Craft Practices

Foundation Degree Arts – Musical Instruments

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Duration: Two academic years (36 weeks each year) full time
​Apply now for 2022
Application deadline for equal consideration: Wednesday 26 January 2022

Find out more on a Virtual Open Day - 10 & 24 November. Register now

Scholarships and bursaries are available from £500 to £10,000. Find out about funding opportunities

If your goal is to set up an instrument-making workshop or to work in the trade, this foundation degree is internationally respected for the high-level craftsmanship students attain. It encompasses the whole field of stringed musical instrument making. This enables students to then transfer their skills to making any stringed musical instrument, including guitar and violin. Through learning and assessing the historical approach to constructing the viola da gamba, students are equipped with a broad knowledge and ability to assess construction for a wide range of stringed musical instruments.

You can expect

  • To learn basic tool skills and advance to decorative and head carving, purfling design and motif
  • To study instrument design, history and playing
  • To complete up to three instrument-making projects a year (you will be able to keep the first instrument you make and keep additional instruments for a nominal fee to cover the cost of materials).
  • To develop skills in machine setting, woodturning, varnishing, care of timber/tone-wood
  • Visiting tutors in bow-making, pigment laking, soundboard construction etc.
  • Playing lessons by early music professionals
  • To attend events such as The London International Festival of Early Music 
  • To have the opportunity to sell instruments through the College with the income split 50:50

Learning environment

  • Low student: tutor ratio
  • Your own bench in the workshop with access 8.30am - 9pm, seven days a week*
  • A professional environment that encourages a business-like approach
  • Lectures, tutorials and demonstrations
  • Study tours and visits to specialist collections

    * Coronavirus update: Workshops may need to close outside teaching hours for thorough cleaning.

Read more about studying musical instruments

How to apply

All applications to our full time undergraduate courses should be made through UCAS. If you only wish to apply to West Dean College of Arts and Conservation we might be able to process your UCAS application for you. Please contact us at admissions@westdean.ac.uk.

If you would like further information please contact our admissions team. Email admissions@westdean.ac.uk or call +44 (0)7771 505 666.

Facilities

You will work in the purpose-built musical instrument making workshop. Collaboration with other disciplines (e.g. metals and clocks) makes for a uniquely enriched learning environment.

Facilities include:

  • A separate machine shop
  • Varnishing room
  • Analytical laboratory
  • Photography space
  • IT suite
  • Specialist library

The on-site Art and Conservation Library puts thousands of specialist books and journals within your reach and you can access specialist databases in the IT suite.

Find out more about the facilities

Contact Hours

Teaching

You are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, external trips and visits and workshop practicals. In addition, you have personal tutorials with your subject tutor.

At level 4 you typically have around 18-19 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 4-5 hours of lectures
  • 1 hour of seminars
  • 8 hours of supervised workshop practicals
  • 1 hour of one-to-one meetings/tutorials

At level 5 you typically have around 16-17 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 3-4 hours of lectures
  • 1 hour of seminars
  • 7 hours of supervised workshop practicals
  • 1 hour of one-to-one meetings/tutorials

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars and workshop or other timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve reading journal articles and books, working on individual and group projects, undertaking research in the library and preparing coursework assignments and presentations.

Overall workload

Level 4: 53% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity
Scheduled teaching and learning: 633 hours
Independent learning: 567 hours

Level 5: 50% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity
Scheduled teaching and learning: 600 hours
Independent learning: 600 hours

Coronavirus update: International study trips have been suspended in line with current guidelines. We aim to recommence UK field trips and visits in the second semester.

term dates for 2021-22

Programme structure

Year 1 / Semester 1 (18 weeks)
  Christmas vacation  

HC-M1
Materials Technology
delivered in pathway workshop and cross-curricular

  10 credits
(common)
HC-D1
Drawing and Aesthetics
 

10 credits

(common)

HC-R1
Study/Research Skills
  10 credits
(common)
MID-YEAR ASSESSMENT
Year 1 / Semester 2 (18 weeks)
  Easter vacation  

HC-M2
Materials Technology (Metal/Wood)
delivered in pathway workshop and cross-curricular

10 credits

(common)

HC-H2
History of Craft
20 credits
(common)
HC-C2M1/C/F/ME
Craft Skills
2-20 credits
(subject specific)
SUMMER ASSESSMENT
Year 2 / Semester 1 (18 weeks)
  Christmas vacation  

HC-P3
Professional Skills incl. work placement

20 credits
(common)

HC-R1
Study/Research Skills

HC-C1M1/C/ME
Craft Skills

10 credits
(common)

1-30 credits

(subject specific)

MID-YEAR ASSESSMENT
Year 2 / Semester 2 (18 weeks)
  Easter vacation  

HC-P4
Professional Portfolio
student led

60 credits

(common)

FINAL ASSESSMENT

 

Entry requirements

UCAS tariff points: 120 Completion of a level 3 qualification, for example: A-Levels, BTEC or Foundation Diploma in Art and Design.

Applicants can be considered if they can provide evidence of prior learning and should provide a digital portfolio. You will be invited to a portfolio interview. The portfolio should evidence commitment to the discipline. It could include sketchbooks, technical and material exploration, design work, project development from start to finish, detailed images of finished work. Where possible, applicants are encouraged to include a video of working on a practical exercise as part of the portfolio, of which the College can provide guidance if required (see below). If applicants cannot provide a portfolio, the College will provide a practical exercise that can be done remotely to asses mental agility and dexterity and suitability for this skills based programme.

To guide you through the process of putting together your digital portfolio, we've put together our 6 top tips; including how to select projects for inclusion, and formatting your portfolio. Read more here.

International students must provide evidence of English language ability to Level B2 (IELTS 6.0), as well as equivalent level 3 qualifications.

Fees and funding

Course fees are the same for UK and international students

  • £4,230 per term (£12,690 per year)

Included is mandatory study trip costs of £400, which typically includes tailored visits to collections/exhibitions of specific interest to the programme of study. Lunch, accommodation and other living expenses are additional. Find out more

Funding

If you are a UK/EU student you may be eligible to apply for a Student Loan (tuition fees and/or maintenance loans) from the Student Loans Company. 

Student scholarships and bursaries

Scholarships and bursaries are available from £500 to £10,000. 

Find out more about funding opportunities
Musical Instruments student at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Careers

Graduates have become professional makers and repairers. They have gone on to work with J & A Beare Ltd and J P Guivier, both in London, and William Monical & Son, Staten Island, New York. Others have ultimately set up their own practice.

Student perspective

"The level of learning is higher here which is why I and many students from Europe come to West Dean College. We're making in an authentic way, using hand tools, learning about materials, looking at original instruments and building a wide knowledge. We've had specialist trips and access to renowned experts.

What I most enjoy is the pure focus on full-time making and all day workshop access. We're all interested in guitars and enjoy the same music, so the workshop is a great environment.

Our tutor is a professional, well-known instrument maker who teaches us methods to maximise productivity, alongside high level skills. When I graduate I will work first in a violin or cello repair workshop, before going into private practice to focus on making and restoration.

Funding made studying at West Dean possible for me and it has been totally worth it. I applied for bursaries in Holland then, in my second year to The Edward James Foundation at West Dean and private foundations in the UK. I advise any student not to be put off by fees as it is all possible."

Fons Vogel, Musical Instruments student

FAQs

What level of qualification is the Foundation Degree?

The Foundation Degree Arts is equivalent to a Level 5 qualification.

Entry requirements ask for a portfolio. What is this and what should be included?

Students need to prepare a digital portfolio to evidence their manual dexterity and their interest in the area of craft practice they have chosen. It could include sketches, images of finished work, videos of them working with their hands. Read more tips on preparing a digital portfolio.

I have no experience and therefore no portfolio – can I still apply?

If applicants cannot provide a portfolio, we will ask you to complete a practical exercise to assess mental agility and dexterity and suitability for this skills-based programme. Assessments take place onsite at the college workshops or remotely when it is not possible to come into college.

What do students do after their Foundation degree?

This course is designed to give you well-rounded theory and craft skills. You can set up as a self-employed maker or find employment in this or a creative industry sector. The Foundation degree is also an excellent first step before progressing on to the Graduate Diploma in Conservation Studies if you wish to pursue a career in Conservation.

University of Sussex Logo

Commendations

Commendations from the University of Sussex include:

"The high quality student experience and strength of student representation within the College."

"The introduction of a “maker-in-residence” scheme to the FdA."

"Responding to employer and student feedback in extending the work placement from 2 weeks to 4 weeks to support employability after graduation."

"The range of tailored study trips to suit different student cohorts."

Tilly Losch and Roman Nijinsky dancing in a production 'Errante' at the Savoy Theatre, London, one of Les Ballets 1933 presented by Edward James.

Musical Heritage at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Curatorial Assistant Sarah Hughes shares insights from the college's rich archive of material, shining a light on Edward James musical patronage and collaborations, from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Find out more

 

Tutors

Shem Mackey MA

Master Craftsman Tutor

Shem Mackey is a founder member of the British Violin Making Association (BVMA) and founder editor of its newsletter. His research into instrument construction has been published in The Strad, Early Music and various publications of the BVMA and Viola da Gamba Society.

Dr Nicholas Pyall

Subject Leader Musical Instruments

Nick makes instruments that are inspired by the Viennese guitars of the early and mid-nineteenth century, including those with extra bass strings, and by mid-twentieth-century North American guitars.  He is currently Subject Leader for the FdA Historic Craft Practices - Musical Instruments.

Arnaud Giral

Subject Tutor - FdA Musical Instruments

Arnaud Giral completed his violin making studies at the Newark School of Violin Making in 2004. He then moved to Montpellier where he focused on viols and baroque violin making. His dedicated approach to historical instruments and his attention to gut strings has led him to work for numerous specialist musicians and renowned early music ensembles.

Virtual Open Day - register today

Find out what makes West Dean College of Arts and Conservation such an amazing place to study. Discuss your study options with our tutors, hear from students, and ask our admissions team any questions about applying. The next Virtual Open Days are on: 

Wednesday 10, 17 and 24 November 2021

Register your place and find out more