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Unit outline_

MUSC1401: Contemporary Music Practice 1

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

In this unit of study, students will acquire research-based performance, songwriting and recording skills based around a combination of repertoire areas relating to diverse genres of contemporary music. Students will work collaboratively in order to gain a greater level of understanding of performance and songwriting skills relating to diverse content areas, and will commence exploration of creative and technical facilities.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Jade O'Regan,
Lecturer(s) Rainbow Chan,
Tutor(s) Toby Martin,
Heather Shannon,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Participation Tutorial participation
20% Ongoing Ongoing
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Creative assessment / demonstration Work in progress demo presentation and chart
Oral presentation and chart
20% Week 05 10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Critical listening log
Critical appraisal
20% Week 08 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Creative assessment / demonstration Refined demo
40% Week 11 3-5 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2

Assessment summary

  • Tutorial participation: You are required to participate in tutorial activities from weeks 2-11. You will be marked not only on attendance, but on your participation to the tasks each week, and contribution to the group. These are easy marks – turn up, be engaged, and apply yourself to the tasks each week.
  • Work in progress demo presentation and chart: In your tutorial, you will present your demo to the class for feedback in week 5. You will present your song (either recorded or played live) and talk briefly about - performance / engineering credits, intention, influences, and process.
  • Critical listening log: Referring to relevant academic texts and music, complete an analysis of two songs of your own choosing using the Critical Listening Log form located on Canvas. You can choose any songs you wish as long as they are within the canon of popular music – this means no jazz or blues tracks. These genres have their own traditions that we haven’t yet covered in this unit. You can of course choose songs influenced by those musics.
  • Refined demo: Based on feedback from the Work In Progress presentation in week 5, re-record, develop and submit a refined demo recording, submitting an mp3 file, accompanying credits/listening notes* and creative process log. This assessment has two parts to submission, make sure they are both included: demo as .mp3 file, listening notes document as a word or PDF file and creative process log.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The following assessment criteria are used for performance work in this unit of study:

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Comprehensive and outstanding technical control and musical integrity in relation to developmental expectations. Musical individuality consistently projected to create a persuasive personal representation of the work. Performance flair indicative of soloist standard. A mark of 95 or above indicates extraordinary technical virtuosity and musical artistry.


75 - 84

Excellent technical, musical and stylistic achievement. Consistently coherent and expressive performance. Some personal interpretation of the work suggesting soloist potential. 


65 - 74

Confident technique with evidence of solid musicality and some stylistic achievement. Occasional lapses indicative of unresolved technical, artistic and/or stylistic issues. Projects potential for further development.


50 - 64

Satisfactory level of preparation and musical engagement. Some inconsistencies in musicianship, style and/or technique. Musical imagination and overall performance sense developing though some insecurity in this area.


0 - 49

Unsatisfactory technical achievement and/or unsatisfactory level of musical and artistic engagement. Limitations may be of such a scale and consistency as to call into question the student’s future direction in the programme.

The following assessment criteria are used for written work in this unit of study:

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Demonstrates high level of initiative in research and reading; sophisticated critical analysis of evidence; high level engagement with theoretical issues, innovative use of reading/research material and impressive command of underlying debates and assumptions; properly documented and written with style, originality and precision.


75 - 84

Demonstrates initiative in research and wide, appropriate reading; complex understanding of question and ability to critically review material in relation to underlying assumptions and values; analyses material in relation to empirical and theoretical contexts; properly documented; clear, well-developed structure and argument with some signs of literary style.


65 - 74

Evidence of broader understanding than pass level; offers synthesis with some critical evaluation of material; coherent argument using a range of relevant evidence; some evidence of independent thought, good referencing. A high credit (70-74) shows some evidence of ability to problematise and think conceptually.


50 - 64

Written work meets basic requirements in terms of reading/research; relevant material; tendency to descriptive summary rather than critical argument; makes a reasonable attempt to avoid paraphrasing; reasonably coherent structure; often has weaknesses in particular areas, especially in terms of narrow or underdeveloped treatment of question; acceptable documentation.


0 - 49

Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: Unacceptable paraphrasing; irrelevance of content; poor spelling; poor presentation; grammar or structure so sloppy it cannot be understood; failure to demonstrate understanding of content; insufficient or overlong word length.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Welcome to Unit: Collecting Your Creative Ideas. Lecture (1 hr)  
Week 02 Hello to Your DAW! Lecture (1 hr)  
Introduction to the Con Studios, Signal Flow and Microphones. Tutorial (2 hr)  
Week 03 Communicating Musical Ideas Lecture (1 hr)  
Writing Good Charts and Fixing Bad Charts Tutorial (2 hr)  
Week 04 Song Forms Lecture (1 hr)  
Critical Listening Practices Tutorial (2 hr)  
Week 05 Melody and Voice Leading Lecture (1 hr)  
WIP In-Class Presentations Tutorial (2 hr)  
Week 06 How Hooks Work Lecture (1 hr)  
Working with Hooks Tutorial (2 hr)  
Week 07 Types of Lyrics Lecture (1 hr)  
Lyric Writing Exercises Tutorial (2 hr)  
Week 08 Deconstruction and Repetition Lecture (1 hr)  
Collecting Samples Tutorial (2 hr)  
Week 09 Sounds into Songs Lecture (1 hr)  
Working with Collected Samples Tutorial (2 hr)  
Week 10 APRA/AMCOS: Making Money from Your Songs Lecture (1 hr)  
Week 11 Writing for Visuals: Television Themes Tutorial (2 hr)  
Week 12 Unit Review and My Music Practice Lecture (1 hr)  
Listening Party Tutorial (2 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance: Students are expected to attend a minimum of 90% of timetabled activities for a unit of study, unless granted exemption by the Dean, Head of School or professor most concerned. The Dean, Head of School or professor most concerned may determine that a student fails a unit of study because of inadequate attendance. Alternatively, at their discretion, they may set additional assessment items where attendance is lower than 90%.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

  • Audio Production Principles by Stephane Elmosnino This is an excellent overview of how to do all aspects of studio recording. Bring it along to your sessions. You can access this as an ebook in the library, or purchase the book yourselves. I recommend ordering through Booktopia – great prices and cheap shipping.
  • Songwriting Strategies: A 360 Approach by Mark Simos
  • Songwriting in Practice by Mark Simos

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate understandings of diverse forms of contemporary music and how to recreate such music in individual and group-based contexts from a technical perspective
  • LO2. document and maintain records of collaborative and individual music practice activities
  • LO3. reflect critically on your music and music produced by your peers
  • LO4. apply composition, rehearsal, performance, recording and production techniques necessary to present diverse forms of contemporary music.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered.

More information can be found on Canvas.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.