Choose your perfect course with the help of our ultimate guide to the 19+ Access to Higher Education diplomas available at dBs.
Returning to education can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding choices you make. Although taking a step towards the career you've always wanted is exciting, it can also feel a little daunting, especially when there are many options available to you.
This guide aims to alleviate that uncertainty and help you discover exactly which course is right for you. We'll be looking at everything from how you will be taught and the skills you will gain, to the equipment you'll have access to and how you will be assessed.
What are the key aspects across the three pathways at dBs?
Our three Access to Higher Education diplomas are offered as intensive one year courses designed to equip you with all the skills you need to progress on to higher education. The three diplomas we offer are: Music Production, Live Sound and DJ & Electronic Music Production.
Each pathway will train you in the fundamental skills needed to produce high-quality music or run pro-level events, alongside providing you with in-depth knowledge of the surrounding audio industry.
You will also gain the academic know-how and the UCAS points needed to go on to university study.
Our Music Production and DJ & Electronic Music Production courses are offered at our Plymouth and Bristol centres. Live sound is only currently available at Bristol.
The application process and funding schemes (explained below) work in the same way for each course. All three courses offer a level 3 national diploma qualification that is equivalent to achieving 3 A-Levels.
How will I learn on each course?
Each course offers vocational training, teaching you the technical skills needed to start a career in the industry while also setting you up for progression to study at university. While most students will continue on their respective subject pathways, our diplomas also provide enough UCAS points to choose an alternative route, like teaching, at undergraduate level.
There are no exams and you will be graded on work split across 10 different projects. The projects cover different key study areas depending on your course choice.
Though all pathways are highly practical in how you will learn and create your projects, many modules will require you to also provide written work as part of your submissions.
What are the differences and similarities between the courses?
Music Production and DJ & Electronic Music Production share multiple topics that you will study while also including specific modules that allow you to specialise in each field. Live Sound & Music Events has a different curriculum when compared to the other two courses that focuses on the live sound industry.
The biggest differences between Music Production and DJ & Electronic Music Production can be found in two specialist modules on each course. Music Production includes Acoustics and Sound for Visual Media and DJ & Electronic Music Production includes DJ Skills and Music Technology modules.
What skills will I gain?
All pathways are designed to equip you with the fundamental skills needed to grow as a music technologist or live sound and events specialist. Though they diverge in certain areas, Music Production and DJ & Electronic Music Production remain very similar in terms of what you will learn.
The range of skills taught on the Music Production and DJ & Electronic Music Production programmes includes recording techniques, MIDI sequencing, Logic Pro and Ableton Live 101s, synthesis and sound design, mixing and mastering, music for moving image, composing, remixing and more.
Live Sound & Music Events includes stage management, principles of amplification and loud speakers, system design, effects processing and management of music events within the course's modules.
Alongside the practical skills, you will also learn how to develop a career in sound; exploring the evolution of the music industry, sectors of employment, developing skills in self-promotion and how to effectively network with other professionals.
All courses also have a focus on also developing your academic skills preparing you for university.
Can I work alongside this course?
It's entirely possible to hold down a job alongside your studies on the Access course. You will be timetabled for a total of 2.5 days a week and we do our best to provide the timetables as far in advance as possible to ensure you can commit to your work schedule.
What equipment do I need to study either of these courses?
The only equipment we advise you to have is a pair of headphones to bring along to each session and a Female 3.5 mm Stereo to Male 1/4 in Stereo adapter so you can connect your headphones to an audio interface.
Everything you need to learn at dBs will be provided for you at our centres. We have multiple Mac suites where you will learn to use Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, Ableton Push controllers, MIDI keyboards and a wealth of software effects and plugins.
For more practical and hands-on learning, we have rehearsal rooms fitted with loudspeakers, Technics turntables and Pioneer CDJs, controllers and mixers. We also have live room spaces and control rooms for live recording and mixing.
Students on our Access to HE: Live Sound & Music Events diploma will get to take advantage of our purpose-built live sound hall, where they will undertake all their practical learning.
Though not open during national lockdown, this space acts as a performance area for both dBs assessments and industry guest sessions, and live sound students play a large role in overseeing the sound.
These resources are all available to use outside of class time. We don’t expect you to pay for your own software or hardware so that you can work on projects at home. As such, there are plenty of opportunities throughout the week where you can use computers and studios at the centre.
If you would like to purchase any of the software or hardware we teach with, let us know. As a student at dBs, you can take advantage of educational discounts from a variety of providers like Ableton and Native Instruments, which extensively reduces the price of your kit.
At the time of writing, we are currently in a national lockdown and unable to teach in-person and as a result, we have adapted our teaching and assessment requirements to ensure no student is at a disadvantage. Additionally, we provide suggestions for free software alternatives and technical support to make sure you’re up and running.
Can I make any genre I want whilst studying at dBs?
Of course! We encourage you to be as creative as you want while studying with us and no genre is restricted. While your projects will require you to demonstrate certain techniques that you’ve learned, there is no set genre you have to produce in.
Do I have to use the DAW(s) I’m taught on for all assignments?
We teach using Logic Pro X and Ableton Live because they are the industry standard for digital audio workstations. As a result, any submissions requiring you to produce audio and music will need to be done within one of these DAWs, dependent on which pathway you are studying.
Most students that join us are either already familiar with another DAW such as FL Studio or Reason before joining dBs; while others are complete beginners. Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, everyone is taught to the same level so do not worry, you will not be left behind!
In the event that students have to learn remotely, concessions and support will be provided should you be unable to access these software at home.
How to apply
Applying for our Access to Higher Education courses is a simple process. You can start your application by filling out the form (https://www.dbsmusic.co.uk/diploma-application) on the dBs website or by giving our admissions team a call (Plymouth 01752 210801, Bristol 0117 325 9260) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The admissions team will contact you for an informal chat and arrange an interview where you will be able to meet with the course leader, discuss any learning support needs or questions you may have and finalise your application.
Once you have completed an application and enrolled on your course our student support team will invite you to induction sessions in the summer before the start of the academic year. You will be guided through funding options and supported in applying for financial support, should you need it during the induction period.
We highly recommend booking a tour to see our centre in person, which can be done at any point in your application process and even before! You'll be shown around our state-of-the-art facilities and have the opportunity to get instant answers to any questions you might have,
Our 19+ students are eligible to apply for an Advanced Learner Loan to cover the course fees. The loan, which is funded by the UK Government, will be written off and does not have to be paid back if you go on to complete an undergraduate qualification at university. If you chose not to continue in education, the loan is only payable after a year of leaving education and once you reach a certain salary threshold.
If you need further financial support you may be eligible for transport and other bursaries through our partner college, depending on your circumstances. You are not eligible for a maintenance loan, which is only available to undergraduate students. Our admissions and student support team can help you in this process.
There's an extensive breakdown of the loan, other things to consider and repayment info available here.
Find our more about our diploma courses here.
Interested in seeing what our students have achieved? Click here to discover the exciting stories coming out of the dBs Community.