RSCM Church Music Skills

RSCM Church Music Skills is a distance-learning programme designed to help practising church musicians to develop the skills and understanding that they need for their role, and to equip those who want to be able to lead music in worship. The programme combines private study at home and practical experience in the student’s own church, with assignments assessed by one of our team of experienced tutors. It is open to students from the UK and abroad.

The re-launch of Church Music Skills began in January 2024 with CMS Organ. Programmes for Choir Directors, Cantors and Music Group Leaders will follow in due course.

So what’s new? CMS is moving online, providing a more flexible, engaging and interactive learning experience tailored to individual needs. Tried and tested materials have been enhanced by video and audio resources, allowing students to see and hear the techniques and skills they are learning. 

Register for £120.


Who is CMS Organ for?

CMS Organ is for anyone, from anywhere in the world, who wants to develop foundational skills in playing the organ in a church context. Maybe you’re a pianist who has been asked to play the organ for services at your church? Maybe you’ve been playing the organ for a while but have never had any formal training? Or maybe you just want to have a go at learning to play this fantastic instrument. CMS is for you!

What does the course cover?

After completing introductory units, students select units from the lists here, with the combination/level depending on their programme of study.

All Organ units are available at three levels, except where indicated.

Level I is for students who are relatively new to playing the organ. Level II is for those who already have good basic technical and musical skills, but who may have relatively limited experience as a church musician. Level III is for students who are already fairly skilled.


  • Hymns
  • Worship songs (available mid 2024)
  • Accompanying chant (Levels II and III only)
  • Anthems and settings
  • Solo repertoire
  • Improvisation

Supporting Studies

  • Sunday worship: Eucharistic and non-Eucharistic services
  • Pastoral services
  • Age-specific and freer forms of worship
  • Using music in worship
  • Seasons and festivals: shaping the year and the celebration
  • Texts and music: the available repertory and its background
  • Organising your life
  • Financing an activity
  • Understanding people
  • Working with volunteers
  • Making a presentation
  • Leading a team
  • Introducing change

How does the programme work?

The registration fee gives new students access to the introductory units; a set of three units designed to lay foundations for the rest of the course and give course tutors the opportunity to recommend the most appropriate level of study.

Once the introductory units have been reviewed by a tutor, students can opt to follow the Award Scheme or the Flexible Scheme.

  • Award Scheme students select a group of six units in a set combination and pay for them all together. Students are sent a certificate (issued by authority of the RSCM only) on successful completion of their six units.
  • Flexible Scheme students select any combination of units that interest them and can work on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis, selecting and paying for one or more units at a time.

Successful Level I and II Award Scheme students can opt to complete the next level (paying a reduced fee).

How is my work assessed?

Your work is assessed through a combination of written work and submission of audio/video recordings. Monthly marking days give a regular target to aim for; any work submitted between marking days is held until the next one. Your work is normally returned to you within a month.

Your work is assessed by experienced musicians who are experts in the field. Preliminary assignments for some units give you an opportunity to receive feedback before you submit your final, marked, assignment.

Why should I sign up?

  • No deadlines! Study at your own pace and submit work when you’re ready.
  • The course is flexible and can fit around your other commitments.
  • Explore a wide range of topics relevant to those starting to play in church – accompanying hymns, songs and anthems, as well as learning repertoire.
  • Your work is assessed by experts in the field with years of practical experience.
  • It provides a firm foundation for further study.

Current fees

The current fees are:

RSCM member Non-member
Registration £120 £120
Award Scheme
First Level £330 £390
Additional Levels £165 £200
Flexible Scheme
Practical Skills Unit £66 £80
Supporting Studies Unit £50 £60


Q.  Who might find the programme useful?

A. Church Music Skills students come from a range of starting points: young people exploring a career in church music; adult beginners looking to develop new skills; practising church musicians looking for further development. CMS Organ resources assume a good level of music reading and some keyboard experience; those who are playing the piano to about Grade 5 standard are likely to get the most from the course.

Q.  Is there an age limit?

A. The resources were created with adult learners in mind, but enthusiastic teenagers may enjoy and benefit from the course, with appropriate parent/guardian support. There is no upper age limit.

Q.  When can I join?

A. Students can join at any point in the year. Just complete the registration form and pay the registration fee to get started!

Q.  At which level should I begin?

A. It depends on your current level of musical skill and understanding. You will be given guidance on the level at which to begin after you have completed the introductory units. Level I is for students who are relatively new to their principal skill. Level II is for those who already have good basic technical and musical skills, but who may have relatively limited experience as a church musician. Level III is for students who are already fairly skilled.

Q.  What do I need to get started (CMS Organ)?

A. You’ll need access to a well-maintained organ (pipe or digital). It doesn’t have to be big, but it helps to have a second manual, especially at the higher levels. Pedal work is included from Level I. Let us know if you want to check that the organ you have access to will be suitable. Some units require you to submit recordings of your playing. Most mobile phones will be perfectly adequate for this; the recording should be of sufficient quality to accurately represent the performance, but please remember we’re not marking the standard of the recording itself!

Q.  How will I be assessed?

A. There are two main forms of assignment: written work (essays, commentaries etc.) and practical work (audio/video recordings, scores etc.). Assignments are assessed by course tutors and awarded a mark, which contributes to the overall grade (if following the award scheme). In most cases, work submitted is sent to a tutor on the last Friday of each month, to be returned a month later.

Q.  How long will it take?

A. It depends on how much time you are able to set aside. As a rough guide, each unit of study takes about ten hours to complete (from first reading to assignment submission). Some students finish a level (six units) in a year, others take much longer. Initial registration lasts for two years (it can be extended for a small fee), so that might be a good target!

Q.  What happens when I have completed the course?

A. If you’re following the Award scheme, you’ll receive a certificate once you’ve successfully completed the required combination of six units. You can have your certificate posted to you or it can be presented at our annual Celebration Day or at another appropriate local event. Then you can continue studying at the next level if you wish!

Q.  Church Music Skills used to have options for Choir Trainer, Cantor and Music Group Leader – can I still take those courses?

A. Organ is the first skill to be re-launched. In due course, the Choir Trainer, Cantor and Music Group Leader units will be added to the Hub. If you are interested in the Choir Trainer, Cantor or Music Group Leader units, please send us an email ( and we'll keep you updated.

Q.  Is there any bursary funding available?

A. The RSCM has a limited amount of bursary funding available to support those on its courses and programmes. To request access to the bursary application form, please email

Terms and Conditions

Terms and Conditions

• All fees are stated and payable in pounds sterling.

• Once learning materials have been sent to the student, payment is non‑refundable.

• Following payment for registration, students on the Award scheme may request to make subsequent payments in instalments. Please enquire for details.

• Following payment for registration, students on the Flexible Study scheme will pay per unit requested.

• If, on sight of the learning material, students decide they have selected the wrong unit, they may ask for an alternative unit but this will incur an administration charge of £35.

• If students fail to reach the required standard for a unit, there is a charge of £35 to retake the unit.

• Registration for the programme lasts for two years. After that time, a further administration charge of £40 will apply if you wish to continue your scheme of study and have your work assessed or move on to another level.

• Limited bursary funds may be available for those with particular financial needs. Please contact the CMS Administrator for further information.

• Any complaints about the programme or appeals about marking and/or assessments should be addressed to the RSCM Education Officer. Appeals about marking must be made within one month of receiving the tutor report.