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The University of Southampton

MUSI2095 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 Musicals / Pop / Jazz and Rock Songs, supported by occasional examples from classical and folk traditions. Subjects include form, melody, text setting, metre, scansion, lyric writing, harmony, and accompaniment.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

- Develop techniques of short-form tonal composition in song forms - Teach principles of construction, melody and bass and accompaniment - Teach techniques and principles of text setting and lyric writing - Enable you to write songs for your various jazz/ pop ensembles

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
  • Some Instrumental arrangement
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Compose and arrange entire original songs (Melody / Accompaniment / bass / Lyrics / Instrumentation)
  • 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
  • Work in a team (for example in preparation of performance of open-mike song)
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Arrange songs for small group ensembles
  • Write and hone lyrics
  • Set texts to music
  • Develop harmonic voicings from a lead sheet


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 Examples of specific songs (among many others) which may be explored include:  - Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody  - Sting: Seven Days  - Sondheim: What Can You Lose?  - Cole Porter: Let’s Fall In Love  - Jason Mraz: I’m Yours  - Regina Spektor: Fidelity  - The Beatles: Eleanor Rigby  - Bob Dylan: Blowin’ In the Wind  - Bob Marley: Three Little Birds

Special Features

Lyric writing is more unusual within conventional ‘composition’ teaching in Higher Education.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: ï‚· - Lectures ï‚· - Individual tutorials ï‚· - Workshops Learning activities include: ï‚· - Individual study ï‚· - Library-based research ï‚· - On-line based research

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

Resources & Reading list

J Webb. Tunesmith. 

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

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

S Davis (1988). Successful Lyric Writing. 

S Sondheim (2010). Finishing The Hat. 

B Dylan (1985). Lyrics 1962-1985. 

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


Assessment Strategy

Include details of the proportion and weighting of coursework as well as the number, type and duration of examination(s). You must specify which element will be taken as the final assessment. 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: ï‚· 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. ï‚· 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. ï‚· 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  (2 minutes) 50%
Assignment  (3 minutes) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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