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The University of Southampton

MUSI3003 Commercial Composition

Module Overview

Students in this module are introduced to a series of techniques that can be applied to a wide range of commercial musics in lectures in the first semester. In the second semester students work closely with course tutor to in one-to-one tutorials to develop a portfolio of original work.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • How to compose a portfolio of commercial music. This could be any form of commercial music, including music to picture or other media, pop, dance or concert music.
  • traditional score or in audio and/or multimedia formats.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Plan the construction of a portfolio as a coherent whole rather than a collection of unrelated pieces. This might be all or part of a CD album, work for theatre/film etc or a showreel for use as a marketing tool.
  • Consider clearly the making of a piece of music both formally, expressively and commercially
  • Understand how to elaborate materials of construction, such that much can be made from little; i.e. understand the value of musical economy
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Work on you own to produce an original composition or stylistically accurate pastiche/ or:
  • Work with one or more musicians to produce the same
  • Conceive, think through and execute a creative task.
  • Analyse and articulate ideas about your work and be able to sell the concept to a client or the marketplace in general
  • Understand and stick closely to a brief
  • Create basic web pages
  • Use basic graphics and multimedia software to present yourself and your work attractively
  • Look at your own work more objectively and adapt it to the challenges of the market
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Manipulate the relations of tonal and rhythmic tension/release to produce satisfactory compositions
  • Manipulate basic tonal, atonal and/or modal means of music generation
  • Write idiomatically for a number of instruments


In the first semester, the basic elements of composition – rhythm, melody, harmony and timbre –are considered. Students without formal studio training may be coached individually in how to get the best from their own recording facilities. The format may adapt to the specific needs of the students at the time, but generally the first four to six weeks consist of 2-3 hour seminars and student presentations which are discussed and informally assessed in class by the other students. During this time students formulate their own brief, which is then worked on as if it was a brief from a client. To this end the student will need to stick closely to the brief as this forms part of the marking scheme, however some negotiation of the brief is possible when circumstances justify this. After this initial stage teaching is done in 45 minute individual tutorials, but with some seminars on "specialist" topics connected with presentation of the work in semester 2. These include basic artwork layout, multimedia and web authoring. At some stage there is a workshop with a group of visiting professional session musicians who will perform student compositions in the studio. This is recorded and can be used in the portfolio.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include  - lecture  - group discussion  - practical workshop  - individual tutorials Learning activities include  - analysis/listening to music  - preparation of demo recordings/scores  - reading texts on issues of instrumental usage, technology and/or multimedia

Independent Study264
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Internet Resource.

Internet Resource.

Sound on Sound. Magazine online subscription

Internet Resource.

Commercial Composition.

Internet Resource.


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback  Class presentations. Initially every week but later on more spread out. Students comment on and assess each others' work. No formal marks are awarded but students will lose 2% of their final mark if they fail to make a presentation when requested.


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (40 minutes) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (3 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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