Music at Oxford vs. Cambridge

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SyllinGalanodel
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#1
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#1
Hi all, just wondering if anyone could give a little more insight into the differences between the courses. I have been more focused on Oxford for the last while, however I realised I hadn't given much thought to Cambridge. My main reason for Oxford is that my music teachers went there, they rave about it and have all turned out to be phenomenal musicians, so seems a safe decision. I also had a lovely visit to Oxford and very much liked the atmosphere, I won't get the chance to visit Cambridge. I basically need to decide this and college for September 1st - Choral Scholarship application.

Bio if helpful - My main music interests are composition and singing - choral and solo. However I am also a keen trumpet player, electric bassist and songwriter. I am in several orchestras, jazz bands and rock bands; I organise gigs and record and produce music - my band is called Neon Apathy! I am very much interested in the academic aspects of Oxbridge, I would like a course that will allow me freedom to have my own artistic ideas but that is challenging and will teach me discipline. I would like to focus my studies on free composition, pastiche composition, singing, analysis and music history, beginning my studies in keyboard skills and conducting. I am equally interested in 'thinky' studying as I am in practical study.
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Son of the Sea
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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flaurie
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^^ beat me to it!
Last edited by laurawatt; 9 months ago
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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Hello :hi:

Poke me to reply in the morning!
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SyllinGalanodel
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(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
Hello :hi:

Poke me to reply in the morning!
Poke!
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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(Original post by SyllinGalanodel)
Hi all, just wondering if anyone could give a little more insight into the differences between the courses. I have been more focused on Oxford for the last while, however I realised I hadn't given much thought to Cambridge. My main reason for Oxford is that my music teachers went there, they rave about it and have all turned out to be phenomenal musicians, so seems a safe decision. I also had a lovely visit to Oxford and very much liked the atmosphere, I won't get the chance to visit Cambridge. I basically need to decide this and college for September 1st - Choral Scholarship application.

Bio if helpful - My main music interests are composition and singing - choral and solo. However I am also a keen trumpet player, electric bassist and songwriter. I am in several orchestras, jazz bands and rock bands; I organise gigs and record and produce music - my band is called Neon Apathy! I am very much interested in the academic aspects of Oxbridge, I would like a course that will allow me freedom to have my own artistic ideas but that is challenging and will teach me discipline. I would like to focus my studies on free composition, pastiche composition, singing, analysis and music history, beginning my studies in keyboard skills and conducting. I am equally interested in 'thinky' studying as I am in practical study.
Hiya,

I know little about Cambridge colleges, so can't advise on that. Oxford has very recently revamped their course, for their first and second year students, whereas afaik, the Cambridge course hasn't had a similar revamp in some time.

The main differences are the structure of the course. At Cambridge you will do the Tripos, so will have exams every year and all these exams count towards your final degree classification. Oxford has Prelims in first year but you just need an overall pass in this to get to second year; your entire degree classification at Oxford would depend on third year exams/portfolio submissions/recital (though you study for these options over a two-year period. There are no second year exams at Oxford). The Cambridge course has a more rigorous/compulsory amount of keyboard skills/analysis/harmony and counterpoint.

I've attached the PDF that was shared with current Oxford students about the course revamp here for your interest. For more info about Cambridge course and options, please see this page: https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/music as well as https://www.mus.cam.ac.uk/applicants...e-music-course .
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OxFossil
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And OxMus
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OxMus
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#8
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#8
(Original post by SyllinGalanodel)
Hi all, just wondering if anyone could give a little more insight into the differences between the courses. I have been more focused on Oxford for the last while, however I realised I hadn't given much thought to Cambridge. My main reason for Oxford is that my music teachers went there, they rave about it and have all turned out to be phenomenal musicians, so seems a safe decision. I also had a lovely visit to Oxford and very much liked the atmosphere, I won't get the chance to visit Cambridge. I basically need to decide this and college for September 1st - Choral Scholarship application.

Bio if helpful - My main music interests are composition and singing - choral and solo. However I am also a keen trumpet player, electric bassist and songwriter. I am in several orchestras, jazz bands and rock bands; I organise gigs and record and produce music - my band is called Neon Apathy! I am very much interested in the academic aspects of Oxbridge, I would like a course that will allow me freedom to have my own artistic ideas but that is challenging and will teach me discipline. I would like to focus my studies on free composition, pastiche composition, singing, analysis and music history, beginning my studies in keyboard skills and conducting. I am equally interested in 'thinky' studying as I am in practical study.
Hi,

If you're struggling to make up your mind quickly, choose an Oxford college and just apply to the choral trials. It doesn't matter if you then decide to apply to Cambridge through UCAS; it'll be a fun few days in Oxford at the very least.

Re your bio: all of these academic pursuits/environmental factors are offered in some form at both universities, so it doesn't really narrow it down. I would suggest considering course *structure* as well as content. I reiterate the Prelims 2021 doc that The_Lonely_Goatherd attached (that I supplied); it gives you a good idea of where the Oxford course is going rn. My opinion is that Oxford's course is being modernised and brought up to date, and this probably constitutes an advantage over Cambridge... and I know of one Cambridge muso who switched subject for related reasons.
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SyllinGalanodel
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#9
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#9
(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
Hiya,

I know little about Cambridge colleges, so can't advise on that. Oxford has very recently revamped their course, for their first and second year students, whereas afaik, the Cambridge course hasn't had a similar revamp in some time.

The main differences are the structure of the course. At Cambridge you will do the Tripos, so will have exams every year and all these exams count towards your final degree classification. Oxford has Prelims in first year but you just need an overall pass in this to get to second year; your entire degree classification at Oxford would depend on third year exams/portfolio submissions/recital (though you study for these options over a two-year period. There are no second year exams at Oxford). The Cambridge course has a more rigorous/compulsory amount of keyboard skills/analysis/harmony and counterpoint.

I've attached the PDF that was shared with current Oxford students about the course revamp here for your interest. For more info about Cambridge course and options, please see this page: https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/music as well as https://www.mus.cam.ac.uk/applicants...e-music-course .
Thank you for this document very useful!
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SyllinGalanodel
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#10
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(Original post by OxMus)
Hi,

If you're struggling to make up your mind quickly, choose an Oxford college and just apply to the choral trials. It doesn't matter if you then decide to apply to Cambridge through UCAS; it'll be a fun few days in Oxford at the very least.

Re your bio: all of these academic pursuits/environmental factors are offered in some form at both universities, so it doesn't really narrow it down. I would suggest considering course *structure* as well as content. I reiterate the Prelims 2021 doc that The_Lonely_Goatherd attached (that I supplied); it gives you a good idea of where the Oxford course is going rn. My opinion is that Oxford's course is being modernised and brought up to date, and this probably constitutes an advantage over Cambridge... and I know of one Cambridge muso who switched subject for related reasons.
Yes, it was more the structure, like which parts I was interested in that I may have to sacrifice to study something else. It seems you can’t study conducting/keyboard skills as well as composition and performance - however if I get into a busy choir, there may be no need for me to do a performance module.
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SyllinGalanodel
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#11
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Do you know if you don’t study one module in the first year, if you can pick it up in the further years?
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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#12
(Original post by SyllinGalanodel)
Do you know if you don’t study one module in the first year, if you can pick it up in the further years?
I'll leave that for OxMus to answer, as I'm not sure of the current policy on that
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OxMus
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(Original post by SyllinGalanodel)
Do you know if you don’t study one module in the first year, if you can pick it up in the further years?
What you take for Prelims does not affect what you're allowed to take for Finals.

E.g. you can perform/compose for Finals even if you didn't for Prelims.
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OxMus
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#14
(Original post by SyllinGalanodel)
Yes, it was more the structure, like which parts I was interested in that I may have to sacrifice to study something else. It seems you can’t study conducting/keyboard skills as well as composition and performance - however if I get into a busy choir, there may be no need for me to do a performance module.
I'm talking about the structure of the entire degree, rather than of each stage. E.g. that second years do not take exams is a key point of differentiation from Cambridge's Tripos system. One other thing, the Tripos system means you can change course and enter the new course mid-way through; the person I mentioned earlier did two years of Music and is now doing a final year in German. At Oxford, you have to start all over again.

If you do end up at Oxford, I wouldn't bother taking Keyboard Skills (unless it's an easy high First) – there's not much to it and I think you'll get more out of other options.

Just note that Choral Performance is not offered at Prelims, and Solo Performance is a very different thing. Both are offered at Finals.
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SyllinGalanodel
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#15
(Original post by OxMus)
What you take for Prelims does not affect what you're allowed to take for Finals.

E.g. you can perform/compose for Finals even if you didn't for Prelims.
Ah I see, perfect!
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Muttley79
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(Original post by SyllinGalanodel)
Hi all, just wondering if anyone could give a little more insight into the differences between the courses. I have been more focused on Oxford for the last while, however I realised I hadn't given much thought to Cambridge. My main reason for Oxford is that my music teachers went there, they rave about it and have all turned out to be phenomenal musicians, so seems a safe decision. I also had a lovely visit to Oxford and very much liked the atmosphere, I won't get the chance to visit Cambridge. I basically need to decide this and college for September 1st - Choral Scholarship application.

Bio if helpful - My main music interests are composition and singing - choral and solo. However I am also a keen trumpet player, electric bassist and songwriter. I am in several orchestras, jazz bands and rock bands; I organise gigs and record and produce music - my band is called Neon Apathy! I am very much interested in the academic aspects of Oxbridge, I would like a course that will allow me freedom to have my own artistic ideas but that is challenging and will teach me discipline. I would like to focus my studies on free composition, pastiche composition, singing, analysis and music history, beginning my studies in keyboard skills and conducting. I am equally interested in 'thinky' studying as I am in practical study.
Please stick to one thread

Are you considering a conservatoire? I'd also look at universities with more options on the performing side ...
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OxMus
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(Original post by Muttley79)
Please stick to one thread

Are you considering a conservatoire? I'd also look at universities with more options on the performing side ...
Just to clarify, SyllinGalanodel, performance is very well accommodated by the degree course, but just more so for Finals than for Prelims – options include Solo, Choral, and Ensemble Performance (of some which some do two, amounting to a quarter of the degree). And there are endless opportunities in the city/university itself.
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Muttley79
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(Original post by OxMus)
Just to clarify, SyllinGalanodel, performance is very well accommodated by the degree course, but just more so for Finals than for Prelims – options include Solo, Choral, and Ensemble Performance (of some which some do two, amounting to a quarter of the degree). And there are endless opportunities in the city/university itself.
Yes but there are degrees which give greater freedom in some universities and the OP may want to at least reseach those options?? I always enjoy the high-quality busking in Cornmarket and a friend got the opportunity to play in a first performance with Nigel Kennedy.
Last edited by Muttley79; 9 months ago
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SyllinGalanodel
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(Original post by Muttley79)
Please stick to one thread

Are you considering a conservatoire? I'd also look at universities with more options on the performing side ...
Do you mean just one post? I’m on phone, not sure how 😂. I am considering it, I would do half composition, half performance. I lean more towards uni as I’m a singer (male tenor) and I’d like to give my voice more time to develop before diving into full time study at a conservatory for post grad. A choral scholarship with possibly a performance module sounds like enough for it to mature before then - I’m more interested in being a professional choral singer than a solo singer. I’d also like to keep my options open, and learn a broader range of skills with a bit less pressure before narrowing down.
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SyllinGalanodel
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(Original post by OxMus)
I'm talking about the structure of the entire degree, rather than of each stage. E.g. that second years do not take exams is a key point of differentiation from Cambridge's Tripos system. One other thing, the Tripos system means you can change course and enter the new course mid-way through; the person I mentioned earlier did two years of Music and is now doing a final year in German. At Oxford, you have to start all over again.

If you do end up at Oxford, I wouldn't bother taking Keyboard Skills (unless it's an easy high First) – there's not much to it and I think you'll get more out of other options.

Just note that Choral Performance is not offered at Prelims, and Solo Performance is a very different thing. Both are offered at Finals.
I knew that, after further research, I’m less interested in the Cambridge degree - so I guess that means less chance of wanting to change degree. My only other course I have considered is medicine (I do bio chem maths music a levels), I doubt you’d be able to transfer to that anyway, I would rather do the faster post grad in that if really wanted to do it.

My reasoning for the keyboard skills was because a lot choral directors I’ve had, when they’re bad at piano (like me), they always wish they’d studied it more. I’m constantly practicing piano right now to save me this hassle, but maybe it would be better just to keep that practice out of the degree.

That’s also ok, I think I’ll get enough out of being in a choir (hopefully!)
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