Immerse yourself in the art of songwriting. Discover effective songwriting techniques by exploring melody, rhythm, harmony, lyrics, and the latest technology. Under the direction of Bonnie Hayes, chair of Berklee’s Songwriting Department, you will receive expert support and feedback on your original material from veteran songwriters and industry professionals. Learn about the tools you need to place your songs in TV and film, and find new strategies to start earning royalties.
2019 Program Information
|Program length:||Five days|
|Program dates:||Monday, June 24–Friday, June 28, 2019|
|Registration fee:||$50 (nonrefundable)|
|Move in starting:||TBD|
|Move out by:||TBD|
|Age range:||15 years and older|
A Completed Song (optional)
You may want to showcase a work during your time at the Songwriting Workshop. To do so, you must either obtain a CD recording or prepare a performance. Typed lyrics or a lead sheet are also necessary to supplement a completed song. A lead sheet consists of the melody transcribed on staff paper, with the lyrics below, and the chord symbols above the melody.
Along with your instrument, please bring any accessories (capo, tuner, strap, etc.) you may wish to have with you and label them with your name and phone number.
Be sure to bring a notebook or some other way to save your ideas—you will be having lots of them!
You are permitted to bring laptops, computers, tablets, etc., although it is not required. Wireless internet and electrical outlet plugs are provided throughout the campus.Please keep in mind that it is your responsibility to keep your items safe. Berklee is not responsible for the loss of these items.
Please use the Information for Registered Students page as a reference to the 2018 program schedule. 2019 schedule details will become available closer to the start of the program.
Classes are varied and are designed to provide information for songwriters of all experience levels. Students must choose three electives from the list below and may take up to three additional electives. Two-day electives are considered two electives and three-day electives are considered three electives.
Singer-Songwriter Workshop (one day): Want feedback on your songs? In this workshop, you’ll play your songs in front of your peers and Songwriting Department faculty. You may perform solo, have a friend accompany, use a prerecorded track on CD. It is recommended that you have a typed or neatly written lyric sheet of the song(s) you are going to perform.
Working with a Band (three days): In this two-part elective, songwriters who want a chance to work with a band learn how to check their key, create an arrangement, and make an arrangement chart. On the second day, they go into a rehearsal studio and play their song with high level Berklee students, who can help them get the sound they want. This class takes up two days of electives.
Recording Techniques for Songwriters (two days): Recording at home is a crucial step to getting your music out and into the world. This hour-and-a-half workshop will cover the key techniques and tools to making recordings at home. Topics include: the vocal recording process and why it’s so important, microphone choice, room choices, and fixes.
Write a Song in 90 Minutes (one day): Tired of talking about writing songs? In this workshop, you will write a song in class solo or with a partner using one of three very fun writing exercises: interviewing a partner, turning a poem into a song, or writing a song in the style of a popular artist or songwriter. Be prepared to have some "a-ha" moments and songwriting breakthroughs.
Business of Songwriting (one day): This class will cover some of the basics of the songwriting business. It will include making and marketing recordings, royalty income, performance societies, publishing contracts, collaboration, and licensing fees.
Collaboration (two days): Some of the best songs ever written have been collaborative efforts. With the right collaborator you can improve your music and increase your productivity, and with the wrong one you may feel as if you’re just wasting your good ideas. Whether you’re the track person, the lyricist, the topliner, or the one that drifts in and out of the room (or all of the above), this class will explore the benefits and pitfalls of collaboration.
Stage Performance Workshop (one day): In this workshop, you will work on the concepts of performance as it relates to songwriting, developing answers to questions such as: Who is your audience? What do you want to convey to them, and how can you do that? Should you perform solo or with a band? What instrumentation works best for your voice? What do you need to know to work with a band to arrange your song from the bottom up? What skills do you need to be a great performer?
Hip-Hop Songwriting (one day): In this class, you will learn how to write effective hip-hop songs by studying the lyrical and compositional elements involved. The class will listen to current hiphop songs, analyze different hook structures, and perform in-class writing and improvising exercises. Topline Writing for Pop, R&B, and Dance Songs: You don't always have to sit behind a piano or a guitar to write a song. Many of the biggest songs these days are written using a technique called toplining. In this workshop you will learn how to write a song (possibly a hit song) using this technique.
Improvisation Workshop (one day): Improvisation is at the heart of all songwriting. In this class, we will use free word association, vocalize melodic ideas, make up rhythms on the spot, and use any chords we choose to "jam out." Create some words and music in the moment and come away from this class with a new sense of artistic freedom, and maybe even a brand new song!
DIY Solo Singer-Songwriter (one day): This session will cover the basics of being a touring solo singer-songwriter. These include regional touring, booking a gig, travel arrangements, sound checks, club confirmation, house concerts, etc. The class will create a mock one-week tour of five shows to illustrate routing, venues, and budget. Bring your questions about touring!
Vocal Techniques for Songwriters (one day): The voice can be a powerful tool for the songwriter. This class will focus on ways in which vocalists can generate and work on songs. In this workshop you will learn the how you can use your voice to create melodies and harmonies and to form the song. Students will participate as a group and have the opportunity for individual critique.
Guitar Style for Songwriters (one day): This class will focus on guitar accompaniment styles and knowledge of theory approached in terms of the guitar fingerboard with a focus on songwriting/composition concepts and skills. Each session introduces small composition exercises and technical work on guitar skills development.
Keyboard Styles for Songwriters (one day): This class will focus on keyboard accompaniment styles and knowledge of theory approached in terms of the keyboard with a focus on songwriting/composition concepts and skills. Each session introduces small composition exercises and technical work on keyboard skills development.
Songwriting for Film and TV (one day): Licensing songs for film and television provides a promotional launching pad (as well as a potentially lucrative income stream) for artist and songwriter careers. This course will provide an overview of this lucrative element of professional songwriting including composing, music supervisors, libraries and what skills you need to get started.
Marketing and Media for Songwriters (two days): This class will present tips for creating a coherent visual and aural identity, branding it, and marketing your music through internet sources such as a personal website, Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, and SoundCloud/BandCamp. Included will be information on writing a bio and creating a one-sheet, EPK (electronic press kit), and online store.
Intermediate/Advanced Harmony for Songwriters (two days): For students interested in learning to use more advanced harmonic techniques, this class will cover modes, modal interchange, blues-related tonalities, and secondary dominants and substitutions as ways of bringing more emotional complexity to the chord progressions for your songs.
Musical Theater Writing (one day): Do you know every song in Hamilton, Dogfight, West Side Story, and Oklahoma? Ever think about writing your own musical? In this class, you can get an introduction to writing for musical theater.
Top-Line Writing for Pop, R&B, Dance Songs (one day): You don't always have to sit behind a piano or a guitar to write a song. Many of the biggest songs these days are written using a technique called toplining. In this workshop, you will learn how to write a song (possibly a hit song) using this technique.
Members of Berklee's talented and experienced Songwriting Department will teach the classes and workshops in this program. Each day will feature clinics with Berklee songwriting faculty or guest clinicians.
Past guest clinicians have included hit songwriters such as Paula Cole, Melissa Ferrick, Hugh Prestwood, and Phil Galdston; singer-songwriters Beth Nielsen Chapman and Marshall Crenshaw; and American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers executive vice president for creative services John Titta. In addition to day clinics, singer-songwriters who, in prior years, have presented concerts in the evening exclusively for program participants include Ellis Paul, Jennifer Kimball, Patty Larkin, Gary Nicholson, and Livingston Taylor.
The Songwriting Workshop summer faculty includes:
- Bonnie Hayes, Program Director
Faculty subject to change