Self-Directed Study Term Project

The Self-Directed Study is an opportunity for you to develop an area of musical interest of your choice. You may choose to develop a musical skill, research a musical culture, or analyse a piece or body of music. While the options are quite broad, you are encouraged to keep the scope narrow to allow focussed, detailed work, and to create realistic goals. Your final submission will include supporting documentation (see below) and a demonstration of your work (live, audio/video recordings, essay, scores, etc.).

Please note: No one is required to perform in front of the class as a part of this project. At the end of the semester we’ll have a class or two dedicated to the presentation of student work, but it is your choice whether or not to participate.

Supporting Documentation

You are expected to keep track of your research and practice, which must include the sections detailed below. The Statement of Interest and Plan of Action have their own due dates, and should be submitted to a D2L Dropbox. Your method of journal keeping is up to you provided you submit it electronically at the final due date (the Statement of Interest and Plan of Action should also appear in your final submission).

Journal Contents

  • Statement of Interest (paragraph form, approx. 500 words): Decide upon and describe an area of musical study you wish to engage in over the course of the term. Describe your interest in this area of study and how it relates to your musical background and personal goals.
  • Plan of Action (paragraph form, approx 300 words): Explain your goals in detail and how you plan to work towards them. How will you manage your time? What resources will you use? How will you document your process, development, and achievement? Etc.
  • Record of Research, Practice, and Analysis (point or paragraph form): Keep a record of you work and progress. Include insights, breakthroughs, musings, frustrations, research sources, new ideas, links, resources, details of practice sessions, sources of inspiration, recordings, images, sketches, etc. A minimum of 10 entries is expected.
  • Demonstration: Provide evidence of your ultimate point of progress: a recording, video, essay, score, demonstration, etc.
  • Reflection (in paragraph form, approx. 400 words): Provide a summary statement describing the value of this project to you. What did you get out of this project? What might you have done differently? What successes and frustrations did you experience? What are your future musical plans? Will you continue to develop your new skills or knowledge in the future? Etc.

Further Expectations and Evaluation Criteria

Your documentation should provide evidence of good research skills and referencing, depth of knowledge, a well-developed vocabulary relevant to the field, awareness of key figures and concepts, and critical thinking. If your project is a research paper, emphasis will be placed on the final product. For practice-based projects, emphasis will be on the process and demonstration of personal musical development. Your musical background will be taken into consideration; the expectation is that you challenge yourself according to your own abilities. Proper citation of your sources is also expected. Use a manual of style most suited to your degree programme or project and use it consistently throughout your project submission material.

Areas of Musical Research and Practice

These are broad disciplines; your actual topic should be much more specific. If you need ideas, search these topics to see the many subcategories and subcultures contained within each field. Wikipedia is a good place to get a feel for a field of study, but is not considered “peer-reviewed” and should not be used as a primary research source. There are journals and academic communities dedicated to each of these disciplines. Their websites provide more reliable content and resources for continuing your research.

music and technology, music cognition, music therapy, music analysis, musical instruments, music and movement (dance), film music, music and theatre, audio production, ethnomusicology, popular music studies, acoustics, music and emotion, synthesis, computer music, composition, improvisation, music journalism, law, business, marketing, biology, theatre…

Project Topic Examples From Previous Students

  • Build and learn to play the didgeridoo
  • Navajo music and culture
  • Learning to perform polyrhythms
  • Slide guitar in the style of Duane Allman
  • The acoustics of concert halls
  • DJing tools and techniques
  • Song writing in the style of Fiest
  • Development of violin technique and intonation in 3rd position using Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”
  • Gospel piano: approaches and styles
  • Scoring a student documentary film
  • Punk rock style and ethnography
  • Chicago blues style and ethnography
  • Retail music: policies, uses, and effect
  • Developing tapping techniques on electric guitar
  • Learning to sing and play “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley
  • Approaches to jazz improvisation
  • Analogue Synthesis techniques and parameters
  • How three musicians overcame their disability: Beethoven, Ray Charles, Rick Allen (Def Leppard)
  • Electronic composition in the style of Deadmou5 and Tiesco
  • Learn three songs that use five basic guitar open-position chords
  • History of and performance on the bamboo flute
  • Ear training: developing relative pitch with intervals and scales
  • Solo transcription of John Coltrane’s “Resolution”, first two minute
  • Konnakol: developing basic South Indian Carnatic rhythmic concepts
  • Anasazi flute: ethnography* and performance
  • Christian rock ethnography* and song analysis
  • Composing a Mash-up using Logic Pro


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