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Music, sound and technology

This module explores the nature of musical sound and the ways that technology can be used by musicians working in the creative industries. You'll be introduced to the skills needed for making recordings, and the module resources include software packages for analysing and editing recorded sound. You'll study how the physics of sound underlie musical experiences, and investigate the acoustic properties of different instruments. The module aims to deepen your understanding of the nature of sound and to equip you better as a musician, whatever your background and musical interests.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU levels correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
2 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

There are several strands to this module. Hands-on activities involve making your own recordings and manipulating what you have recorded using the software Sonic Visualiser and Reaper. These activities are introduced at the beginning of the module and you'll build your skills with them right up to the final assessment.

Interspersed with this practical element you'll learn about the scientific basis for music – how it is transmitted through air and produced by a wide variety of instruments – and the physics that lie behind its production. You'll learn about how we hear sound as well as how we perceive it, relating observations about, for example, loudness and pitch to the physical basis on which those descriptions are based.

You don't need any knowledge of musical notation in order to study this module, but a grasp of some basic musical concepts – names of notes and the octave, for example – will be helpful. If you've not studied music in any form previously you'll be directed to websites where you can gain the relevant information.

Similarly, you won't need any sophisticated mathematical or scientific knowledge. As some mathematical and scientific ideas are introduced it will be helpful to have a basic understanding of mathematical concepts; again, you'll be directed to websites that will help.

The core teaching text of the module is grouped into four blocks.

  • Blocks 1 and 2 introduce you to recording practice and history, the software that you'll use throughout the module, some of the science behind recording, the physical properties of sound and the way in which we perceive it. There is an emphasis on developing the listening skills which are essential to the production of recordings.
  • Block 3 examines the acoustical properties of instruments, and explains how they produce the sounds that they make and why they sound so different from one another.
  • The main aim of Block 4 is to develop your recording and editing skills prior to the module’s final assessment project, which involves the recording and editing necessary to produce a mobile phone ringtone.

The module is presented online and the text is interspersed with musical recordings and video clips. Before you begin you'll need to download the relevant software, which is supplied as part of the module’s materials. You will also need to buy a small hand-held recording device, if you don’t already own one (no other purchases are required). Throughout, there are activities of various sorts – quizzes, listening exercises, recording and software tasks – which help you to engage with the teaching materials. You'll be able to interact with other students as you undertake tasks on the module’s online forum. 

Vocational relevance

This module will be particularly relevant to a number of careers in the creative industries that involve music technology, including sound production, recording and editing. It will also help performers understand the instruments they use and the spaces in which they perform as well as the technology and process that are used in recording.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will provide guidance and help with the study material and to prepare for the module’s five assessments and the final assessed project. Your tutor will mark and give you feedback on your written work. Your tutor will also interact with you in online rooms and forums, where you will also be able to discuss your ideas with other students. 

Online tutorials may be provided, and recordings of these will typically be made available to students. 

While you’re not obliged to attend any of these tutorials, you are strongly encouraged to take part.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above. 

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Music, sound and technology starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2021. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2026.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    There are no entry requirements for this module, but you are advised to study one or more OU level 1 Arts modules, which will provide you with relevant study and writing skills. If you are studying this module as part of either our music degree or diploma we advise that you study Inside music (A224) prior to this module. You are not required to have detailed knowledge of either musical notation or mathematics, but some preparation in both will be useful. The module website will contain links to relevant materials in these areas.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


    Start End England fee Register
    02 Oct 2021 Jun 2022 -

    Registration now closed

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2026.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2022. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 28/09/2021.

    What's included

    The module is fully online and you'll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • module materials
    • audio and video content
    • assessment guide
    • online tutorial access
    • instructions to download the software Sonic Visualiser and Reaper, provided as part of the module materials.

    You will need

    • A portable digital recording device that is capable of stereo recording such as Tascam: DR05, DR100MKII, DR22WL, DR40; Zoom H1, H2n; Alesis Two Track; Olympus LS-P1 (each costing around £100). Voice recorders and Dictaphone-style devices will not suffice.
    • A mobile phone (not necessarily a smart phone).
    • A listening setup with which you can listen to audio at a reasonably high quality. Ideally you will be able to plug your computer into good quality studio monitors, a stereo hi-fi system, or at least some kind of external loudspeakers. Good quality headphones are a suitable alternative. Internal laptop speakers are unsuitable as they are too limited in terms of sound quality, frequency response, and volume.

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

    It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying A232 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.