Choose your perfect course with the help of our ultimate guide to BTEC diplomas at dBs.
Making the leap from school to college is no walk in the park and when it comes to an area as broad as music technology, it can feel overwhelming. With so many paths to take, which one is the right choice for 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 both pathways?
Each pathway is offered as a two year course designed to equip you with both the fundamental skills and knowledge needed to produce high-quality music and an in-depth knowledge of the surrounding audio industry.
Upon completion of either BTEC diploma you will possess the academic knowledge and UCAS Points needed to go on to study at university.
Our Music Production and DJ & Electronic Music Production courses are offered at both our Plymouth and Bristol campuses. The application process and funding scheme (listed below) work in the same way for each course. Each course is 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.
Whilst 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 an array of key study areas depending on your course choice.
Though both pathways adopt a highly practical approach to learning and project creation, many modules will also require you to provide written work as part of your submissions.
What are the differences and similarities between the two courses?
Both courses share multiple topics and projects that will teach you everything you need to know to progress in the world of music technology. Outside of this, there are course-specific modules that allow you to hone your skills in a specialised area.
The biggest difference between the two is the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that you will predominantly be taught on; Logic Pro X for Music Production and Ableton Live for DJ & Electronic Music Production. You will however be introduced to both, regardless of course choice.
What skills will I gain?
Both pathways are designed to equip you with the fundamental skills needed to grow as a music technologist.
Regardless of course choice you will gain experience in recording, mixing and mastering, MIDI sequencing, Logic Pro and Ableton Live 101s, synthesis and sound design, music for moving image, composing, remixing and more.
Alongside these 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.
As part of the qualification you will also be expected to participate in self-guided Employment, Enrichment and Pastoral projects or EEPs; a mandatory requirement of your diploma that allows you to focus on subjects that interest you most.
You will be required to complete one EEP project per term across both years (6 in total) and topics include DJ mixtape creation, exploring found sound, developing social media, collaborative production, in-the-box production and instrumental skills.
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 centre. We have multiple Mac suites where you will learn to use Logic Pro X and Ableton Live, alongside 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 CDJ controllers and mixers. We also have live room spaces and control rooms for recording and mixing.
We don’t expect you to pay for your own software or hardware. To enable you to work on projects in your own time, these resources are all available to use outside of class time. There are plenty of opportunities throughout the week where you can book to use these spaces and each student is allotted the same weekly allowance.
Should you be lucky enough to be able to purchase any of the software or hardware we teach with, let us know. As a dBs student you can take advantage of educational discounts from a variety of providers like Ableton and Native Instruments, which severely reduces the price of otherwise expensive 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 softwares at home.
How to apply
Applying for our BTEC diploma courses is a simple process. You can start your application by filling out the form on the dBs website (https://www.dbsmusic.co.uk/diploma-application) or giving our admissions team a call (Plymouth: 01752 210801, Bristol: 0117 325 9260 ) or via 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 and ask any questions you may have and finalise your application.
Under normal circumstances you will be offered a tour of the facilities but while restrictions are in place you can take a virtual tour of our Plymouth campus using the following link: https://www.dbsmusic.co.uk/plymouth-virtual-tour.
Similarly, you can watch our short video tour of our Bristol FE campus below.
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.
All full-time courses are government funded to UK residents who are under 19 years old on the 31st August prior to your course starting in September.
If you’re 23 years and under and this is your first level 3 qualification then the course will be government funded, though you will have to study our Access to HE diploma instead if you’re 19+. A similar article to this one detailing everything you need to know about our Access diplomas is available to read here.
Should you require funding you can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan (https://www.gov.uk/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 choose not to continue in education, the loan is only repayable after a year of leaving education and once you reach a certain salary threshold and after a year.
There's an extensive breakdown of the loan, other things to consider and repayment info available using this link: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/loans-for-adults-in-further-education-and-training
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.
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