UCAS code


Start date

16th September 2024

Course length

1 Year


This fun and exciting one-year course lets you build strong foundations in technical keyboard skills, musical literacy and performance creativity quickly, as you strive to become a well-rounded professional portfolio musician. A hands-on and highly personalised course, your focus will be on the keyboards, as you collaborate with your fellow students studying guitar, bass, vocals and drums.  

In a quick-moving and increasingly digital international music scene, there are more opportunities than ever for audiences and performers to join together in innovative new ways. As well as improving your technical and creative abilities, this highly relevant performance CertHE will see you building your digital expertise and entrepreneurial business skills as you launch yourself as a confident and competent keyboardist and musician. 

Learn keyboard at ICMP in London

At the centre of your CertHE is proficiency on your principal instrument - keyboards - but you’ll broaden your musical literacy by playing alongside and studying with guitarists, bass playersdrummers and vocalists.

There are also many opportunities to work and perform with students across all other ICMP programmes. 

As you explore popular music repertoire, genres and styles, you’ll gain an impressive understanding of technique, theory and technology for live, recorded and live-streamed performance events. You’ll also consider areas such as stylistic techniques, live performance skills, music technology and the music business. 

On top of lectures and seminars, you’ll regularly take part in skills sessions - both one-on-one with your ICMP keyboard tutor, and during ensemble practice and collaborative workshops with peers. A core focus at ICMP is teamwork and ‘A&R-style’ peer-to-peer feedback, so you’ll often give and receive performance critiques and use these to develop your individual personality as a keyboard player. 

Elevate your keyboard skills with ICMP 

Across your year with us, you’ll learn in ICMP’s well-equipped industry-standard facilities as you’re guided and supported by our expert tutors – all abundantly qualified professional musicians and educators. They’re ready to provide you with detailed insight into the modern music industry and how it operates. They’ll also organise for you to take part in regular music business events, performances at London venues, masterclasses featuring special guest artists and networking opportunities. 

At the end of your CertHE studies, you’ll graduate with exceptional technical keyboard skills and substantial live, recorded and remote performance experience, so you’ll be ready to forge a successful career across many areas of the music business. If you’d rather continue with your learning, the course offers a direct path to the second year of the BMus (Hons) Popular Music Performance and BA (Hons) Creative Musicianship undergraduate degrees, where you can further develop your skills for a career as a portfolio musician and professional keyboardist.

Fees & Funding

Course Fees: UK Students | EU/EEA/International Students

Course Fees | Programme Specification | Programme Handbook

Click to view the full terms and conditions of applying to study at ICMP.

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Successful completion of the CertHE Popular Music Performance (Keyboards) course leads to the award of Certificate of Higher Education by The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance.


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Key facts

  • A wide-ranging one-year course that embraces the evolving global music scene and encourages live, recorded and virtual performance scenarios.
  • Experience tailored learning with regular one-to-one sessions with expert ICMP keyboard tutors.
  • Gain innovative music theory knowledge and technical keyboard skills across our practice-as-research approach.
  • Explore your unique identity as a keyboard player through projects that encourage both solo and collaborative work.
  • Understand the demands of the modern keyboard player and the necessary blend of technical skills coupled with arrangement and programming skills.
  • Advance your musicianship through a study of diverse popular music genres and styles.
  • Study alongside other instrumentalists whom you will collaborate with throughout the duration of the course.
  • Develop a unique portfolio of performance work and recordings to showcase in your future career.
  • Explore the contemporary music industry and gain entrepreneurial skills to enhance your portfolio career.
  • Develop an extensive musical network as you perform at a selection of music venues across London.
  • Move directly to the second year of an ICMP undergraduate degree upon successful course completion.
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Course details

During your one year of learning, you’ll focus on extending your technical skills and performance abilities using keyboards, pianos and synthesisers. You’ll also develop a good understanding of the workings of the modern music business as you explore digital music technologies and concepts like soundscaping, synthesis and sound creation first hand. You’ll be encouraged to promote your strengths as a keyboardist and create a creative identity for yourself as you grow your talents to match industry expectations. 

live performance skills

​In this practical module, you’ll build your core stylistic and stagecraft skills essential for an industry-standard performance. You will explore a range of popular music genres, including Pop and R&B, while developing your own sound, style and presence. You'll develop a deeper understanding of performance by critically analysing a variety of performances, including your own, and applying this to aid your own development. In addition to performance, stage presence and musical direction, this will be your opportunity to learn about and practice using performance technology such as in-ear monitoring (IEM) and click tracks. By the end of this module, you will have significantly increased your confidence and ability as a performer. 

  • Stagecraft skills for keyboards
  • Stylistic repertoire 
  • In-person and recorded performance skills for keyboardists
  • Rehearsal techniques 
  • Live performance technology 
  • Communication skills for performances 
  • Backing vocals  
  • Ensemble performance as a keyboard player  
  • Working as a member of the rhythm section    
  • Recreating synths and FX
  • Doubling and substituting ensemble parts
  • Accompanying vocal performance  


In this module, you’ll gain the academic knowledge and practical keyboard training required to arrange, perform and record music across a range of popular genres and styles. You’ll develop strong foundations in music theory and notation, as you enhance your performance skills by improving your keyboard sight-reading. You’ll also cover the fundamentals of music technology and its use in music performances, including the application of music notation software and digital audio workstations (DAWs). Throughout the module, you’ll attend keyboard skills sessions, seminars and one-on-one tuition to guide your development.

  • Technical keyboard skill development 
  • Vocabulary and part creation  
  • Sounds and FX 
  • Working with a bass player
  • Sonic texture and soundscapes  
  • Fundamentals of music theory  
  • Keyboard sight-reading 
  • Music technology essentials 
  • Music notation  
  • Stylistic awareness
  • Digital audio workstations 


Building on the previous module – Theory, Technique and Technology – this programme extends your skills in keyboard technique, music technology and music theory. You’ll advance your notation skills using industry-standard notation software, while you perform, arrange and record music across many different genres, tackling interestingly complex styles of popular music head-on. Combining critical analysis, passionate practice and one-to-one sessions with your keyboard tutor, you’ll develop skills and techniques on the keys to be proud of. 

  • Technical keyboard skills  
  • Music theory 
  • Music technology 
  • Digital audio workstations 
  • Musical literacy 
  • Arrangement skills 
  • Music notation software

music business for performers

In this module, you will dissect the music industry and gain an understanding of how the different sectors impact the creative industries. You will use case studies, peer discussion and seminars to examine industry structures and functions like revenue flow, music copyright and the inter-relationship between the key areas of music. A successful portfolio career is key to longevity in the music industry; you will explore the variety of roles within the industry, as well as ways that you can diversify your income. This module will also provide you with the skills you need to set up, maintain and navigate social media as a DIY artist.

  • Overview of the modern music industry 
  • The transformation of the music industry 
  • Music rights and royalties 
  • Recorded music 
  • Music publishing
  • Live music
  • The role of artist management
  • The A&R process
  • Sales and distribution
  • Professional music industry membership organisations
  • Trade bodies and collection societies
  • Music marketing and promotion
  • Future music industry developments

performance and identity

During this module, you'll explore your identity through performance, focusing specifically on current music practices and popular music styles like Pop, R&B and Afrobeats. You'll delve into the essence of performance and have the opportunity to debate concepts including stardom and fandom, identity, stage personas and stage presence. Informed by your own research, group discussion and reasoning, you will be able to present yourself and your artistry before a panel of your peers. By experimenting with different industry-aligned approaches to documenting and sharing practice, such as vlogs, video, audio and blogs, you will expand your critical analysis skills, inquiry skills and academic research. Ultimately, this module will allow you to  come face-to-face with yourselves as musicians, artists and performers and embark on an experience of your individual artistry.

  • Popular music performance theories 
  • Approaches to documenting performances 
  • Video, audio, blogs and vlogs 
  • The wider cultural contexts of performance 
  • Documenting practice in performances, rehearsals and workshops  
  • Using documentation to refine or influence performances 
  • The effect of context on decision making 


During your year at ICMP, you’ll be taught on our Kilburn campus in North West London and will regularly use our live rooms, tech suites, in-house music studio facilities, classrooms and lecture rooms. While you’re a student at ICMP, you can access these facilities outside of class time so you can rehearse and record your own music. 

You’ll learn via a variety of teaching and learning methods, including lectures, small group tutorials, performance and music technology workshops, and one-to-one keyboard tuition. 

If you have any questions, you’ll have access to the Student Services Department for support and advice about welfare, finance, personal development, safeguarding or more. You can also talk to our Professional Development team – ‘The Hub’ – who provide personalised advice on music industry careers and unique music industry opportunities. 

Teaching and Learning

On the CertHE Popular Music Performance (Keyboards) programme, your learning will be in large groups for lectures, small mixed groups for seminars and small workshop groups for practical skills. 
When not attending lectures, seminars or other timetabled sessions, you'll be expected to learn independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve reading articles and books, working on both individual and group projects, using the library for research, and preparing assignments and coursework. Your independent learning is supported by many excellent facilities, such as our well-equipped tech suites, extensive Learning Resource Centre, and numerous practice and performance rooms. 

Throughout your year of study, you'll be in timetabled teaching activities, such as lectures, seminars, practical classes and workshops, for typically 15 hours a week. You’ll also have personalised one-to-one tutorials scheduled throughout the year.


Modules are assessed through a variety of means, including practical exams and performance, submission of course work, projects, examination and essays. 


CertHE Popular Music Performance (Keyboards) course applicants will typically have A-levels, a BTEC Diploma or Extended Diploma, or an International Baccalaureate equivalent to 48 UCAS points, or an ICMP Higher Diploma. 

In addition, you should hold a GCSE Grade C or 4 or above in English, or suitable equivalent, such as Level 2 Key Skills, Functional Skills or Adult Literacy/Numeracy. 

We also welcome applications from mature applicants who may have no formal qualifications but can demonstrate their suitability for study through appropriate skills and experience. 

International students will typically hold a relevant equivalent qualification – please check your qualification with our Admissions team. In addition, you should hold a relevant English language qualification equivalent to CEFR Level B2. 

All applicants will be invited to attend an audition/interview.  

This course is also available as a three-year BMus (Hons) Popular Music Performance option.

UCAS code 316KUni code i25


Please apply via the "APPLY NOW" link below.

At any time during the application process if you need help or further advice just contact our Admissions team who will be happy to assist you. 


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020 7328 0222

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