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By studying music across the globe, ethnomusicologists seek to understand what music is, and the role it plays in human interactions and experiences.

Course description

  • Learn about documenting music culture through field-based video and audio recording
  • Explore and present findings through investigative techniques such as the creation and analysis of transcriptions
  • Experience participation in a variety of music genres with our World Music Performer in Residence
  • Learn how the ethnomusicological study of music relates to broader topics such as orientalism, the study of identity and globalisation

Ethnomusicology is the study of music’s relationships to the social and cultural contexts in which it occurs. By studying the great variety of musics found across the globe, ethnomusicologists seek to understand what music is, and the role it plays in human interactions and experiences. The University of Sheffield boasts one of the UK’s largest ethnomusicology sections, and the staff’s specialisms are unusually diverse, including: the music of Korea; folk music, dance and song of England, and of the British Isles; the music of Sub-Saharan Africa; North Indian classical music; music and community; the use of digital technology in traditional music participation; music and national identity; and music and health/healing.

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Core Modules

(150 credits total)

Research Techniques is a general introduction to research methods in music, with particular reference to: (1) bibliographical methods, library resources, on-line and hard-copy abstracts and indices; (2) manuscript sources, discographies, specialist sound/music libraries and other resources; (3) developing a research area; exploring references, following leads and evaluating sources; (4) music processing; (5) presentation skills; (6) current methods in survey/questionnaire/interview techniques; (7) careers skills; (8) professional development; (9) giving and receiving feedback; (10) reflective skills.

Taking advantage of the department’s distinctive interdisciplinary research environment, this module introduces key concepts and debates within composition, ethnomusicology, musicology and performance through discursive critical engagement with key texts in a reading group context. Discussing core topics in the cultural, social and aesthetic study of music in a friendly but rigorous setting, students will learn about the history and morphology of music studies, and gain skills in the critical analysis of academic literature.

Seminar in Ethnomusicology is designed to provide further, specialist training for research and future teaching in world music and ethnomusicology. Emphasis is placed on: building an analytical awareness of world music styles; developing an ability to apply this knowledge in teaching or research; and contextualising that representation and research of world music styles within key bodies of theoretical literature in ethnomusicology. The focus of weekly seminars dovetails a selection of musical styles (covering all major regions of the world, and ranging from art music and religious styles to popular and hybridised traditions) with key readings, and specialist methodologies. You will also attend and discuss weekly lectures in the first-year undergraduate module on World Music (MUS125) as a practical example of how undergraduate world music classes might by taught.

Performing World Music provides an opportunity to integrate musical practice into the MA in Ethnomusicology. The unit will focus on the music of one tradition hitherto unfamiliar to the class in question, requiring them to learn vocal or instrumental performance in that style. You will back up your practice-based understanding of a world music tradition with a learning diary and theoretical knowledge derived from the ethnomusicological literature. Your learning will lead to a performance examination with an oral component dealing with historical, organological or cultural aspects of the same musical tradition.

 This module requires students to complete a substantive piece of independent study, culminating in either (A) original writing that may include the results of new research or (B) a folio of ethnomusicological materials.

Optional Modules

(Students will take 30 credits from this group)


  • Seminars
  • Individual tutorials
  • Lectures


Assessment takes a variety of forms such as reports and essays. They are usually individual assessments, even if they concern the processes and outcomes of group work.

How to Apply:

You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It is a quick and easy process.

Visit the MA Ethnomusicology page on the University of Sheffield website for more details!






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Recipient: University of Sheffield

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