The 10 Best Music Colleges in London

Formal musical training at the college level can mean conducting an orchestra under the eye of a visiting master. 

Or it can mean practicing DJ technique with state-of-the-art equipment in a soundproof space or in a student-run venue. 

It might mean directing a student-written light opera. 

Every program represents a different experience, from faculty, to course offerings, to location.

London’s history and particular style mean that it’s inevitably a place for music schools to flourish. Some of these institutions remain synonymous with the development of Western classical music; others provide a perfect place to meet the right bass player and drummer for a budding singer’s blues project.

Not every music school student needs the same degree program, and among these schools, students can study for a MPhil/PhD, or for a week at a workshop intensive. 

In between, various BMus concentrations in everything from Composition for Film to Harp Performance to Electronic Dance Music can be found.

For students interested in artist management, festival planning, or even making their own record label, music schools can also provide the training, context, and professional connections to build a career. 

London’s location makes it the perfect place to see, practice, and market music.

Stalk the halls where Franz Liszt walked. Play the piano Elton John did. Take a guitar class from the studio musician who played the solo on your favorite rock track. Record your own album while still working toward a degree. 

Music schools can make your rock-and-roll, EDM, musical theater, classical conducting dreams come true.

Here are 10 of the best music colleges in London.

Goldsmiths, University of London

Goldsmiths University of London
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

A member institution of the University of London, Goldsmiths is a liberal arts research campus in the vibrant New Cross area of South London. Innovation, collaborative thinking, and community engagement all feature in the school’s mission.

Goldsmiths established the first university electronic music facility in the UK back in 1968, and it remains a leader in the study and practice of electronic music. Ethnomusicology and other research-driven, theoretical studies also play a central role in the program, which has its own record label and commercial recording studios.

A choice of undergraduate programs separates Goldsmiths from a typical music degree program. In addition to the BMus in Music, undergrads can choose BMus degrees in Popular Music, or Electronic Music, Computing, and Technology.

Graduate programs expand on those areas, with MA and MMus degrees in Composition, Ethnomusicology, Popular Music Research, Sonic Arts, and other topics. An MA in Creative & Cultural Entrepreneurship: Music Pathway integrates creative processes and business, giving students a place to develop their own way to market their musical skills.

Whether students plan to become performers, entertainment lawyers, recording engineers, or music historians, Goldsmiths has the right program and the tools to foster musical careers of all kinds.

City University London

City University of London
Spudgun67, City University of London Northampton Square, CC BY-SA 4.0

City University of London, home of The Sound Studios at City, maintains a strong connection to the electronic music for which The Studios is known, while offering a wide range of degree programs.

Undergraduate degree programs consist of a BMus in Music and a BSc in Music, Sound, and Technology for Undergraduates. Lectures, seminars, workshops, and one-on-one tutorials make up a varied instructional model at all levels of study.

Performance scholarships help cover tuition costs, and a study of recent graduates showed 87% were employed within the field or engaged in further study within six months of graduation. 

Along with the school’s wide range of study areas and professional development opportunities, these factors make City a practical choice for music students, satisfying academic, performance, and career needs.

Graduate programs include an MA in Music by Research, which blends elements of music history, composition, and performance. The PhD and MPhil degrees adjust to the needs and interests of degree candidates, with thesis requirements for those focusing on musicology and portfolios for instrumental and vocal composition, or other performance-related areas.

Areas of graduate concentration and research include Modernism in Music, Church Music, Urban Ethnomusicology, Music and Cinema, Byzantine and Modern Greek Art Music, and more.

Performance-oriented graduate study features Recording Techniques, Improvisation and Free Jazz, Composition for Film, Television, and Video Games, Live Electronic Performance, and many instrument-specific topics.

Flexible performance spaces, rehearsal rooms, and multiple recording studios with commercial level equipment: City’s superior facilities anticipate student needs, from the latest in recording technology to a Balinese gamelan.

BIMM Institute

BIMM’s program is music-industry focused, but not genre-specific. Alumni include songwriters and solo artists, but also a healthy mix of session musicians, producers, and scouts.

More than 15 different degree paths, either BMus or BA, give undergraduates multiple ways to realize their goals. From songwriting to marketing, electronic music to event management, the tailored programs at BIMM allow students to focus on their areas of interest, acquiring experience, training, and confidence to move after graduation into the competitive world of the music business.

Some students don’t even have to wait for graduation for their professional music careers to start. Advice Sessions and Industry Showcases bring music business leaders to campus to connect with students, to provide guidance, and to see new talent.

BIMM began as Drumtech Music School London, dedicated to percussion. Drum kits make up only part of the vast range of instruments in the 25 practice rooms on campus. 

Students also have access to the facilities at Pirate Studios, the school’s professional recording studio, where more rehearsal rooms, recording facilities, and a DJ room furnish even more places for students to practice, develop, and record their own work.

While many industry leaders come as guests to BIMM, the in-house faculty includes working producers and artists like Alec Storey and Bernard Butler. For students ready to hit the airwaves, BIMM can provide the tools and connections.

London College of Creative Media

In South London, near London Bridge, there is The Music Box, the brand new, modern cubelike building housing the London College of Creative Media. Commissioned to serve the needs of the school and its students, The Music Box not only has recording studios and computer labs, but also a bar and a gig space called The Venue.

The mission at LCCM is not only to get students ready for careers in music, but also to prepare them to change the music industry, making it more progressive, inclusive, and imaginative. The program provides one-on-one career counseling for students, industry workshops, and job placement. With its own in-house A&R department, LCCM helps students work on and release projects while still in school.

LCCM recently partnered with the University of the Creative Arts to offer multiple new degree programs, including undergraduate and graduate degrees in Music Performance and Production, as well as degrees in Music Business and Creative Entrepreneurship. 

Students can also major in programs for Commercial Music Technology and Composition for Film, Television, and Video Games.

LCCM receives high praise from students, particularly for opportunities to study ideas in-depth and apply that knowledge. Students maintain and run a campus podcast, a Songwriters’ Club with performances, and a peer mentoring program. Successful alumni number in both business and performance ends of the music world.

University of East London

The University of East London’s location places it in the middle of great activity and renovation, a culturally-diverse part of the city where tech start-ups and art galleries sit shoulder-to-shoulder, and the largest urban wetland in Europe (Walthamstow) brings the outdoors close to this city campus.

East London runs a program designed to pave the way to a career in music. The customizable paths of study accommodate those with or without formal training. With foundational coursework in music history and culture, students go on to acquire particular skills in music production, sound design, performance, and songwriting.

While class sizes run to about 30 students, East London places students in smaller work groups for practical skills lessons. 

The program is divided into a Foundation Year, followed by two years of coursework involving production, technique, and collaborative projects, and the final year, which focuses on an ending research project and performance.

Mental Wealth modules in the program invite students to participate in microbusinesses in the music field in order to learn how to apply the skills they are learning in the program. 

As their levels of responsibility increase in the various roles they take on in these modules, students receive coaching on how to manage the physical and mental lifestyle and self-care challenges of a creative career.

The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP)

The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance holds the distinction of being the first London music school to offer contemporary music courses. While many schools now prepare students for industry and professional music careers, ICMP reports that more than 94% of its graduates are employed or in further education programs within six months of graduation.

ICMP furnishes students with deep industry connections the school has cultivated over time, with a reputation for delivering talent. The faculty features working musicians and music business leaders. The Music Managers’ Forum hosts its training sessions at ICMP, placing artist managers right on campus so they can be aware of student talent.

The school maintains a Music Careers and Industry Liaison Service for students, providing creative feedback, finding work experience and gig opportunities, and helping students showcase their work.

In 2021, ICMP introduced a new course of study, a BA in Audio and Engineering Production. Other course paths exist for multiple instruments, songwriting, and production. Non-degree, short-term certification programs and workshops offer continuing training for working musicians.

Trinity Laban Conservatory of Music and Dance

Trinity College of Music
Goh kimura, Trinity College of Music, CC BY-SA 4.0

In 2005, Laban Dance Center and Trinity College of Music merged to become the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. The original Trinity College of Music began in the 19th century; today’s campus includes a 21st century remodel of Greenwich Palace, blending old and new artistic visions.

Trinity degree programs address a wide range of student goals. An undergraduate BMus and postgraduate MMus and MPhil/PhD serve varying levels of student experience and need.  Trinity also provides teaching and other certification programs, along with non-degree professional development courses.

Other diploma levels besides the BMus—Artist, Professional, and Graduate—give musicians a way to pursue precisely the amount of training they need for the career path they are seeking. Composition, Strings, Jazz, Keyboard, Wind, Brass & Percussion—Trinity’s slate of specialized areas of study shows how the program speaks to specific student goals and experiences.

The merger with the Laban Dance Center makes Trinity a natural choice for Musical Theater studies, a separate program with training in both areas.

Junior Trinity, a program for younger students, extends the school’s reach to even younger students. Ages 5 to 19 can take Saturday courses in vocal and instrumental skills; older students can take GCSE and A-level coursework. From Trinity, many of these students go on to conservatories around the world.

Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Centrally located next to the Barbican Center in the Cultural Mile area of London, Guildhall students have immediate access to one of the most vibrant theater districts in the world. Five public performance spaces belong to the school itself, including several in the Silk Street building, part of the Barbican complex.

The Guardian ranks Guildhall at #3 among music schools in the UK. The school partners with the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Opera House, and others to give students access to masterclasses, workshops, and the chance to play in a professional setting.

BMus students at Guildhall complete a four-year program with a principal focus area in either an instrument, vocal studies, composition, or the genres of Electronic Music or Jazz. Graduate programs include degree programs in Performance and Composition (MMus, MPerf, MComp), with MPhil/DMus or MPhil/PhD also available. Guildhall offers a rare MA in Opera Making & Writing, and an MA in Music Therapy.

Guildhall offers short courses for adults and classes for children both online and in-person, demonstrating its commitment to lifelong music education.

Royal Academy of Music

Royal Academy of Music
Philafrenzy, Royal Academy of Music, London W1, CC BY 2.0

For students interested in expanding the boundaries of music through composition, performance, or scholarship, the Royal Academy of Music awaits. Staffed with working professional musicians, composers, and music scholars, the Royal Academy can meet any student’s needs and aspirations with expert guidance.

Opera, Organ, Jazz, Timpani, Harp, Woodwind, Vocal Study—the Royal Academy has a dedicated program for every instrumental performance. The school offers less commonly-seen course paths like Conducting and Historical Performance, along with a general Academic Studies music program.

The Royal Academy now spans three centuries. King George IV granted its charter; Franz Liszt visited. Its Sinfonia has toured the world, and the school became the first conservatory to establish its own record label. 

Being inducted as an associate, a fellow, or a member of the Royal Academy remains a high honor for anyone in the musical professions.

Taking classes at the Royal Academy consists of one-on-one tutorials and small group lessons. The structure encourages inquiry and mastery. As part of their own professional development, Royal Academy students acquire hands-on teaching experience working with the school’s Open Academy.

Students can pursue BMus and Mmus, but the Royal Academy has ways for all kinds of musicians to access Academy training. Single-year programs for students taking a gap year from other studies, Artist Development workshops and seminars, and a Junior Academy all extend the highest level of music education to a wider community.

The Royal Academy serves as cultural stewardship, bridging between the music of the past and the future by training and celebrating musicians today. Training at the Royal Academy means becoming a part of history.

Royal College of Music

Few schools of any kind exist with a reputation any more prestigious than the Royal College of Music. The 2021 QS World University Rankings placed it first among all performing arts schools in the UK and Europe, and second globally.

Founded in the late 19th century, the Royal College of Music served as the hub of the English Musical Renaissance. Musical scholar George Grove (the Grove of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians), legendary singer Jenny Lind, and composer Hubert Parry all taught at the college and reshaped music history.

Today, the Royal College of Music trains professional musicians with a full complement of undergraduate, graduate, and research degrees designed to prepare students technically and intellectually for a career in music. 

Fellowships give working musicians a chance to come to the Royal College to hone their artistic skills and expand their professional base.

One-to-one instruction, performance opportunities, invaluable professional associations, and training from the top music professionals worldwide make the Royal College of Music an aspirational choice for any music student.

Students enjoy collaborating with the London Film School, Performing Arts Vienna, the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and others. Keyboard students may access the organ at the Royal Albert Hall. Conducting students receive guidance from extraordinary guests like Vladimir Ashkenazy and Vassily Petrenko.

Three performance spaces and studios facing the Royal Albert Hall place students in the midst of high-level musical performance. Historic instruments, including 20 early keyboards, allow students of music history unparalleled resources. The school also provides the most modern commercial-grade recording facilities at RCM studios.

No school could produce a more astounding list of alumni, from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor to Benjamin Britten to Leopold Stokowski. Its museum preserves 15,000 instruments and other historical items, and its library serves as a repository for the history of Western music.

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