The Elements of Musical Composition


This is a practical course for those interested in composing music of any genre and will concentrate upon the skills common to all composition, focussing this term on melody construction, basic harmony and rhythm.

Programme details

Course starts: 28 Sept 2023

Please note: there will no class on the 26th October

Week 1: Scales and modes

Week 2: Introduction to melody writing I

Week 3: Introduction to melody writing II

Week 4: Introduction to melody writing III

Week 5: Introduction to harmony

Week 6: Introduction to rhythm I

Week 7: Introduction to rhythm II

Week 8: Simple counterpoint I

Week 9: Simple counterpoint II

Week 10: Recording of student compositions


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Peter Copley


Peter Copley D.Phil, MA, B.mus is a composer, cellist and pianist. He is a visiting lecturer at OUDCE, the University of Sussex and for the Open University, where he has been a Research Associate for the music faculty.

Course aims

To encourage musical composition and, in particular, to remove students' inhibitions about the creative process by laying emphasis upon the craft and techniques of composition.

Course Objectives:

  • To introduce students to the basic materials of musical composition.
  • To give students various means of recording their musical ideas.
  • To encourage students to think about the structure of their compositions.

Teaching methods

The topics for each week are not exhaustive. Students will also have the opportunity to have their compositions played (where possible) and discussed even if not related to the main topic of the week. Each topic will incorporate student exercises, musical examples, both live and recorded and class discussions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • record a musical idea in some form of notation, either conventional or unconventional;
  • suggest new musical ideas that can be developed from the original one;
  • arrange a group of related musical ideas into a coherent larger structure;
  • know, or know where to find out, the ranges and practical limitations of instruments and voices.

Assessment methods

A portfolio of 5 compositions and exercises composed during the term (Option A) Non-participating observers may still obtain credit by submitting an essay and plan (Option B) on a subject related to the course content negotiated with the tutor.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)