Director of Music and Director of Studies in Music: Dr David Trippett

Other Fellows in Music: Professor David Rowland

Course length: 3 years

Whether through the glorious choral music of the Chapel Choir, orchestral, vocal and chamber performances, or less serious activities, music has always been the heart of Christ's College, and we welcome applications to study for the Music course here.

Musical life at Cambridge

The musical life of Cambridge is extremely lively and varied and involves a very large number of students – those studying Music and many more who study other subjects. Whatever your musical interests you are sure to find someone else who shares them. There are also superb facilities for performing and studying music, including the University’s chapels and concert halls as well as its various libraries, which house collections of recordings, scores and books covering anything a musician might need. In short, if you are a music student at Cambridge you will be immersed in a range of musical cultures that will enable you to explore the subject as widely as is possible, both practically and academically.

The University Course

Our three-year Music course is designed to enable you to specialise increasingly, according to your strengths and interests.

In the first year there is an equal balance of practically-based and analytical/historical papers. Half of your time will be spent practising basic composition skills, with some aural and keyboard harmony. The other half will be spent on music analysis and a range of historical subjects.

There is more choice in the second year. If you wish to study a higher proportion of essay-based subjects you may do so while concentrating less on composition; and there is no compulsory aural or keyboard harmony in this year. Alternatively, if you wish to concentrate more on practically-based subjects you may do so. Coursework also features in the second year, in a variety of forms, and there is an opportunity for you to perform on your chosen instrument (or voice) if you wish.

The third year extends the kind of options, enabling you to pursue those aspects of the subject that particularly appeal to you.

For full course details, please see the Music Faculty website.

After your degree

Being a music student at Cambridge equips you for a wide variety of careers. A number of students who have recently studied at Christ’s have entered the music profession as performers, teachers, or administrators; but others have used their degrees as springboards into very different careers such as law, accountancy and management. Such a wide range of career destinations is possible because of the skills that a music degree helps you to acquire – not just music-specific skills, but other more general skills to do with critical evaluation and analysis, communication and teamworking. Whatever career choice you make while at Cambridge it is usually possible to proceed to another qualification that will equip you with the specific tools you need. Indeed, many students who choose to pursue music careers find that their music degree at Cambridge provides them with an excellent general grounding in the subject on which they subsequently build with, for example, a postgraduate performing qualification.

Music at Christ’s

There is a lively musical community at Christ’s. The College Music Society is one of the most active in Cambridge and the Choir is among the best of the mixed choirs. Between them, they  involve a significant proportion of the College members with students studying Music taking a prominent, leading role.

Among the academic staff, Professor David Rowland is Director of Studies. He is known as a performer on the organ, harpsichord and early piano, and also as a conductor. He writes on issues relating to performance history, as well as music and commerce in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Dr David Trippett is a musicologist and cultural historian. His research focuses on nineteenth-century intellectual history, Richard Wagner, and the philosophy of technology.

The College pays for instrumental lessons for undergraduate Music students, as well as travel to those lessons, as necessary. 


Because the Music course is so varied, we do not stipulate any particular activities, books, or performances for prospective applicants. Musicians arrive for interview with a very wide range of skills and interests. If you see yourself primarily as a performer it is important that you begin to engage with the context of the works that you play – the historical context in which they were composed, the discipline of analysis that will enable you to understand their structure and content better, or the performance history associated with them. If your musical interest is primarily academic (which is more unusual) you will need to gain some basic composition skills in traditional areas – the harmonisation of Bach chorales, the completion of two-part keyboard pieces, or the completion of string quartet extracts make good starting points.

Whatever your particular interests and skills, it is important that you learn to study independently; you will benefit most from Music at Cambridge if you are able to pursue your own interests and lines of enquiry.

Student Profile

Simon has just completed his second year of Music here at Christ's College, Cambridge. He has written about his experiences of studying Music in this student profile. If you would like to read more accounts from Christ's students, please see the student profiles page. 

How to apply

We welcome applications for Muisc from all backgrounds and school types. Details of the application process including the dates and deadlines are given on our how to apply page. If you will be applying from outside the UK, we recommend that you also read our dedicated section for international students. The following details supplement this with information specific to Music applications. 

Subject requirements

We expect applicants for Music to have studied Music as one of their post-16 subjects (at A-level, IB Higher Level, or equivalent). Those who have not taken Music at post-16 level may apply with the ABRSM Grade 8 Theory at Merit and above as a substitute.

An essay-based subject such as English Literature or History can also be helpful.

If you are a beginner pianist, this is not necessarily a disadvantage, as we encourage competency across a broad range of skills. Working hard on keyboard skills for the purposes of enabling harmony an counterpoint training would be wise, however.   

Written work

After your application is received, you will be asked to send us two pieces of work that you feel accurately reflect your abilities and interests. At Christ's, we ask you to send:

  1. a piece of harmony and/or one of your own compositions,
  2. an essay (preferably, but not necessarily, a music essay). 

The work sent should be your own original work, prepared during the normal course of your studies, and already marked by a teacher. We recommend that you keep copies for your own reference as your work may be discussed at interview. Full written work guidelines will be provided as part of the current applicants section on this website at the time (published by 20 September each year).


Music applicants invited for interview in Cambridge are usually given two interviews (on the same day) in early December. Music interviews at Christ's typically involve a brief aural test, a harmonisation exercise, an analytical discussion of a short piece of music, a critical discussion of a piece of text relating to music and discussion of some general themes in the study of music. We invite you to bring your instrument with you to play during the course of one of the two interviews, if you want to, as there will be an opportunity to perform a piece, if the candidate wishes to. Further information about interviews (including two useful films) is available in the Cambridge interviews section.

International applicants are advised to apply for interview in Cambridge in the case of a Music application rather than an overseas interview (since Music is one of the restricted subjects).


Typical conditional offers are A*AA at A-level including Music, 42 points overall in the IB with 7,7,6 in Higher Level subjects including Music, or the equivalent in other examination systems, although the precise terms of each offer are assessed individually.  The international students section has further information about typical offers for other qualifications.

If you will have already finished school when you apply, please see the page about post-qualification applications

Further Information

If you are able to come to a College Open Day, we will be glad to tell you more about Christ's and the studying Music here in person. If you are not able to come, please feel free to email any questions you have to the Christ's admissions team:

Music Society Garden Party

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