Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

MUSI2095 Musical Theatre Songwriting

Module Overview

This practical module teaches techniques of songwriting, including creation of original melodic, lyrical, harmonic and accompaniment material. Its focus will be primarily on twentieth and twenty-first century Musical Theatre Songs, supported by occasional examples from outside this area where appropriate. Subjects include form, melody, text setting, metre, scansion, lyric writing, book writing, harmony, and accompaniment.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Song form
  • Melody writing
  • Text setting
  • Chord sequences and voicings
  • Accompaniment (chord/bass/ countermelody) composition
  • Lyric writing
  • Narrative structure, character arc and characterisation
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse many tonal song forms (AABA etc, intro / links / coda etc)
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Develop text based [poetic] skills
  • Work on projects with clearly delineated specifications
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Compose and arrange entire original songs (Melody / Accompaniment / bass / Lyrics / Instrumentation)
  • Write and hone lyrics


A series of topics will be presented over the semester with each topic exploring compositional and lyric writing approaches. Examples of topics that may be explored include: - Song construction: normative and unusual constructions - Melody writing- contour, line construction development and variation - Text setting: metre, scansion - Lyric writing: concept / ‘hook’ / development / repetition / rhyme - Harmony: Harmonise a melody in piano score: modal. Tonal/ chromatic harmony - Accompaniment and bass: Ostinati / ‘Groove’ / musical particularity - book writing skills- narrative structure, character arcs, characterisation Examples of specific songs (among many others) which may be explored include: - Rodgers and Hammerstein: I Cain't Say No - Gershwin: I got rhythm - Bernstein/ Sondheim: I feel Pretty - Sondheim: Send In the Clowns - Jason Robert Brown - You Don't Know This Man - Schwartz- Defying Gravity and more recent musicals

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - Lectures - Individual tutorials - Potential performance Workshops. Where possible (budget permitting) your second assignment will be workshopped and recorded by professional musicians Learning activities include: - Individual study

Wider reading or practice42
Preparation for scheduled sessions42
Completion of assessment task42
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

S Sondheim (2011). Look I Made A Hat. 

S Citron (1985). Song Writing – A Complete Guide To The Craft. 

B Dylan (1985). Lyrics 1962-1985. 

S Davis (1988). Successful Lyric Writing. 

J Blume (2004). 6 Steps To Songwriting Success. 

J Webb. Tunesmith. 

S Sondheim (2010). Finishing The Hat. 


Assessment Strategy

Differentiation between 2nd and 3rd level work Second and third years will be set different assignments. The third year assignments will be longer (i.e. longer text set) and more challenging (i.e. requiring more technical challenges). For 3rd level students taking this unit, expectations will be higher than those for 2nd level students, and the assessment criteria will be accordingly stricter. In particular: - Assignments should demonstrate a broader degree of focus and detail; control over material; formal sophistication; and reflect a more mature response to the set compositional task. - For score based work, optimal standards are required in terms of the physical appearance of work and following the standards of good-practice musical notation. - For written work, optimal standards of presentation are required in terms of spelling, punctuation, and grammar; sophistication of vocabulary; provision of footnotes; inclusion of full bibliographic and related details; physical appearance of work, etc. In short, 3rd level students should aspire at all times to the highest possible levels of undergraduate work.


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (3 minutes) 50%
Assignment  () 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings