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A collage of students performing and mixing music
Chris MackinApr 23, 2024 7:00:00 AM8 min read

All you need to know about our Access to HE music production diplomas

Choose your perfect course with the help of our ultimate guide to the 19+ Access to Higher Education music production diplomas available at dBs.

Returning to education can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding choices you make. Whether you’re retraining in a new field or pursuing a long-held passion, an Access to HE (A2HE) diploma is a fantastic first step towards a career in the creative industries.

If you’ve never encountered an Access to HE diploma before, these one-year courses are designed to condense the same level of learning you’d undertake on a two-year BTEC course, and equip you with the knowledge, skills and UCAS points to progress onto undergraduate study. 

This guide aims to alleviate any uncertainty around returning to education and help you discover exactly which course is right for you. We'll be looking at everything from how you will be taught and the skills you will gain, to the equipment you'll have access to and how you will be assessed. 

Our Access to HE diplomas are only available to students aged 19 years and over. 

What are the key aspects across the music production diplomas at dBs? 

A student recording vocals at Real World Studios

If you’re interested in formalising your education in music production you can study one of our A2HE Music Production or A2HE DJ & Electronic Music Production diplomas.

Each pathway will train you in the fundamental skills needed to produce high-quality work, ensuring you’re familiar with the key approaches, techniques and tools that make an effective music practitioner.

These practical sessions are supported by specific projects that will build your academic skills, which will be essential should you wish to progress onto university.

Our Music Production and DJ & Electronic Music Production diplomas are available to study at all campuses across Bristol, Manchester and Plymouth.

The application process and funding schemes (explained below) work in the same way for each course. All three courses offer a Level 3 national diploma qualification that is equivalent to achieving three A-Levels.

How will I learn on each course?

A student patches a modular synth rack

Each course offers vocational training, teaching you the technical skills needed to start a career in the creative industries, while also laying the foundations for university-level education. 

Many of our students continue studying their respective subjects at higher education, but our diplomas provide enough UCAS points to choose an alternative route.

There are no exams and you will be graded on work split across multiple projects, which will cover different key study areas depending on your course choice. 

Though all pathways are highly practical in how you will learn and create your projects, many modules will require you to also provide written work as part of your submissions.

What are the differences and similarities between the courses?

Our A2HE courses are taught across four strands, which house multiple linked modules that you’ll undertake across the year. Music Production and DJ & Electronic Music Production share a very similar set of strands and modules, however, you will have the opportunity to specialise within those modules based on which course you study. 

For example, while Music Production diploma students will focus solely on recording in their first strand of study, DJ & Electronic Music Production students will also learn DJ practice. 

You can find more detailed information about what you’ll study on each of these Access to HE diplomas on their respective course page on our website

What skills will I gain? 

A student operating an SSL mixing console at dBs Manchester_

Each pathway is designed to equip you with the fundamental skills needed to grow as a music technology / production specialist. 

Though they diverge in certain areas, Music Production and DJ & Electronic Music Production remain very similar in terms of what you will learn.

You’ll study recording techniques, utilising our wide variety of microphones in our recording studio spaces. You will also develop your in-the-box production skills, working with Logic Pro X and Ableton Live as you learn about MIDI sequencing, synthesis and sound design, composition and more. Your studies will also see you getting hands-on with hardware controllers, instruments and mixing desks as you learn the art of mixing and mastering music. 

You will also learn how to develop a career in the creative industries; exploring the evolution of the music industry, understanding the various sectors of employment, developing your skills in self-promotion and how to effectively network with other professionals.

All courses also have a focus on also developing your academic skills preparing you for university. 

Can I work alongside this course? 

It's entirely possible to hold down a job alongside your studies on any of our Access to HE diploma courses. You will be timetabled for a total of 2.5 days a week and we do our best to provide the timetables as far in advance as possible to ensure you can commit to your work schedule. 

Our Facilities

Alex Kearney creating music in the dBs Plymouth DJ production suites

Everything you need to learn will be provided for you at our centres. We have multiple iMac  suites where you will learn to use industry-standard DAWs Logic Pro X and Ableton Live, as well as Ableton Push controllers, MIDI keyboards and a variety of software effects, instruments and plugins.

For more practical and hands-on learning, we have rehearsal rooms fitted with loudspeakers, Technics turntables and Pioneer CDJs, controllers and mixers. We also have live room spaces and control rooms for live recording and mixing.

These resources are all available to use outside of class time and you will have plenty of opportunities throughout the week where you can use computers and studios at the centre.

For any of the software or hardware we teach with that you would like to own yourself, it’s worth looking at our extensive list of education discounts after you enrol. As a student at dBs, you can take advantage of big discounts from a variety of providers like Ableton, AVID, Native Instruments, FL Studio, Apple, Sound Toys, Spitfire Audio, Devious Machines, Bop DJ, Adam Audio and so many more.

Can I make any genre I want whilst studying at dBs?

Of course! We encourage you to be as creative as you want while studying with us and no genre is restricted. While your projects will require you to demonstrate certain techniques that you’ve learned, there is no set genre you have to produce in.

Do I have to use the DAW(s) I’m taught on for all assignments? 

We teach using Logic Pro X and Ableton Live because they are the industry standard for digital audio workstations (DAWs). As a result, any submissions requiring you to produce audio and music will need to be done within one of these DAWs, depending on which pathway you are studying. 

Most students that join us are either already familiar with another DAW such as FL Studio or Reason before joining dBs; while others are complete beginners. Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, everyone is taught to the same level so do not worry, you will not be left behind! 

How to apply

Applying for our Access to Higher Education courses is a simple process. You can start your application by completing an application enquiry form on our website, dropping our admissions team an email at, or by giving us a call:

  • Bristol - 0117 325 9290
  • Manchester - 0161 552 6441
  • Plymouth 01752 210801

The admissions team will contact you for an informal chat and arrange an interview where you will be able to meet with the course leader, discuss any learning support needs or questions you may have and finalise your application.

We highly recommend booking a tour to see our centre in person, which can be done at any point in your application process and even before! You'll be shown around our state-of-the-art facilities and have the opportunity to get instant answers to any questions you might have.

Funding options

Our 19+ students are eligible to apply for an Advanced Learner Loan to cover the course fees of an Access to HE diploma. This loan covers your tuition fees and is paid directly to Access Creative College, who validate our diploma level courses. 

If you’re a full-time UK Home student, you can get the full amount (£4,835) to cover your tuition fees. 

If you complete an undergraduate degree after completing an Access to HE course, Student Finance England will ‘write off’ the debt of the Advanced Learner Loan. This means you do not have to repay it. 

If you do not complete an undergraduate degree after completing an Access to HE course, you will have to pay back the loan. If you receive an Advanced Learner Loan for 2024/25 your yearly threshold will be £27,295. You will be required to repay 9% of your income over the threshold. If your income drops below this threshold the repayments will pause.

It’s important to state that you are not eligible for a maintenance loan, which is only available to undergraduate students. Our admissions and student support team can help you in this process.

You can check out the Fees and Funding page on our website for more details on the loan and some resources around managing your finances.

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Want to know more? Check out the course pages for the A2HE Music Production and A2HE DJ & Electronic Music Production diplomas