Basic songwriting techniques. Students will develop a strong sense of form, melody, harmony, bass line development, and rhythm. Introduction to lyric considerations. Projects, in lead sheet format, will cover a variety of styles. Note: It is recommended that students take SW-221 in conjunction with this course.
Continuation of SW-211. Proper integration of lyrics and melody. Expansion of tonal materials used in songwriting including modulation and modality. Further study of form including the transitional bridge and the primary bridge. Student projects include setting lyrics in various styles and forms. Note: It is recommended that students take SW-222 in conjunction with this course.
This course will focus on the structural aspects of lyric writing, especially the use of rhythm, rhyme, and form. Emphasis will be placed on compositional decisions and choices available to the lyricist. Weekly writing exercises from the workbook.
This course continues to strengthen students' composition of lyrics using techniques gained in SW-221. Student projects cover various uses of form, approaches to hooks, use of thesaurus and rhyming dictionary, writing to existing melody, collaboration with composers (lyrics first), and work sheets on form/function relationships. The course gives practice and experience in prosody (patterns of rhythm and sound), matching lyrics and music, and developing ideas fully. It removes the students’ fear of a blank page and gives them the ability to assess not only the work of others, but, more importantly, helps them to become more objective when assessing their own work.
This course is designed to enrich the students understanding of composition as it pertains to hip-hop. Students will learn how to write effective hip-hop songs by studying the social and cultural background of hip-hop as well as studying the lyrical and compositional elements involved. Students will be asked to write hip-hop lyrics and music, learn how to conceive of lyrics for other artists and to produce a fully conceived hip-hop song.
This class explores sampling methods from other forms of music as a means for writing songs. Students will learn the technology of samplers as well as the history behind their inclusion in contemporary music. Each class will further develop the student's understanding of sampling technique through in-class exercises, projects, and group assignments. The course will be structured to cycle through phases of theory, technique, and creative exercises. In each class, key concepts (transcribing, looping, chopping, etc.) will be linked in a visual, tactile way to the sampler (Reason), as well as drawing on ear training and harmony materials from core classes. Although in format this class will resemble a lab, the combination of technical and writing assignments presented will require delivery as a full 2-hour class session. Emphasis will be placed on transcribing prerecorded music to provide a blueprint for the compositions students create.
Building on skills acquired in AR-111, this course focuses on writing effective arrangements built around a lead vocal with a contemporary rhythm section including percussion, background vocals, and synthesizer(s). Topics include conceptualizing and establishing a groove, writing effective introductions and fills, and supporting the style and structure of the song with appropriate instruments.
This class provides a stylistically open foundation in guitar playing focused on the needs and working processes of songwriters. The class integrates knowledge of theory approached in terms of the guitar fingerboard with songwriting/composition concepts and skills. Each session introduces technical work on guitar skills development, along with small composition exercises, performed and evaluated in class by the instructor and peer critique.
This class will offer a foundation in keyboard and piano playing specifically for songwriters. The course will integrate keyboard technique, specifically theory as applied to seeing and playing it on the piano, with songwriting and composition techniques and processes. The student will work with scales, major and minor triads including inversions, suspensions and colors/tensions, voice led I-IV-V progressions, and excursions into blues and dorian and mixolydian modes, with attention to emotional tone and compositional color. Writing assignments will allow students to learn concepts through creative work. The course will also serve as a survey of basic piano pop rhythmic styles, working with rhythm templates as bases for individual embellishment. Although in format this class will resemble a lab, the combination of technical and writing assignments presented will require delivery as a full 2-hour class session. The goal of this class is to provide a foundation for creative work on the piano for students for whom piano is a second instrument.
This course provides an overview of the contributions that songwriters have made to 20th-century American culture, analyze historical songwriting and production styles, determine characteristics of periods and genres, and apply them to new original works through songwriting assignments. Included will be the sources of, and trends in, various popular American styles, including spirituals, blues, jazz standards, show tunes, country, rock, R&B, soul, reggae, folk, and hip-hop. This course will use the basic analytical tools taught in SW-221 and SW-211 to study, analyze and apply significant popular songs and song styles.
Rooted in the African cultural diaspora, improvisation is an ancient form of musical communication. The process of discovering and collaborating on ideas in the moment is at the core of productive learning, and provides a solid foundation for songwriting. This workshop introduces improvisation tools and techniques to explore effective processes of creating music and lyrics. Students learn via action-based teaching methodology in the classroom, where students’ instruments include voices, hands, feet and desks, as well as piano and guitar. Students improvise and perform original songs in the classroom and create a final performance presentation at the end of the semester. They learn various approaches to finding and cultivating song ideas through the art of playing improvisation games including free word association, singing melodies, clapping and rapping rhythms, jamming with instruments, object writing (stream of consciousness), and rhyming (games are loosely based off of those presented in the famous television show Whose Line Is It Anyway? but in a songwriting context). Students develop words into lyric rhythms, lyric rhythms into melodic motifs, and melodic motifs into longer phrases over harmonic and rhythmic ideas. Students successfully apply improvisational techniques to their songwriting practice in order to become more prolific and have an intrinsically rewarding experience. With emphasis on incorporating musical dialogue, student-run composition, and instructor-initiated improvisation techniques, students find total engagement in creative activity as a means of initiating more possibility for inspiration, innovation, and song collaboration.
Note: SW-261 replaces SW-361 as a songwriting major requirement. SW-361 is no longer offered as of 2017 spring.
The second level Pro Tools-based production course provides songwriters tools to compete in the current marketplace, equipping them with strategies needed to be in control of their content, enhance their songwriting skills and increasing their employability. In this course, students learn to create demos of their songs using a combination of recorded audio and synthesized/sampled textures in order to fit their needs. They use virtual instruments; learn to mic multiple audio sources; create semi-professional level mixes that incorporate groups, effects and effect chains; and more. Students create a personal workflow for composition, demo production and file management.