The PhD in Creative Music Practice provides an opportunity for candidates to pursue practice-led research in the field of music at the highest level.

Research profile

The PhD in Creative Music Practice involves research that combines textual and musical outputs. For example:

  • Composition
  • Performance (either of original or pre-existing repertoire)
  • Installation
  • Sound design
  • Interactive music software, etc.

The outputs take the form of a portfolio, performance, and/or recording, as well as theoretical work and documentation of the processes by which the music was made (e.g. video, photographs, recordings, sketches, studies, web pages).

The musical outputs are explicitly linked to the textual material. This linkage may take various forms: musical material might exemplify, contextualize, and/or expand an idea elaborated in the text, and vice versa.

The programme requires candidates to critically evaluate and articulate the relationship of textual to extra-textual media in the formation of musical knowledge. The format of the PhD thesis consists of a text of not more than 50,000 words and a comprehensive record of the musical material (recordings, scores, software etc.) contained in a coherent and archive-able format (bound thesis and/or CD/DVD). In the case of theses relating to live musical performances, documentation in the form of high quality audio and video recordings is central to the submitted materials.


Programme demographics

The programme attracts, for example:

  • composer-theorists who wish to carry out research into and practice of particular compositional models
  • performers who wish to deepen their practice through musicological research
  • computer music composers who wish to develop documented hard/software systems for their music
  • performers with a need to study the techniques and organology of period instruments
  • instrument builders/researchers needing historical techniques found from evidence on the original instruments


Dr Nikki Moran, Programme Director, Senior Lecturer, Music

Cognitive sciences, Community, Empirical, Ethnomusicology, Improvisation, Pedagogy, Performance, Psychology, ReceptionView staff profile >

All research degrees require students to work closely with a supervision team. Please browse staff profiles to learn about the research specialisms and outputs of Music staff. If your research is interdisciplinary, look at staff profiles in other subject areas, too. We encourage you to approach staff directly to gauge their availability and suitability as a prospective supervisor.

When making first contact, prepare a couple of sentences which describe the topic (research area, research questions). Please also include a link(s) to allow your prospective supervisor to see examples of your musical practice (website, online portfolio, recordings, written output, etc.). 

This is not a commitment to carrying out a precise project of work, it simply allows potential supervisors to understand how clearly you can envisage the scope of a PhD or MScR project, and also the type of practical - as well as intellectual – matters that postgraduate research entails. This early contact with staff should also be helpful to you, for decisions you will need to make about how to develop your proposal, and with whom you would like to work.

Prof Stefan Bilbao, Acoustics and Audio Research Group; Research Project Director NESS

Acoustics and audio, Computational, Instrument research, TechnologyView staff profile >

Dr Annette Davison, Director of Research, Reid School of Music; Course Organiser for MMus Musicology

Aesthetics, Archival study, Contemporary, Cultural history, Music for screen (TV/Film/Game), Music industries, Opera/Theatre, Philosophy, Politics, Reception, Social history, Sociology, Theory and analysis, Twentieth centuryView staff profile >

Dr Dr Anne Desler, Director of Performance, teaching on MMus Musicology

Aesthetics, Archival study, Classicism, Cultural history, Historical musicology, Historiography, Improvisation, Music industries, Opera/Theatre, Pedagogy, Performance, Philosophy, Popular music, Reception, Renaissance/Baroque, Sacred music, Social historyView staff profile >

Dee Isaacs, Course Organiser, 'Introduction to Community Arts Practice'

Community, Composition, Ethnomusicology, Sonic artView staff profile >

Dr Marian Jago, Lecturer in Popular Music & Jazz Studies

Jazz, Improvisation, Popular music, Ethnomusicology, Music and landscape, Music and/as language, Saxophone | View staff profile >

Dr Elaine Kelly, Teaching on MMus Musicology

Aesthetics, C19th Romanticism, Cultural history, Historical musicology, Historiography, Opera/Theatre, Philosophy, Politics, Social history, Twentieth centuryView staff profile >

Prof. Raymond MacDonald, Chair of Music Psychology and Improvisation

Cognitive sciences, Community, Composition, Contemporary, Empirical, Ethnomusicology, Improvisation, Instrument research, Music and health, Music for screen (TV/Film/Game), Musical development, Performance, Psychology, Sonic art, Twenty-first centuryView staff profile >

Dr Tom Mudd, Lecturer in Creative Audio Programming and Computer Music Systems

Computer Music, Music and Human-Computer Interaction, Sonic Art, Audio Programming, Acoustics and Audio, Improvisation and Technology | View staff profile >

Dr Michael Newton, Programme Director MSc Acoustics and Music Technology

Acoustics and audio, Computational, Instrument research, TechnologyView staff profile >

Dr Katie Overy, Director, Institute for Music in Human and Social Development (IMHSD)

Cognitive sciences, Empirical, Music and health, Musical development, Neurosciences, Pedagogy, PsychologyView staff profile >

Dr Martin Parker, Programme Director MSc Sound Design/MScR Sound Design

Acoustics and audio, Composition, Computational, Contemporary, Electroacoustic, Improvisation, Instrument research, Music for screen (TV/Film/Game), Performance, Sonic art, Technology, Twenty-first centuryView staff profile >

Dr Benedict Taylor, Course Organiser for MMus Musicology

Aesthetics, C19th Romanticism, Classicism, Cultural history, Historical musicology, Opera/Theatre, Philosophy, Reception, Theory and analysis, Twentieth centuryView staff profile >

Dr Gareth Williams, Teaching on MMus Composition

Community, Composition, Contemporary, Music and health, Opera/Theatre, Twentieth centuryView staff profile >

How to apply and entrance requirements

If you'd like to study on a postgraduate programme at Edinburgh College of Art, you must apply through EUCLID, our online application system. You can find out how to do this on the University of Edinburgh website, where you'll also be able to:

  • see detailed entrance requirements for each programme on the Degree Finder
  • get information on what to expect after you apply
  • find out about study modes, start dates and fees
  • find out if, and how, you need to submit a portfolio, showreel or research proposal
  • find out where to go for further advice and guidance

Take me to the University of Edinburgh website on how to apply for postgraduate study

Preparing your application

Common to all research programmes are a set of research aims, a research context, a research process and a research product/outcome. The research proposal should include reference to all of these elements. All applicants for postgraduate research programmes must submit a research proposal.

Portfolios or writing samples are also required for some research degrees.

View the Music guidelines (PDF)


Dr Nikki Moran

Senior Lecturer, Music

Email: n.moran@ed.ac.uk

Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2423

Facilities and resources

Our extensive range of music studio spaces, equipment, and software will allow you to see your audio projects all the way through from composition and recording, to mixing, mastering, and post-production.

Seventeen practice rooms equipped with pianos, ideal for students requiring a private place for music practice.

The oldest purpose-built concert hall in Scotland, home to one of the most important historic musical instrument collections in the world.

A 218-seat Victorian venue built in 1859. Used for regular orchestral and choral rehearsals and performances.

Scholarships and bursaries

AHRC PhD Doctoral Studentships

  • Deadline: 1 December 2020
  • Value: Stipend of around £15,000 p/a & fees
  • Eligibility: For research interests aligning with, or cutting across, ECA's Schools.

ECA PhD Scholarship

  • Deadline:
  • Value: Tuition fees plus stipend of £15,500 per year for three years
  • Eligibility: Applications are invited from first year applicants for PhD research projects that take advantage of the leading research expertise across ECA. Home and Overseas applicants welcome. Funding for full-time and part-time study (pro rata).

College Research Awards

  • Deadline:
  • Value: Tuition fees plus stipend of £15,500 per year for three years
  • Eligibility: Applications are invited from first year applicants for PhD research projects that take advantage of the leading research expertise across ECA. Home and Overseas applicants welcome. Funding for full-time and part-time study (pro rata).

Edinburgh Doctoral College Scholarship

  • Deadline:
  • Value: Covers the tuition fee plus stipend equal to UKRI minimum rate for the relevant academic year (approximately £15,590 per year)
  • Eligibility: Open to UK and overseas students applying to start their first year of study for an on campus research degree in 2021-2022.

Carnegie PhD Scholarships

  • Deadline: 28 January 2021
  • Value: Covers tuition fees, a maintenance allowance and a research expenses allowance.
  • Eligibility: For graduates of a Scottish university with a first-class honours degree, or final year students of an undergraduate degree in Scotland expected to obtain a first-class honours.


Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Admissions

Email: ecaresearchdegrees@ed.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)131 650 4086