BlogUniversityWhat It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Music at USYD

What It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Music at USYD

USYD Music - Fact Sheet

So a Bachelor of Music at USYD sounds like something you’d love, but you want to find out more?

This useful guide will introduce you to the core subjects, university culture, career pathways and what a day in your future life at uni could look like… and much more!

Read on to learn more about studying USYD Music!

What is a Bachelor of Music at USYD?
Core Units and Specialisations
How to Get into a Bachelor of Music at USYD
What’s the Teaching Format?
What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

What is a Bachelor of Music at USYD? 

A Bachelor of Music is the overarching degree name for anyone enrolled in music at USYD, which is wholly taught at the prestigious Conservatorium of Music (as opposed to the USYD main campus). It offers a broad music education with opportunities for experience in music and arts-related contexts.

What can you expect from studying a Bachelor of Music? 

Studying a Bachelor of Music at USYD, you can expect to be educated by some of Australia’s leading performers, composers and musicians of contemporary acclaim. You will attend Australia’s leading institution for the undergraduate study of music, and be immersed in a playful and collaborative learning environment with countless opportunities for industry experience and recognition.

The connections you make at the Con with peers, teachers and guest professionals can often become the springboards for your future opportunities and/or career. 

You can also expect to be able to tailor your degree to best fit your interests!

Career Paths 

A Bachelor of Music at USYD prepares you for a variety of careers depending on your specialisation. Bachelor of Music students also may enter into interdisciplinary jobs that combine music knowledge with, for example, communication or management skills.

A list of common pathways for this degree can be found below: 

    • Arts administrator
    • Composer
    • Contemporary musician
    • Digital music composer and performer
    • Festival or venue manager
    • Interactive music designer
    • Music journalist
    • Music producer
    • Music researcher
    • Singer/songwriter

Core Units and Specialisations 

What are the Specialisations?

A Bachelor of Music allows you to specialise in one of four main ‘programs’ on offer: Contemporary Music, Composition for Creative Industries, Digital Music and Media, and Musicology, or else to choose one of several ‘streams’ of the degree: 

    • Bachelor of Music (Composition) 
    • Bachelor of Music (Performance) 
    • Bachelor of Music (Music Education) 

Please note that students who choose to study a Bachelor of Music degree at USYD will choose one of the four programs after enrolment.

If they desire to study a stream however, they must choose that stream in the enrolment process itself (the stream is treated by UAC as a different degree from simply a ‘Bachelor of Music’). Studying a stream is highly popular among students at the Conservatorium!

What is expected of you?

As previously stated, your experience of a Bachelor of Music at USYD will really depend on the specialisation you choose. However, all students studying a Bachelor of Music are expected to study an equivalent of 48 credit points of core units; this goes up to 54 if you are thinking of doing a stream, due to the extra core requirements of that stream.

All music students are required to do certain core subjects in ‘Music Skills’ credit points, as well as ‘Analysis, Culture and History’ units. 

What are the Core Units?

The core subjects students studying a Bachelor of Music can choose to complete within ‘Music Skills’ range from music theory and aural skills, to music technology and practical keyboard skills. Some of these include Aural Perception (levels 1-4), Harmony and Analysis (levels 1-4), Jazz Music Skills (levels 1-4), as well as less conventional music skills like Sound Recording Fundamentals (CMPN1014), or Writing Music for Moving Image (CMPN3635).  

Additionally, all students must complete the unit MCGY1030 This is Music in first year, as a part of ‘Analysis, Culture and History’. This subject delves into the fundamental questions of what music is, and why and how it is made, as well as the significance of music to society in general.

Other subjects in Analysis Culture and History that students may choose from to complete their core requirements include JAZZ1021 Jazz History 1, MCGY2611 Music in the Classical and Romantic Eras, MUSC3641 Music, Environment and Climate Change, as well as other history and society-rich subjects.

Final Year Projects

You will also undertake 12 credit points of Final Year Projects units in your fourth year if you decide not to undertake an Honours program. This is an exciting opportunity that provides a holistic experience of professional and creative musicianship.

This is typically spread out over the year, with one Music Specialist Creative Project unit in Semester 1 and 2. You will collaborate in small groups across musical disciplines in a project, potentially engaging in performing, recording, distribution, ensemble management, leadership, composing, audience development, and further facets. 

A full list of the core units and the specific streams/programs they relate to, as well as further details, can be found here. 

Internships and Work Placement 

The Sydney Conservatorium of Music also has a strong internship program that offers their students placements with many arts partners throughout NSW. While there is no in-built ‘work experience’ per-se in a Bachelor of Music at the University of Sydney, students studying this degree will be exposed to a range of industry level opportunities that can enhance their music understanding, connections and resume.

A few of its prestigious internship partners include Sydney Symphony Orchestra, ABC Classics, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Australian Youth Orchestra, NIDA, Opera Australia and the City Recital Hall. 


How to Get into a Bachelor of Music at USYD

An ATAR of 70 is necessary for guaranteed entrance into a Bachelor of Music at USYD. Though, there are other ways to get in without an ATAR!

Admission Pathways

Domestic applicants undertaking a current recognised high school (Year 12) qualification and applying via UAC might be eligible for an early offer of admission before the release of ATARs (or an equivalent domestic score) under the University’s Creative Arts Special Admission Scheme. These students will be assessed based on a combination of academic performance and audition requirements.

Admission pathways are also always open to domestic students on the basis of certain adjustment factors. For more information, visit admission pathways!

If you’ve already completed university-level or equivalent subjects, you may be able to apply for credit for previous study.

Assumed Knowledge and Prerequisite Subjects 

If you’re planning on specialising in the Composition for Creative Industries program, then HSC Music 1 or equivalent notation skills is assumed knowledge for a Bachelor of Music. HSC Music 2 or equivalent notation skills are also assumed for a Bachelor of Music (Composition), (Performance) and (Music Education), otherwise there are no other prerequisites/assumed knowledge.

If applicants fail to meet these requirements, they may be granted admission on the basis of having successfully undertaken tertiary studies in music at or above Diploma level to the equivalent of at least one year of study.


The Sydney Conservatorium of Music offers a long list of scholarships for undergraduate students. These include those which support the needs of low socio-economic background students, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, as well as those specific to certain musical skills (e.g piano student, string student) and to women.

For a full list of these scholarships and their requirements, visit here!

What’s the Teaching Format?

The University of Sydney operates on a semester basis, with 2 sessions per year, starting in March and September. For USYD Music, your classes will involve a combination of lectures, tutorials and one-on-one sessions (for students in streams).

Class Structure 

USYD Music - Class Structure


Notably, lectures for students studying a Bachelor of Music are delivered by different guest lecturers weekly depending on the subject, who are always highly experienced and often well-known within their particular field. This feature is unique to the degree, increasing the quality and engagement of each lecture. 

You’ll find that lectures will generally have around 60 to 70 students in attendance and run for 2 hours.


Tutorial classes for music subjects typically consist of many different activities, due to the variety of specialisations and units on offer.

Students can commonly expect to practice music skills such as listening exercises, notation, or other forms of written response in their Music Skills units. This may also include discussion and review of lecture material, or sharing of student work and bouncing ideas off each-other for programs like ‘Composition for Creative Industries’ as well as the Composition Stream of the degree.

Additionally, students studying Digital Music and Media program, or who have elected a digital music subject, will experience working in the Conservatorium sound studios in their tutorials, recording, editing and mixing. 

There are typically 20 students within each of your tutes and they will usually go for an hour.

One-on-one Lessons with a Tutor

One-on-one lessons with tutors are specific to streams, and differ for each stream. For example, Composition stream students can expect to discuss their semesterly projects with their tutors, and gain guidance and recommendations, while Performance students will receive music coaching much like private instrument lessons. 

You are allocated 6-7 hours within a semester for one-on-one lessons.

How much time do you spend at uni? 

Like with most degrees, in a Bachelor of Music you can expect to spend 15 to 20 hours a week at uni. However, depending on your degree, this may add up to more depending on your commitments (e.g. a performance stream student may use up extra time to rehearse). 


All music students are expected to complete examinations at the end of each semester for their shared core units in Music Skills and Analysis, History and Culture. These can range from 10 minute exams to 2-3 hour periods, and usually consist of listening, reading and writing.

The assessments for different specialisations and electives in a Bachelor of Music will vary; subjects that are composition focused will typically require a portfolio submission by the end of semester, while performance subjects may demand a recital at the end of semester. For those in the Performance stream, this consists of all the pieces the student has been working on throughout the period, and can be a fun event to invite friends to! 

Skills That You Develop 

USYD Music - Skills

First Year

In your first year, you can expect to develop your basic music literacy skills, including learning to read and write music, and an understanding of fundamental aspects of its structure and composition (MUSC1503 Fundamentals of Music 1). You will learn listening skills in MCGY1000 Aural Perception 1 and 2, involving dictation and sight-singing exercises.

You will also extend your harmony and analysis skills in Harmony and Analysis 1 to MCGY2011 Harmony and Analysis 2, including modulation, diatonic sequences and techniques for working with instrumental textures (please note that for certain programs and streams these skills are compulsory while for others they are not). 

In addition, you will learn the foundation skills of your specialisation (program or stream). For example, a student specialising in Digital Music and Media would learn sound recording and editing techniques, including basic equipment and software in CMPN1014 Sound Recording Fundamentals (students outside of this program may also be required to complete a certain number of music technology or computer music units, particularly those studying Composition).

Similarly, a student specialising in Composition for Creative Industries, or doing the stream of Composition, would learn skills such as instrumentation and orchestration in CMPN1611. 

Second and Third Year

In second and third year you may develop the skills learned in first, with subjects like Aural Perception 3 and 4, Harmony and Analysis 3 and 4 if you choose to. For those studying Composition for Creative Industries, expect to learn Scoring and Arranging for the Screen, and Music Notation and Publishing in CMPN2510 and CMPN2320.

Similarly, programs like Digital Media and Music, Composition for Creative Industries, and the Composition stream may learn/be required to undertake learning in emergent skills such as electro-acoustic music composition (CMPN2631) or Interactive Media and Sound Installations (CMPN3634).

Fourth Year

In their fourth year, students studying a Bachelor of Music may undertake an Honours program where they will learn how to choose an area of interest and develop a self-guided body of work or research.

Alternatively, students may engage in fourth year project units, wherein they will absorb skills of professional musicianship including performing, recording, distribution, ensemble management, leadership, composing, and audience development. 

What’s the Faculty and Culture Like? 

Faculty and Culture 

Studying a Bachelor of Music at USYD means entering a rich, creative environment full of innovative individuals working on different projects. This creative space is an excellent one for friendships, musical collaboration, and socialisation to thrive, as well as for seeking academic help throughout the course of your degree.

SUMS (Sydney University Music Society) — not to be confused with the Medical and Mathematics societies — is the university’s undergraduate choir that you can join, however there are constant opportunities for engagement through choirs, orchestras and ensembles, and regular performances and showcases of student work.  

USYD Music - Student Quote

The faculty is certainly a standout feature of studying a Bachelor of Music. In any stream, you can expect to be enriched by experienced lecturers well-known in their musical fields, with guest lecturers weekly including musicians like Paul Stanhope, Carl Vine, Daniel Blinkhorn, and Liza Lim.

Exchange Opportunities 

Students considering a Bachelor of Music at USYD have the opportunity to travel abroad to over four continents (Asia, Oceania, Europe, North America) and study at their most prestigious music conservatories for up to a whole semester. A full list of the locations can be found here!

Exchange is strongly encouraged for Bachelor of Music students, allowing them to experience music in a different culture and expand their global network of friends.

Zara Zadro is a Content Writer for Art of Smart and a current undergraduate student at the University of Sydney. She studies a Bachelor of Arts/Advanced Studies majoring in Media & Communications and English. In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to music and discovering new parts of Sydney. She has also written for the student publications Honi Soit and Vertigo. After she graduates, Zara hopes to do a Masters in creative writing and live overseas, which she cannot wait for!


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