Important information

Our audition content is being updated for entry in September 2023 and will be shared soon, if you have any questions in the meantime please e-mail admissions@rcs.ac.uk.

An Overview

This is the UK’s only Bachelor of Music degree dedicated to traditional and folk music. Aspiring performers on this course explore Scotland’s unique and dynamic musical traditions as a conceptual, critical and creative framework within which to achieve a distinctively personal voice as an artist. This is interwoven with a solid basis in contemporary and eclectic performance practice.

Our curriculum recognises that the innovative nature of Scottish traditional music today must be embraced, and that the creative development of the individual is the most important way to ensure traditional music flourishes from one generation to another.

You can expect to learn in a busy department where your musical roots and creative artistry will be nurtured and developed through one-to-one tuition, academic context, performance opportunities, masterclasses and lots of ensemble work, all aimed at helping you fulfil your potential.

The programme offers the following Principal Studies:

  • Accordion
  • Cello
  • Fiddle
  • Flute/Whistle
  • Gaelic song
  • Guitar
  • Percussion (pipe band snare drum, drumkit, bodhran)
  • Piano
  • Scots song
  • Scottish Harp (normally gut-strung)

You will work closely with some of the world’s top solo and collaborative teachers and performers to consolidate your performance technique, repertoire and personal style as a traditional musician, interwoven with development as a critical, creative, entrepreneurial and/or teaching artist. This includes exploring both the established parameters of folk and traditional music and the shared technical vocabulary that links folk to classical and jazz worlds. External learning opportunities include an Isle of Skye residency, touring, teaching placements and work placements in Scotland and overseas, as well as appearances at high-profile events, including Glasgow’s renowned Celtic Connections festival, Piping Live!, international occasions of state and a range of UK, European and North American festivals.

The BMus with Honours (Traditional Music) places emphasis on the creative development of the individual and allows the curriculum to be relevant to aspiring musicians from anywhere in the world. We have welcomed students from as far afield as Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Institution Code:

R58

Programme Code:

250F

UK Deadline:

3 October 2022

International Deadline:

3 October 2022

Programme Structure

In your first year, you will consolidate and enhance your technique and your grounding in traditional repertoire in your principal study instrument or voice, interwoven with development as a critical and creative artist, able to connect and engage critically with your own experience as a traditional or folk musician.

You will receive an introduction to music theory and website design, as you not only begin to construct your identity as a musician, but interpret it to the world. This year also features a grounding for all students in Scots and Gaelic song, sources and folklore so as to instill a shared foundation in the roots of Scottish music and its relationship to language and culture.

Year 1 has a total of 120 credits across the modules below.

 

Principal Study Exam Requirements

Year 1 Performance A (Recital):

Internal recital, 30 minutes in duration, consisting of a varied programme of traditional repertoire developed over the course of the academic year and drawn from key composers and collections/sources.

Year 1 Performance B (Recital Audition):

Two in-lesson recitals (Last week of T1 and of T2) in which you should prepare a programme of 10-15 minutes duration, demonstrating evidence of progress in performing traditional repertoire from composers and collections/sources fundamental to your Principal Study discipline.

In your programme you should articulate how they are informing your own personal stylistic approach. Material demonstrated in these lessons may be performed formally on the occasion of Performance A.

Performance 1

Principal Study lessons

Supporting Studies
• Performance Class
• Technique & Healthy Practice
• Scottish Traditional Repertoire 1
• Folk Ensemble Level 1
• Gaelic 1: Pronunciation, Titles, Intros
• Supplementary Grade 5 Theory
• Accompanying Song
• Folklore

Critical Commentary

Credits: 60

Discourses in Traditional Music

ePortfolio of research tasks

Pecha Kucha presentation

Credits: 20

Creative Skills in Traditional Music 1

Composition folio of tunes

Continuous observation

Credits: 20

Introduction to Professional Skills for Musicians

ePortfolio

Credits: 10

Learning to Collaborate

Written proposal or vlog

Sharing of collaborative work

Credits: 10

In your second year, you will continue to nurture and extend your knowledge and practical skills as a solo and collaborative traditional musician through a broadening exploration of technique, repertoire and style relative to your instrument or vocal tradition.

You will extend your skills in group Scots and Gaelic singing and in programming, performing and calling a ceilidh. You will expand outwards as a musician-researcher, exploring historic and social contexts and concepts, and draw relationships between practice, perception and context.

You will further nurture your composition and arrangement skills and expand your entrepreneurial skillset with reference to multiple audiences, licensing issues, intellectual property, marketing and digital music distribution.

Year 2 has a total of 120 credits across the modules below.

 

Principal Study Exam Requirements

Year 2 Performance A (Recital):

Internal recital, 30 minutes in duration, consisting of a varied programme of repertoire drawn from different regional, national, period or other styles/repertoires (or similar), developed over the course of the academic year and open to observation by other students and staff.

Year 2 Performance B (Recital Audition):

Two in-lesson recitals (Last week of T1 and of T2) in which you should prepare a programme of 10-15 minutes duration, demonstrating evidence of progress in performing different regional, national, period or other styles/repertoires fundamental to your Principal Study discipline, drawn from appropriate sources (both traditional and contemporary). In your programme you should articulate how they inform your own personal stylistic approach. Material demonstrated in these lessons may be performed formally on the occasion of Performance A.

Performance 2

Principal Study lessons

Performance Studies
• Performance Class
• Technique & Healthy Practice
• Scottish Traditional Repertoire 2
• Folk Ensemble Level 2
• Sang Scuil | Sgoil nan Oran
• Ceilidh Skills
• Optional study
• Optional study

Critical Commentary

Credits: 60

Traditional Music Research Portfolio

ePortfolio of research tasks

Presentation

Credits: 20

Creative Skills in Traditional Music 2

Composition folio of multi-instrumental pieces

Continuous Observation

 

Credits: 10

Music Leadership

ePortfolio

 

Credits: 10

Options

Various

 

Credits: 20

Year three will see you develop a solid musical persona through fluent knowledge and expertise informed by your principal study and a consolidation of your critical artistry in research and reflection. You will do this whilst developing your pedagogical knowledge and your practical skills in teaching traditional music in a range of environments.

You will address essential vocational issues in greater detail, such as self-assessed taxation, contract negotiation, creative arts funding and administration and the option of a formal work placement, in addition to an ongoing array of elective opportunities to be found in the department, the Royal Conservatoire and beyond; thereby continuing to nurture your own distinct artistic specialisms in a traditional, folk, or broader arts context.

Year 3 has a total of 120 credits across the modules below.

 

Principal Study Exam Requirements

Year 3 Performance A (Public Recital):

Public recital, 45 minutes in duration, that articulates a specific theme developed over the course of the academic year. Your theme may be soloist in nature or may involve collaboration with other singers or instrumentalists, accompaniment and (if appropriate) improvisation. Your programme may include, or indeed emphasise, your own compositions and arrangements so long as this is in alignment with your recital’s theme and your tutor’s approval. You may involve a maximum of two accompanists in your public recital.

 

Year 3 Performance B (Recital Auditions):

Two in-lesson recitals (Last week of T1 and of T2) in which you should prepare a programme of 15 minutes duration, demonstrating evidence of progress in performing project material being developed to date that contribute to the theme of the final public recital. Material demonstrated in these lessons will be performed formally on the occasion of Performance A.

Performance 3

Principal Study lessons

Supporting Studies
• Performance Class
• Technique & Healthy Practice
• Scottish Traditional Repertoire 3
• Folk Ensemble Level 3
• Optional study
• Optional study
• Optional study
• Optional study

Critical Commentary

Credits: 60

Traditional Music Research Project

ePortfolio of project

Presentation

 

Credits: 10

The Teaching Musician

Portfolio

 

Credits: 10

The Freelance Musician

ePortfolio

 

Credits: 10

Core Option

Any level, School of Music)

 

Credits: 10

Options Module

From Music/Drama/Dance, any level

 

Credits: 20

Year four — the Honours year — occasions a synthesis of your critical, technical and creative development as a traditional musician or piper. In addition to engaging in your own substantial project work, deeply rooted in both tradition and innovation, toward an independent and original contribution to the field, you will continue to take advantage of the array of elective opportunities to be found in the department, the Royal Conservatoire and beyond. The Honours year is student-centred: working to achieve a distinct identity and musical voice within your own established parameters, culminating in a themed final public recital.

Year 4 has a total of 120 credits across the modules below.

 

Year 4 Performance A (Public Recital 70%):

Public recital, 45 minutes in duration, that articulates your distinct idiomatic voice
through a specific theme or project developed over the course of the academic year
in collaboration with your tutor(s) and, if appropriate, your peers, making explicit
your depth of learning in one or more specialisms. You may involve a maximum of
two accompanists in your public recital.

Year 4 Performance B (Recital Audition) Indicative content:

Two in-lesson recitals (last week T1 and T2) in which you should evidence examples
of project material being developed to date that contribute to the theme of the endof-
year public recital. Material demonstrated in these lessons will be performed
formally on the occasion of Performance A.

Year 4 Research Paper (20%)
A paper of c. 4,000 words analysing a chosen topic relevant to your performance
practice and professional/artistic aspirations.

Year 4 Viva examination (10%)

A 20-minute viva examination to discuss your learning and forward planning.

 

Performance 4

Principal Study lessons

Supporting Studies

Performance Class
• Technique & Healthy Practice
• Optional Study
• Optional Study
• Optional Study
• Optional Study
• Optional Study
• Optional Study

Research Paper

Viva examination

 

Credits: 80

Core Option

Must be level 10, School of Music

 

Credits: 10

Option Modules

From Music/Drama/Dance, any level

 

Credits: 30

Teaching Staff

Accordion

Ian Muir
John Somerville
Paddy Callaghan
Djordje Gajic

Bagpipes

John Mulhearn (Head of Piping Studies)
Willie McCallum
Ross Ainslie

Frequent visiting tutors for piping include Barnaby Brown, Iain MacInnes, Fred Morrison, Hugh Cheape, Mike Katz and many more.

Cello

Bespoke arrangements available

Flutes and Whistles

Anna Friel
Marc Duff 
Steph Geremia
Philippe Barnes

Gaelic Song

Iseabail T NicDhomhnaill
Màiri MacInnes

Guitar

Kevin MacKenzie
Ali Hutton
Jenn Butterworth 
Innes White

Percussion

David Henderson
Fraser Stone
Martin O’Neill

Piano

Mary McCarthy 
James Ross BA 
Alistair Paterson

Creative and Contextual Studies

Professor Margaret Bennett DCE BA MA PhD, Folklore

Prof Fred Freeman, Scots Language & Song, Scottish Music in Context

Dr Ailie Robertson, Research and Composition

James Ross, Creative Skills in Traditional Music 1

Dave Milligan, Creative Skills in Traditional Music 2

Masterclasses

Fiddle
  • Chris Stout
  • Allan Henderson
  • Aidan O’Rourke
  • Douglas Lawrence
  • Aaron Lewis
  • Jamie Laval
  • Aonghas Grant Sr
  • Adam Sutherland
  • Liz Carroll
  • Nordic Fiddlers Bloc
Accordion
  • Angus Lyon
  • Sandy Brechin
  • Iain MacPhail
  • John Somerville
  • Kathleen Boyle
  • Luke Daniels
Clarsach
  • Mary MacMaster
  • Simon Chadwick
  • Corrina Hewat
  • Lily Neill
  • Maeve Gilchrist
  • Siobhán Armstrong
  • Bill Taylor
  • The Duplets (Freya Thompson and Gillian Fleetwood)



 

 

Gaelic Song
  • Anne Lorne Gillies
  • Griogor Labhraidh
  • Margaret Stewart
  • Rona Lightfoot
Piping
  • Roddy J MacLeod
  • Fraser Fifield
  • John Wilson
  • Rona Lightfoot
  • Fred Morrison
Scots Song
  • Sheila Stewart
  • Elizabeth Stewart
  • Alison McMorland
  • Sara Grey
  • Tom Spiers
  • Mick West
  • Tom McCarthy
  • Alistair Roberts
Other
  • Brendan Taaffe (American folksong
  • Rannock (Danish fiddle and keyboard duet)
  • Fraser Fifield (whistles)
  • Findlay Napier (songwriting)
  • Violet Tulloch (Shetland piano accompaniment)
  • Nic Gareiss (traditional and extemporised dance)
  • Tigerstyle (Sikh dubstep)
  • Skip Gorman (American folksong and fiddling)
  • Pete Coe (Repertoire development, performance and presentation)
  • Dave Francis (Musical innovation)
  • Simon Thoumire
  • Dave Milligan
  • Anna Massie
  • Mairearad Green
  • Brian McAlpine
  • Ian Carr

The Traditional Music department offers masterclasses led by world-famous tradition-bearers, teachers and professional musicians from a broad range of traditional music.

Graduate Destinations

The Traditional Music programme has an excellent track record of graduate employment or self-employment within six months of graduation — upward of 90%. The programme prepares students for a wide and varied range of careers in traditional music; not all related to performance. Our graduates have gone on to establish their own recording labels, agencies or other entrepeneurial ventures; to tour extensively around the world; to become noted composers, producers and broadcasters; and to earn teaching qualifications to become classroom teachers; even to go on to further study in psychology and law.

Some noted alumni of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Department of Traditional Music include:

  • Finlay MacDonald (Principal of the National Piping Centre; The Finlay MacDonald Band)
  • Findlay Napier (Back of the Moon; Findlay Napier and the Bar-Room Mountaineers)
  • Emily Smith
  • Paul McKenna and Ruairidh MacMillan (The Paul McKenna Band)
  • Daniel Thorpe (The Daniel Thorpe Trio)
  • Cameron Drummond (Highland Society of London Double Silver Medallist; Strathallan School)
  • Calum MacCrimmon (Man’s Ruin; Seudan; Breabach)
  • Siobhan Miller and Jean Leslie
  • Gillian Frame (Back of the Moon, Glasgow Fiddle Workshop)
  • Simon McKerrell (Reader in Music and Society, University of Newcastle)
  • Angus MacPhail (Skippinish)
  • Jenna Reid
  • Stuart Cassells (Red Hot Chilli Pipers)
  • Kathleen MacInnes
  • Deirdre Graham
  • James Graham
  • Jack Smedley, David Foley and Steven Blake (Rura)
  • Robyn Stapleton (BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2014)
  • Ainsley Hamill (Barluath)
  • Gordon Bruce (Highland Society of London Double Silver Medallist)
  • Grant McFarlane (CherryGrove)
  • Iona Fyfe, Scots traditional singer
  • Connor Sinclair, Gold medallist piper and whistle player
  • The Canny Band: Sam Mabbett, Calum Convoy, Michael Biggins (Trad Awards 2021)

The Wayfarers

Guitars, mandolins, fiddles and other instruments that make up a contemporary traditional band resonate with historical associations. The Wayfarers project explores how music can aid the teaching of controversial histories.

Working together, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland; the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, Plockton; and the University of Glasgow, showcases teaching packs for pilot study in a Scottish secondary school to teach pupils about the musical migration of Scots to Appalachia, Eastern United States, and the challenging historical factors (such as forced migration, slavery, and segregation) that they encountered.

Visit The Wayfarers website to learn more 

Why Choose Us?

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is in the World Top 10 for performing arts education 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022 (QS World Rankings)

We are uniquely placed in the UK to deliver the BMus (Hons) Traditional Music programme, working alongside professionals partners such as the National Piping Centre to really ensure our students get the very best from their education.

In addition to our position as educators and our reputation for having expert staff renowned in the field of Scottish traditional music, this programme offers additional benefits you won’t get studying anywhere else.

  • Unparalleled one-to-one tuition
  • Sang Scuil / Sgoil nan Òran
  • Technique and Healthy Practice
  • Performance Class 
  • Folk Ensemble
  • Groove Studio

A Campus Built For The Performing Arts

Explore the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in our 360 virtual tour. You’ll be able to see our rehearsal and practice rooms, professional performance venues, production workshops, editing suite, ballet studios and more.

Entry Requirements

General Academic Entrance Requirements
  • Scottish Highers — 3 passes (grade C or above)
  • A Levels — 2 passes
  • International Baccalaureate — minimum score of 24 with 3 subjects at Higher Level
  • Recognised equivalences (EU and International Entry Requirements)

We welcome the Scottish Baccalaureate and will accept combinations of Highers and Advanced Highers.

We offer a flexible approach to students taking Higher over more than one academic year and/or who achieve their qualifications in more than one sitting.

Subjects recommended

Within the minimum academic entrance requirements listed above, the subject recommended are:<