equations. You will look at optical phenomena such as refraction, diffraction and interference, and how they are exploited in modern applications, from virtual reality headsets to the detection of gravitational waves. You will also examine masers and lasers, and their usage in optical imaging and image processing.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how James Clerk Maxwell unified all known electrical and magnetic effects with just four equations, providing Einstein’s motivation for developing the special theory of relativity, explaining light as an electromagnetic phenomenon, and predicting the electromagnetic spectrum. You examine these equations and their consequences, looking at how Maxwell’s work underpins all of modern physics and technology. You will also consider how electromagnetism provides the paradigm for the study of all other forces in nature.

Optional Modules

There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Year 1
  • This course aims: 1. to develop basic music-analytical literacy, 2. to introduce basic concepts concerning counterpoint, harmony, melody and form that underpin the analysis of music, 3. to put these concepts into practice in the analysis of pieces from a variety of repertories. The course addresses the contrapuntal, melodic, harmonic and formal elements of tonal music. Weekly lectures, in which students are introduced to analytical concepts and then practise deploying them, through listening, score study and the completion of practical exercises, are supplemented by private study based on Moodle and recommended readings, to consolidate concepts learnt in the lectures and provide further opportunities to practise new skills.

  • The aim of this course is to develop students' awareness of music theory through practical exercises and musical analysis. Through practical exercises that focus on musical literacy as well as aural awareness, students develop the ability to identify and analyse the musical parameters of metre, rhythm, pitch, harmony, counterpoint and form. In-class exercises may focus on listening, whereas exercises for self-study or small-group work may include written exercises. Tasks set for private study between classes provide a basis for students to continue their own practical training throughout their musical careers.

  • This course introduces students to some fundamental techniques of music composition. The precise topics taught may change depending on the research interests of the staff responsible for teaching the course, but typically include:

    • Soundworlds and scale formations

    • The vertical dimension: chords and simultaneities

    • The horizontal dimension: melody and voice leading

    • Developments in rhythm

    • Developments in harmonic vocabulary and tonalities

    • Form in contemporary composition

    • Acoustic timbre and texture

  • This course gives students the opportunity to practise the art of musical composition and develop skills in independents creative work. The precise topics taught may change depending on the research interests of the staff responsible for teaching the course, but typically include:

    • Writing for solo instrument or voice with accompaniment

    • Writing for small chamber ensemble

    • Introduction to media and film music

    • Studio techniques

  • This course introduces a wide range of repertories within the history of music. It stimulates students to relate features of musical compositions and performances to their wider historical contexts and gives students a fundamental knowledge of specific musical cultures. It provides students with opportunities to develop skills in research and information retrieval and in critical reading of primary and secondary literature, to receive formative feedback on those skills, and to build a foundation for higher-level study. The course will offer students a conceptual map of musical styles, composers and practices by introducing them to a wide chronological range of repertories, from early music to music of the twentieth century. It will emphasise questions of change, interaction and transmission through the study of specific forms and repertories in their historical context. Lectures will be designed around major repertorial moments (e.g. Stravinsky in 1910) or problems (e.g. the post-Beethovenian symphony), to bring together questions of form, style, performing practice and historical context.

  • This course introduces concepts underlying the historical and critical study of music. It enables students to begin thinking critically about the priorities that underlie historical texts from different intellectual traditions and stimulates them to relate features of musical compositions and performances to wider historical contexts. It provides students with opportunities to develop skills in research and information retrieval and in critical reading of primary and secondary literature, to receive formative feedback on those skills, and to build a foundation for higher-level study. This course introduces students to the different kinds of historical question that we can ask about music, and interrogates some of the terminology and categories frequently used in the secondary literature (e.g. canonisation, reception, tradition, nationalism, exoticism, the work concept). Case-studies are used to illuminate specific topics and problems in the historiography of a wide variety of musics.

  • This course introduces students to the socio-cultural contexts, functions, philosophies, techniques, and organising principles of a variety of musics of the world; musics from at least three continents will be studied. These musical traditions will be approached from both theoretical and practical perspectives, also giving a variety of opportunities for hands-on experience. Course content will vary from year to year according to staff interests, availability of musicians to provide workshops, and to ensure freshness of approach. A typical curriculum might cover the following regions and theoretical themes:

    • World Music - Introduction (culture, contact & concepts)
    • South America: Andes to Amazon (exchange)
    • Africa: Jaliya and Mbira (the musician)
    • Indonesia: Sundanese Gamelan (temporal organisation)
    • North India: The Classical Tradition (improvisation)
    • Papua New Guinea: The Kaluli (music and ecology)
    • Iran: The Persian Classical Tradition (music & religion).
  • This course introduces students to a range of key debates and issues in contemporary musicology and to a range of key issues concerning music in the contemporary world. It encourages students to think about music’s relation to social and cultural contexts and introduces them to unfamiliar musical styles and repertoires as well as broaden understanding of those closer to home. It hones students’ skills in reading a wide variety of critical and theoretical writing about music. This course will survey some of the key contemporary issues in music that have arisen from the changes of the modern world, as well as contemporary debates in musicology. The twentieth century in particular has seen a transformation of musical cultures across the world, and this course looks at a range of the issues and controversies that have emerged as a result. The study of music has broadened to include many more social, cultural and political. This course will introduce students to truly contemporary ways of studying music, combining approaches and issues traditionally associated with musicology, ethnomusicology and popular music studies, divisions which are becoming increasingly blurred. Lecture topics may include:

    • Ideas of ‘authenticity’ in music

    • Value judgements about music

    • Protection and preservation of music

    • Heritage and revivals

    • Music and tourism

    • New forms of fusion and hybridity

    • The idea of ‘world music’.

    • Music and identity

    • Music and gender

    • Music and race

    • Music and nationalism

Year 2
  • Composition Portfolio
  • Practical and Creative Orchestration
  • Choral Conducting
  • Composing with Technology 1
  • Introduction to Jazz: Theory, Practice and Contexts
  • Popular Music and Musicians in Post-War Britain and North America
  • Korean Percussion Performance
  • Practical Ethics
  • Musical Aesthetics
  • Mozart's Operas
  • Issues in Sound, Music and the Moving Image
  • Music and Society in Purcell's London
  • Music, Power and Politics
  • Ideas of German Music from Mozart to Henze
  • Music and Gender
  • Hearing the Orient: Critical and Practical Approaches to the Middle East
Year 3
  • Energy and Climate Science
  • Advanced Classical Physics
  • Further Mathematical Methods
  • Nonlinear Systems and Chaos
  • C++ and Object Oriented Programming
  • Signal Recovery and Handling
  • Quantum Theory
  • Particle Physics
  • Metals and Semiconductors
  • Superconductivity and Magnetism
  • Frontiers of Metrology
  • General Relativity and Cosmology
  • Particle Astrophysics
  • This module lets students write a detailed essay of 10,000–11,000 words (including footnotes or endnotes and excluding appendices and bibliography) on a topic of a critical, aesthetic, technical, historical, cultural, analytical or theoretical nature relating to music; or on a topic of an ethnomusicological nature; or to make a transcription of one or more historical sources relating to music and to write a detailed accompanying commentary of 5000-5500 words (including footnotes or endnotes and excluding appendices and bibliography). The content of the module is the process, in all its detail, of the preparation and production of an extended piece of academic work.

    You will undertake an extended piece of academic work at the level appropriate to the final year of an undergraduate degree programme, carried out independently under the guidance of a supervisor, and laying the foundations for possible further work in the field at postgraduate level.

  • The learning objective is to write a detailed essay on a topic of a technical, analytical or theoretical nature relating to music.

    You will undertake an extended piece of academic work at the level appropriate to the final year of an undergraduate degree programme, carried out independently under the guidance of a supervisor, and laying the foundations for possible further work in the field at postgraduate level.

  • This module develops students' knowledge of advanced compositional techniques with particular focus on structure, harmonic control and the manipulation of rhythmic and melodic material. It provides opportunities to practise the art of musical composition and to develop skills in independent creative work and increases students' awareness, knowledge and understanding of issues related to contemporary composition practice in a variety of contexts. Developing on areas covered in MU2213 Composition Portfolio, the module will provide a framework for you to further explore the possibilities in your own compositional method. You will complete a structured portfolio that will properly demonstrate your increased awareness, knowledge and understanding of contemporary art music and related compositional issues. You will be assisted in acquiring a deeper confidence in experimenting with a range of compositional methods and techniques whilst being encouraged to explore the possibilities of your own compositional voice in the hope that this trend will continue into your professional life. During workshops you will be given the opportunity to have your work rehearsed and recorded by professional musicians. It is hoped that through these workshops you will discover more about the possibilities of instrumentation and the many practical compositional issues facing composers today. You should also seek to develop your own opportunities for the performance of your music in order to develop your confidence and professional activity.

  • Musical Aesthetics
  • Mozart's Operas
  • Issues in Sound, Music and the Moving Image
  • Intercultural Performance: Theory and Practice
  • Music and Society in Purcell's London
  • Music, Power and Politics
  • Ideas of German Music from Mozart to Henze
  • Music and Gender
  • Hearing the Orient: Critical and Practical Approaches to the Middle East
  • Composing with Technology 2
  • Atomic Physics

The course has a modular structure, whereby students take 24 course units at the rate of eight per year. Some course units are compulsory while others are elective thereby offering flexibility and choice.  

Teaching in the Physics department takes place in lectures, seminars, laboratory practical classes and problem-solving sessions. Outside class-time students participate in group projects and guided independent study and have access to the college’s comprehensive e-learning facility, ‘Moodle’ where there is a variety of resources available for students.

Physics assessment is usually by two-hour examination at the end of the year. Coursework and in-class tests also contribute to the assessment of many course units. Experimental work is generally assessed by written reports or oral presentation. A minimum of six of the eight course units must be passed with a minimum score of 40 per cent each year.

Teaching in the Music department is through a combination of lectures, seminars, tutorials, or group instrumental/vocal lessons - performance modules that include individual instrumental or vocal lessons are not available on this course.

You will also have the opportunity to take part in a wide variety of musical activities supported by the department, including performances by orchestras, choirs and other ensembles. Private study and preparation are essential parts of every course, and you will have access to many online resources through Moodle. When you start with us, you are assigned a Personal Advisor to support you academically and personally.

Music assessment is carried out by a combination of examinations, which take place in the summer term, along with written papers, extended essays, assessed coursework, and a portfolio of practical work.

A Levels: AAA-AAB

Required subjects:

  • A-levels in Mathematics and Physics, plus a pass in the practical element of all science A-levels being taken
  • A-level Music or Grade 7 Music Theory at pass
  • Grade 7 ABRSM (where applicants are unable to take Grade 7, video evidence may be acceptable)
  • Applicants without A-level grade A in Music or pass in Grade 7 Music Theory may be eligible for the Intensive Theory entry. This requires Music GCSE grade A/7 or equivalent, plus performance at Grade 7 level. In term 1 you will be required to take Fundamentals of Music Theory, an intensive music literacy course.
  • At least five GCSEs at grade A*-C or 9-4 including English and Mathematics.

Where an applicant is taking the EPQ alongside A-levels, the EPQ will be taken into consideration and result in lower A-level grades being required. For students who are from backgrounds or personal circumstances that mean they are generally less likely to go to university you may be eligible for an alternative lower offer. Follow the link to learn more about our contextual offers.

English language requirements

All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.

The scores we require
  • IELTS: 6.5 overall. No subscore lower than 5.5.
  • Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 54. No subscore lower than 51.
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.

Country-specific requirements

For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please visit here.

Undergraduate Pathways

For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, the International Study Centre offers the following pathway programmes:

International Foundation Year - for progression to the first year of an undergraduate degree.

International Year One - for progression to the second year of an undergraduate degree.

Study Physics with Music at Royal Holloway, University of London and you'll graduate with excellent industry contacts, insider knowledge of music networks in London and specific practical skills in performance, composition and production. You'll earn a highly desirable honours degree offering excellent employability prospects across a range of sectors, and gain a diverse skillset to take into your future career. 

Our recent graduates have gone on to enjoy a wide range of careers, including roles as musicians, composers and performing arts teachers, technicians, publishers, managers, lawyers and policy-makers. Follow in their footsteps and you'll gain transferable skills including communication, teamwork, time management, commercial awareness and critical thinking.

Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £9,250

EU and International students tuition fee per year**: £23,200

Other essential costs***: Music - £50. Physics - £55.

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loansscholarships and bursaries. UK students who have already taken out a tuition fee loan for undergraduate study should check their eligibility for additional funding directly with the relevant awards body.

*The tuition fee for UK undergraduates is controlled by Government regulations. For students starting a degree in the academic year 2021/22, the fee will be £9,250 for that year. The fee for UK undergraduates starting in 2022/23 has not yet been confirmed.

**The UK Government has confirmed that EU nationals are no longer eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us in September 2022, we will award a fee reduction scholarship equivalent to 60% of the difference between the UK and international fee for your course. This will apply for the duration of your course. Find out more

Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. The policy at Royal Holloway is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our terms and conditions.

***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2021/22 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.

Accreditation

Institue of Physics

This course is accredited by the Institute of Physics. Successful completion of this programme partially meets the educational requirement for becoming a Chartered Physicist.

9th in the UK for student experience

Source: Times Good University Guide, 2020

92% overall student satisfaction (Physics)

Source: NSS, 2019

97% of our Physics graduates are in work or further study within six months of graduating

Source: DLHE, 2018

Explore Royal Holloway

Get help paying for your studies at Royal Holloway through a range of scholarships and bursaries.

There are lots of exciting ways to get involved at Royal Holloway. Discover new interests and enjoy existing ones

Heading to university is exciting. Finding the right place to live will get you off to a good start

Whether you need support with your health or practical advice on budgeting or finding part-time work, we can help

Discover more about our 21 departments and schools

Find out why Royal Holloway is in the top 25% of UK universities for research rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’

They say the two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why

Discover world-class research at Royal Holloway

Discover more about who we are today, and our vision for the future

Royal Holloway began as two pioneering colleges for the education of women in the 19th century, and their spirit lives on today

We’ve played a role in thousands of careers, some of them particularly remarkable

Find about our decision-making processes and the people who lead and manage Royal Holloway today