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Pop Music Design

What will you learn?

The bachelor’s degree programme in Pop Music Design is focussed on creating and developing the original artistic profile of each individual student. Talent is fostered through individual and group lessons, coaching formats and project work - through both artistic skills and business skills.

Domestic and international networking with artists and music producers in the industry is vital to future success, which is why we place great important on networking during your studies.

Majors: Vocal, Electric Bass, Electric Guitar, Drums, Keyboard, Composition/ Songwriting and Producing/ DJ Producing.


Vocal and Songwriting
Our mutual goal is to awaken and expand your creativity in songwriting. We'll show you how to come up with ideas for lyrics, how to best craft them into songs, and how to harmonise them. For this we will sing a lot of repertoire, so that you can get to know all styles of popular music in order to expand your horizon in your own writing. This also includes a lot of healthy vocal techniques, because each style requires different techniques.

During the first year, we try to raise you to the level needeed for your band in singing and songwriting: How do I write lyrics? What tools and tricks will help me sing in a healthy way? What kind of sounds can I create with my own voice? How can I improvise with my voice?

During the remaining years, we look at themes such as circle singing, writing choral arrangements, working with the loop station, ad-hoc songwriting, International Songwriter Week, singing repertoire, getting to know other singing techniques, interview training, artist profiles, stage work and much more!

Department Chief: Prof. Annette Marquard. Further lecturers.
Whether you love heavy metal or acoustic, funk or the indie-music scene: As long as you do that well, while remaining open and curious about new things, you’re in the right place. We want to educate you both as an independent artist and as a competent sideperson. There are technical standards that will make it easier for you to work professionally later on. But just as important is your personality, which lends creativity, power and warmth to the artistic component of music. This means: We want to promote your strengths individually, while minimising your weaknesses.

  • 1st & 2nd semester, lecturer Prof. Peter Wölpl: Improving general timing & technique, pentatonic level 1, scale level 1, rhythm guitar in various musical styles, rhythmic note-reading, rhythm pyramid, improvisation with target pitches
  • 3rd & 4th semester, lecturer Jan Zehrfeld: Pentatonic level 2, scale level 2, rhythmic modulations, solo improvisation versus solo composition, fingerboard navigation, three- and four-part chords with extensions and inversions
  • 5th & 6th semester, lecturer Kosho Koschorrek: Fundamentals of gripping, picking and strumming technique for acoustic guitar, percussive acoustic guitar as accompanying and solo instrument, fundamentals of Latin/flamenco style, bottleneck/slide playing technique, alternative improvisation concepts

Lecturers: Gagey Mrozeck & Kosho Koschorrek; no prior experience necessary
  • General fretboard navigation, basic overview of correlations between chords & scales, open tunings
  • Chord inversions to develop and expand songwriting skills on the guitar
  • Song examples, guitar riff compilation and exercises for different guitar styles
  • Relevant basic knowledge about the different guitar types and their sound and playing types; amps, effects and sounds

Department Chief: Prof. Peter Wölpl. Further lecturers.
We’ll prepare you for a sustainable career as a live performance and recording session musician. The emphasis in the classroom is on sound formation based on influential bassists, sensitivity for tone lengths and timing as a groove factor and phrasing as a basis for bass lines and melodies. You’ll also develop your pick and slap as well as synth-bass techniques.

Grouping, phrase-shifting and equipment instruction are key topics throughout the course of study. We also include stylistics and a detour into the sight-reading genre such as musical, orchestra pit and conducting, the ternary rhythms as well as ethnic and fusion music with all its complexity.

Our goal is to set you up with the broad skills needed to meet the challenges of a career as a professional bassist.

Department Chief: Prof. Frank Itt. Further lecturers.
The drum kit takes on a wide variety of functions in a wide variety of styles in the current music scene. In many genres of popular music, an individual, artistic style of drumming is a prerequisite for success. Likewise, drummers are expected to have many different skills, which are a prerequisite for a successful career, both in the studio and in the live situation on stage. Confidence in playing in different styles as well as a profiled own, artistic color in the different professional fields as a drummer and as a creative artist in the own band as well as an accompanying drummer for a well-known artist or as a soloist/bandleader and as an educator are prerequisites for success. All styles from funk to metal, from trap to Afro-Cuban styles are covered by our instructors.

In the Bachelor's program, the main lecturer changes from year to year. In addition, there are various guest lecturers such as Benny Greb, Moritz Müller and many others who regularly visit the Popakademie and are often part of the World Drum Festival, which always takes place in the fall and features numerous drummers and percussionists.

The Drum Department was established and developed by Prof. Udo Dahmen in addition to his work as artistic director of the Popakademie from its foundation in 2003 until the end of the summer semester 2021. Since the winter semester 2021/22, Anika Nilles is the head of the drum department at the Popakademie.

Major Bachelor

1st & 2nd semester - Lecturer Anika Nilles
a.o. Sound & Dynamic; Timing; Coordination; Chart Reading + Cheat sheets; Drum Recording & Sound Aesthetics; Hybrid basics; Focus: Binary/ Ternary / Odd Groove Concepts

3rd & 4th semester - Lecturer Jost Nickel
Including contemporary grooves; fill and groove development; polyrhythms; emphasis on ternary grooves (shuffle); groupings in fills and grooves; rhythm ear training,

5th & 6th semesters - instructor Lui Ludwig
Including advanced groupings & stickings; linear phrasings; metric modulation; drum solo concepts; Afro Cuban styles; timing.

Department Chief: Anika Nilles. Other Lecturers.
Workshops: Prof. Udo Dahmen
Grouping & Groove Models, Tuning
As a keyboard major, you will receive a foundational and comprehensive training that prepares you for a career as a professional musician.

You’ll learn to express yourself in different styles using their respective sounds. Styles include: Soul/Funk, Latin/Reggae, Gospel/Blues, Jazz, Hip Hop/R&B and modern genres like House/Dance, Drum & Bass, TripHop/Electro or Dubstep/ElectroPunk. These basics are complemented and supported by technical exercises that enhance your fluidity in playing and your ability to improvise. With these skills, you will also compose and arrange your own songs. In doing so, you can recombine what you have learned to develop your own signature style. You’ll pick up current trends and let them flow creatively into your work.

In addition, you’ll learn about solutions for the stage and studio, such as the targeted use of laptops, software or virtual instruments.

Department Chief: Prof. Mathias "Maze" Leber. Further lecturers.
In the Producing programme, you’ll explore and learn about all topics affecting current and future professional music producers throughout their careers. Unlike degree programs focused purely on sound engineering, there is a special focus on the entire genesis of produced music, on workflow, methodology, aesthetics and stylistics. However, as producers today must consistently be able to produce their productions on a technical level themselves, sound and production technology goes beyond basic knowledge. It is developed and deepened during a variety of workshops with specialists and experts for popular-music-relevant skills.

The multitude of musicians-in-training, soloists and bands at the Popakademie will provide you with a wide variety of tasks and production situations. The individual supervision of your own student projects and working methods by specialist lecturers allows you to foster your own potential.

Contents in detail
Common and lesser-known production philosophies and approaches, production of your own projects and individual tasks, one-on-one lessons, recording of live instruments and ensembles, band producing, electronic sound and groove design, vocal-producing, vocal arrangement and choral arrangement in the studio, orchestral arrangement and studio recording, listening in the studio, sound and recording technology (basic and specialised knowledge on the topics signal flow, digital technology, microphone technology, use and selection of microphones, acoustics, psychoacoustics, use of signal processors of all kinds as well as analog outboard and effects, special workshops for the most important recording tools/programmes used, among others through tutors/manufacturer clinics, mixdown: in the DAW, at the mixer, excursions to the studios of the masters, mastering/distribution, production analysis, music business for producers, introduction to film and game scores.

Major in Electronic Music Producing (EMP)
  • Producing & Sound Design: EMP-specific application in the DAWs, beat programming, intensifications, NI Massive and Reaktor, Ableton live, Cubase Profi WS, hybrid production, connection between DAW and analogue technology, MIDI setups, automation techniques, summing and mixdown, combination DJ/Production Gear. Modular sound design: basics, set-up, how the individual modules on the system A100 work, sequencing within the system, connection with DAW systems, creating complete tracks in the system, producing business for EMP producers and DJs, booking, management, branding, social networking, streaming/broadcasting, licensee/contracts, merchandising, Beatport & Co
  • DJ/DJane: Typing of genres (Deep House, House, Techno House, Electro House/EDM, Progressive House, Techno, Trance, Minimal, Dubstep, Electronica, etc.), mixing basics, set planning, performing with Pioneer CDJ, NI Traktor with Control S4 with optional twister hardware, Abelton with various controllers, combination of Pioneer DJM 900 with Traktor software, integration of outboard gear, use of effects, live remixing and broadcasting

Department Chief: Prof. Florian Sitzmann. Further lecturers.
Music Theory and Composition
What looks to some as just the mathematics of music studies is for us the key to making everyone a better musician. Three passionate music-systematists who gained their knowledge mainly from musical practice, teach true theory of popular music.

Ear training, harmony and rhythmic training expand your musical perception, improve your overview during songwriting and train your sense of rhythm and body. Communicating principles of music theory means bridging the gap between theory and practical music making. We’ll improve your musical ear, music theory knowledge, rhythmic consciousness and individual compositional skills. This area includes the subjects Music Theory I-IV, Rhythmic training, Listening and Analytical Listening.

Department Chief: Prof. Alexander Paeffgen. Further lecturers.
Popular Music Education
A freelance popular music artist’s income is often a patchwork. Artists pursue their own projects, work as music service providers and earn part of their income, at least in phases, by teaching. Teaching as a part of their activities is a favourite pursuit of many artists, as they are able to pass along their passion and make money without losing their credibility or sacrificing actual artistic activity. In this constellation, they often feel that teaching is a personal asset.

The course "Band Training/Ensemble Management" familiarises students with the basics of popular music didactics. This subject is closely interwoven with our successful music education project "Pop macht Schule". The students get to know different methods and concepts of the practical teaching of popular music and apply them during a tour through different schools in day-long workshops.

The methodology and didactics of Pop macht Schule provide a very activity-oriented music education that offers students opportunities for aesthetic experiences through creative processes. The tools taught enable a variety of creative processes through popular music when working with groups:
  • Body percussion
  • Singalong: singing
  • Words & Raps: lyrics and rapping
  • Meet the Band: Band work for beginners
  • Band coaching: Intermediate band work
  • We are Producers: Music production on the computer
  • World Music Ensemble: Learning about and trying out various instruments from around the world

Department Chief: Prof. Axel Schwarz. Further lecturers.

Artistic and music business: basic level
  • Music production
  • Artist development and management
  • Business start-up
  • Image, staging, performance

Core music courses: basic level
  • Major instrument: Vocal, electric bass, electric guitar, drums, keyboard, composition/songwriting, producing/DJ producing
  • Minor instrument: Keyboard, guitar or producing
  • Band or production work

Theoretical foundations
  • Music theory & Rhythmic training
  • Popular Music history

In the four-semester main course of study, necessary skills for thriving in the field of popular music are enhanced in a practical way. The course offerings are supplemented by masterclasses and workshops by prominent actors in the field of popular music and world music.

Core music courses: advanced level
  • Major and minor instruction
  • Band and performance coaching
  • Recording session/ live performance technique
  • Music theory

Electives may be chosen from both the music business field, e.g. Business Start-up, Artist Development, Pop Culture, as well as from the artistic field, e.g. Popular Musics of the world, Multimedia, Masterclass Music Theory, Rehearsal/Fusion Band.

An essential part of the programme are two compulsory internships of 12 weeks each, which are completed as an internship in a company or with a band. These internships provide the practice-oriented skills that are crucial for working in the field of popular music.