Craft Practices

FdA Historic Craft Practices – Musical Instruments

Duration: 2 academic years (each 36 weeks) full time
​Applications open

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 Greenwich International Early Music Exhibition
  • To have the opportunity to sell instruments through the College with the income split 50:50

Learning environment

  • High tutor: student ratio
  • Your own bench in the workshop with access 8.30am-10pm, 7 days a week*
  • A professional environment that encourages a business-like approach
  • Lectures, tutorials and demonstrations
  • Study tours and visits to specialist collections

    * 26 June 2020 update: Workshops may need to close outside teaching hours for thorough cleaning.

Read more about studying musical instruments

How to apply

If you would like to apply for this course, please do so through UCAS.

If you would like further information please contact our admissions team. Email admission@westdean.org.uk or call +44 (0)1243 818 291.

Apply through UCAS

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

26 June 2020 update: International study trips have been suspended and we aim to recommence UK field trips and visits in the second semester, to comply with current opening restrictions and social distancing 

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 with an appropriate portfolio of work. You will be invited to a Portfolio interview.

International applicants should provide a digital portfolio, 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

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

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."

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

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.