SONGWRITING

Course Outline

 

Instructor:  Dr. Vicky V. Johnson

Email: vjohnson@tarleton.edu

Phone: Ext 9238

 

 

 

Syllabus       Blackboard       Finale       Staff Paper       Loops         ePortfolio     Writing

Lyrics     Melody     Harmony

   Syllable Dictionary    Rhyming Dictionary

Skip to current Week #

 

   1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8       9       10       11       12       13      14       15

 

 

 

 

Week 1

Jan 11-15

  • Syllabus

  • Semester plans

  • Use of technology

Attendance:  There are 41 class days.  Each will count for 2.5 points.  Tardies are one point.

Final Exam:  Regular final exam time (Monday, May 2 11:30-2:00) or afternoon/evening during finals?

 

Write these questions and the answers on a sheet of paper and give to me at the end of the class.

 

1.  Do you read lead sheets?

2.  What harmonic instrument do you play?

3.  How many chords can you play on that instrument?  If less than 10, list them.

4.  Do you sing?  In public?  For your friends?  With your friends?  In the shower?

 

Blooms Taxonomy

Critical thinking skills and journaling

 

Prosody - when everything works together

No decision is made that does not contribute to the whole

 

Example:  sad song, slow, minor

Words like 'rise' or 'high' with associated melodic line

 

There are no rules!!!

But, there are tools and there are strategies.

There are many forgettable songs.  Why are they forgettable?

Assignments due:

Wed

Blackboard setup

 

Wed

Assignment:  "Wish I had written that" song

Identify a song that exemplifies the kind of song you would like to write this semester.

Your preferred genre

Lyrics that you particularly admire

Memorable melody

Harmony that sounds great

Performance that you would like to emulate

 

In a Word document, describe why you wish you had written that song, addressing each of the elements above (genre, lyrics, melody, harmony, performance).  You will turn this in to me.

 

Note:  

  1. When referring to a song, it should be placed in quotation marks, not just capitalized

  2. Watch your writing.  Your explanation should be formally written with correct grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure.

 

We will all listen to your selected song.  A YouTube link is preferable.  If it does not exist on YouTube (really??) then bring it on a thumb drive.

 

What makes a song memorable?

Pocketful of Sunshine

 

 

 

 

Week 2

Jan 18-22

 

No class on Monday:  MLK Day

 

Lyrics

 

Use the checklist below to evaluate your 3 Boxes Assignment:

 

  • The title moves well through the boxes and gains more meaning each time.
  • The most important idea (the why of the song) appears in the last box
  • Each box contributes a further development of the title clearly.
  • The development of the idea is interesting.
  • The student selected an effective point of view for the development of the title.
  • Who is talking is clearly identified.
  • To whom is clearly identified.
  • Why is clearly identified.
  • When and where set an interesting and effective context for the title.

[Citron 17-21]

Assignments due:

Wed

Discussion:

Read the following article

http://www.scene4.com/archivesqv6/oct-2011/1011/davidalpaugh1011.html

What Poets Can Learn from Songwriters

 

Wed

3 Box Assignment

Pick one of the following titles (or use one of your own) and, using the boxes as a guide, describe how you would develop it (i.e. what would go in Box 1, what would go in Box 2, and what would go in Box 3.

 

Put your ideas into this 3-Box Template

 

The Good Old Days

Two Story House

Fool's Gold

Home Brew

The Other Side of Goodbye 

 

You may print out the box and write the words in.  Please write legibly!

 

Fri

5 Titles

Read Lyric Writing: Writing From the Title

Write 5 titles for potential songs using these tips

 

Lake Street Dive

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHjLyWRfK1U&sns=em

Week 3

Jan 25-29

 

Song sections (form):

  • verse - provides the basic story or basic feeling of the song

  • chorus - part that is repeated; gives the central idea; the gem

  • bridge - connects song sections; contrasting material; moves to a different level of information

 

Take the Stress Test

You may save the loops below:  right click, Save target as

 

Drum loops:

[Citron 96-128]

 

Assignments due:

Mon

  1. Write an unstable verse that moves into a stable chorus

  2. Write a stable verse that moves into an unstable chorus

    See the Lyrics page and review stable and unstable

    Be sure to use rhymes in this assignment

Type the assignment in a Word document.  Print it out and bring to class.  Make sure your lyrics are in poetry form (not prose).

 

Wed

Stress test with loop

Choose the chorus that you prefer (or write another one)

Mark the stresses on the chorus

You will speak your chorus to a loop for the class.

 

Provide a Word document for this assignment.  You may write in the stresses.

 

Fri

Song #1Lyrics 1st draft

 

Words only in poetry form in a Word doc

Label the sections (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.)

Include the Rhyming Worksheet for your complete song

 

Week 4

Feb 1-5

 

Melody

 

 

 

Assignments due:

Mon

Revisions of Song #1 Lyrics

Revised words only in poetry form in a Word doc

 

Fri

Melody #1

Write a melody in which the first phrase ends on an unstable note and the second ends on a stable note.  You may use 2 phrases from Song #1 or completely different words.

Week 5

Feb 8-12

TMEA:  no class on Friday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Citron 129-134]

 

 

http://www.tarleton.edu/anthology

Assignments due:

Mon

Melody #2

Write a chorus

This should be absolutely new (not one you have written or worked on before).

 

Requirements:

  • Use stable or unstable line lengths - your choice.

  • USE RHYME - your choice of rhyme scheme

  • You will sing your chorus for us in class.  Accompaniment is optional, but helpful

  • Music majors must provide a written melody with words under the melody (assigned to notes).  You may hand-write it (if very legible) or put it in Finale.

Look here for writing prompt ideas

 

Wed

At least one verse to go with the chorus (Melody #2)

Same requirements as above.

Wed

Anthology submission

Bring your formatted Word document to class for approval.  After Submit one poem (song lyrics) to the Anthology.  This can be Song #1 or another that you have worked on.  Upon approval, submit this poem (song lyrics) to the Anthology.  Use the link to your left.

 

 

Week 6

Feb 15-19

 

Portfolio

Use Weebly:  http://www.weebly.com/#

 

Examples:

 

http://vvjohnson.weebly.com/

 

http://kjlport.weebly.com/

 

http://siteeportfolio.weebly.com/

 

[Citron 180-207]
 

Assignments due:

Mon

Melody to Lyrics #1

 

Requirements:

  • Add a melody to your complete lyrics from Lyrics #1.  You will sing your complete song for us in class.  Accompaniment is optional, but helpful

  • Music majors must provide a written melody with words in Finale.

  • Non-majors may supply a Word doc with the words to your chorus for display on the doc cam

Wed

Critique cont.

 

Fri

Finale practice in piano lab

Bring revised melody/lyrics from Monday for formatting assistance.

Week 7

Feb 22-26

 

Harmony

Popular music harmonies

 

Classroom exercise: 

  1. Make up 2 phrases that rhyme

  2. Choose a popular music harmony

  3. Improvise a melody to the lyrics

 

Melody is usually most important

Alternative:  harmonic progression similar to Time in a Bottle

Interactive Desktop Blues

Another blues loop

 

Assignments due:

Wed

Harmonize a chorus

Write a brand new chorus (lyrics and melody) and add harmony.  Use one of the patterns from Popular music harmonies

 

 

Writing Better Lyrics – MT67.P383 2009

Melody in Songwriting – MT67.P47 2000

Songwriter’s Workshop – MT50.K13 2005

 

Week 8

Feb 29-Mar4

 

 

Example Portfolios from a past semester:

http://tyesharenee.weebly.com

http://rmwilson.weebly.com/

http://dallasholston.weebly.com/

http://brehaley.weebly.com/

http://sethcantu.weebly.com/

http://tberman.weebly.com/

http://hadencappsmusic.weebly.com/

http://thefifthseason1989.weebly.com/

http://coreywarthman.weebly.com/

http://songhive11.weebly.com/

http://ervinking.weebly.com/

http://tommy-tones.weebly.com/

 

Assignments due:

Mon

Harmonize an existing chorus

Take a chorus you have already written and add harmony to your lyrics and melody.  Provide a lead sheet that includes chord symbols.  Be prepared to demonstrate for the class.  You may play your own harmonizing instrument (piano/guitar), or have someone else accompany.

 

Wed

Harmonize a complete song

Choose one of your songs and add harmony to the complete song.  Provide a lead sheet that includes chord symbols.  Be prepared to demonstrate for the class.

 

Fri

Portfolio

Send me the link to your Weebly ePortfolio

You do not have to have artifacts linked, but pages (with graphics/photos) and tabs set up

 

Suggestions for tabs:  Home; About Me; My Music; Gallery [for photos]; Videos

 

Be creative!

 

http://bethrugg.weebly.com

http://rebekahanthony.weebly.com/

http://bradleycolemckinney.weebly.com/

http://rosepiotrowski.weebly.com/

http://tygreentsu.weebly.com/

http://cadeschmutz.weebly.com/

http://www.brelillie.com/

 

 

 

 

  HAPPY SPRING BREAK! 

Week 9

Mar 14-18

 

Recording your songs

Feel free to use whatever recording medium you like.  If you are a newby, try Audacity.  It's free and easy to use.

 

Your final exam will be a performance of your songs on

Monday, May 2 at 7:30pm in the Theater

 

Assignments due:

Mon

ePortfolio critiques

View your classmates' ePortfolios (links posted in Week 8).  Offer as many suggestions as you can to help improve the site.  Examples:  tabs to add, more graphics/photos, spelling/punctuation/sentence structure errors, etc.

Help them to make their site great!  The better your advice, the better your grade!

 

Post your suggestions in the Discussion forum in Blackboard under "ePortfolio Critique."  Be sure to critique all 6 of your classmates' ePortfolios.

 

 

 

Wed

Harmonize a complete song (#2)

Choose one of your songs and add harmony to the complete song.  Provide a lead sheet that includes chord symbols.  Be prepared to demonstrate for the class.

 

 

 

 

 

Week 10

Mar 21-25

 

Uploading Your Recordings to Soundcloud

In order to submit your recordings, you will need to create a free account on the Soundcloud web site (http://www.soundcloud.com). You will upload your MP3 recordings to Soundcloud and then provide links to them in your assignments.

To upload a recording to Soundcloud, follow these steps:

  1. Log into Soundcloud.

  2. Click Upload in the top right corner of the site.

  3. Click Choose files.

  4. Select the file you want to upload from your computer.

  5. As the file is uploading, choose the Private option under Settings, so that the recording is not publicly available on the Soundcloud web site.

  6. Once the file has finished uploading, click Save at the bottom of the page.

  7. Click the Share button on the page that loads with your recording.

  8. In the popup box that appears, check Short next to Secret link.

  9. Copy the shortened Secret link.

  10. Paste the link in the discussion forum.

 

 

Assignments due:

Mon

Song #1 Complete and uplinked to Soundcloud or YouTube

See requirements and instructions below

 

FriBring Song #2 for final critiques and or Song #3 for first look

 

Requirements for Song #1

  1. Complete song including all verses, chorus, etc.

  2. Identify it as Song #1 under the song title

  3. A complete rhyming worksheet (template)

  4. Non-music majors supply a lyric sheet typed in a Word document

  5. Music majors supply a lead sheet

  6. Label each section of the song as Verse, Chorus, Break, Pre-chorus, etc.

Turn in to me (hard copy)

  1. Rhyming worksheet

  2. Lyric sheet (non-music majors) or lead sheet (music majors)

Note:  Here is the link for Audacity if you wish to use that software.  Alternatively, use your smart phone to record and upload to Soundcloud or YouTube.

Week 11

Mar 28-Apr1


Tools for Finishing More Songs
Written by Andrea Stolpe
https://blogs.online.berklee.edu/blog/2016/02/03/tools-for-finishing-more-songs/


One of the most frustrating problems we experience as songwriters is difficulty finishing songs. We might get stuck at the chorus, or maybe after the first chorus. Perhaps versus leave us feeling we didn’t quite capture our point. Maybe our song feels too short or too long and we don’t know where to cut. Whatever the problem, in the back of our minds we’re wondering why we can’t finish songs. I find a more useful question than ‘why’ we get stuck is ‘where.’

Understanding at what section in the song we lose momentum helps to decode what our problem is. Maybe we’re stuck at the end of a single verse, not knowing where to take the story or feeling as if we’ve said everything we want to say. The solution in this case is to take smaller steps. Instead of using so much ‘telling’ language or generalizing language in that first verse, we need to involve more sensory language. That first verse may serve us better as a chorus instead of the verse. Try choosing a specific moment or situation that exemplifies the point you’re making in the first verse and consider this situation or moment your new verse.

If our trouble is we come to the chorus and we don’t know what to say, we might ask ourselves what we want our listener to walk away knowing. What is the big point you want to make? What’s really important here? If you could summarize the song in one phrase or short sentence, what would that be? Now write down or record the words coming out of your mouth. Use them as they are as your title or first lines of your chorus. Consider repeating them rather than writing additional material to complete the course section.

Sometimes our trouble is that we are too judgmental. Constantly assessing the value of each line we write puts an impossible standard on a lyric writing. For this problem, I suggest reading the lyrics of some of the songs from your favorite artist. These may not be their most legendary songs, but ones you’ve dug down to grab that exemplify a nice cross-section of the body of work they created. Notice how the very same language you criticize in your own writing is the language your favorite artists keep.

Sometimes we get to the end of the first chorus and don’t know where to go with the next verse. In this case, consider that perhaps your first verse says too much, generalizing too much. Try moving your first verse into the second verse position and writing a new verse, generated by a specific instance that shows the truth of the statement you’re making in the chorus.

If you find that many of your songs are too short, try to use more sensory language, more storyline in your verses. It may be that there is a lot more to say on each statement or idea you introduce.

If your songs are too long, you may have trouble getting to the point. Examine how much of the lyric you can cut and boldly cross those lines out. Aim to use more repetition of single important ideas.

Finally, Challenge yourself to take 20 minutes to finish the song. Set a timer and when the timer goes off, put your pencil down. What you have written is the song. Record it, and listen again a week later and just feel the song. You may find that there our gems within that you hadn’t recognized before.

 

Assignments due:

Mon

Song #2 Complete and uplinked to Soundcloud or YouTube

See requirements and instructions below

 

FriBring Song #3 for critique

 

Requirements for Song #2

  1. Complete song including all verses, chorus, etc.

  2. Identify it as Song #1 under the song title

  3. A complete rhyming worksheet (template)

  4. Non-music majors supply a lyric sheet typed in a Word document

  5. Music majors supply a lead sheet

  6. Label each section of the song as Verse, Chorus, Break, Pre-chorus, etc.

Turn in to me (hard copy)

  1. Rhyming worksheet

  2. Lyric sheet (non-music majors) or lead sheet (music majors)

 

Notice the Important announcement for next week!!

Week 12

Apr 4-8

 

Important:  At the end of this week, I will input grades for all 3 songs based upon the lead sheets (hard copy) and SoundCloud links that I have.

 

Send the Soundcloud links to me at vjohnson@tarleton.edu

Turn in hard copies to me by Friday for all 3 songs.

 

 

Assignments due:

Mon

Song #3

Lyrics and chords for critique

 

Fri

Song #3 Complete and uplinked to Soundcloud or YouTube

 

Fri

All lead sheets and Soundcloud links due for a grade

Hard copy of all 3 lead sheets including rhyming worksheets

Send Soundcloud links to me at vjohnson@tarleton.edu

 

 

Requirements for Song #3

  1. Complete song including all verses, chorus, etc.

  2. Identify it as Song #1 under the song title

  3. A complete rhyming worksheet (template)

  4. Non-music majors supply a lyric sheet typed in a Word document

  5. Music majors supply a lead sheet

  6. Label each section of the song as Verse, Chorus, Break, Pre-chorus, etc.

Turn in to me (hard copy)

  1. Rhyming worksheet

  2. Lyric sheet (non-music majors) or lead sheet (music majors)

 

Week 13

Apr 11-15

Final Exam Production Template

 

Rehearsals

Heads up:  Final Reflection, ePortfolio due next week for ALE credit. 

 

https://soundcloud.com/bradley-mckinney-730350769

http://soundcloud.com/cadeschmutz

https://soundcloud.com/bre-lillie/voice_161-m4a

https://soundcloud.com/bre-lillie/voice_162-m4a

https://soundcloud.com/bre-lillie/voice_171-m4a

 

http://rebekahanthony.weebly.com/

 

https://m.soundcloud.com/user-678516701

Beth

 

Assignments due:

Mon

Bring timing information for all songs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need volunteers to produce a performance poster.

 

Week 14

Apr 18-22

 

Rehearsals

 

Final Reflection

Include in your Final Reflection the following:

  • Students will analyze how this applied learning experience enabled them to apply what they learned from their courses, both in major and core curriculum areas, and from their extracurricular experiences to the real world.

  • Students will evaluate how the applied learning experience expanded their views of academic, political, social, cultural, and/or economic environments and prepared them to contribute more meaningfully to a global society.

Also include your own personal thoughts, opinions regarding anything else you found to be significant about the experience.

 

Requirements:  Double spaced, 12-pt Times New Roman in a Word document, 3-5 pages

 

Refer to the Reflection Rubric for grading criteria

 

 

Assignments due:

Fri

Final Reflection due

Final reflection rubric

 

This is the rubric for all ALE projects.  Shoot for 5's in each category!

 

Fri

Complete ePortfolio due

 

Final ePortfolio must include:

  1. Final Reflection

  2. Three songs (the three complete ones uploaded to Blackboard) including lyrics (non-music majors), lead sheets (music majors) and links to Soundcloud audio files

  3. "About me" page (separate from home page) that includes contact information

  4. A video of a performance of one of your original songs

Extra credit for including additional video(s) and songs.

 

Week 15

Apr 25-27

Last day of classes is Wed., Apr 27

 

Your final exam will be a performance of your songs on

Monday, May 2 at 7:30pm in the Theater

Invite your friends!

 

 

Set-up and rehearsal:  Sunday, May 1, 5:00pm

 

 

Link to recording:

 

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/wx5r5b71csz7m6g/AAAI5s60YlL-NB7NhsZnaSG9a?dl=0

 

 

 

 

Assignments due:

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best of luck in all your Songwriting projects, and don't forget me at the Grammys!!!!

 

Song Rubric

Criteria

Performance Indicators

Failing

(No)

Unacceptable

(Really?)

Poor

(Huh?)

Fair

(Ok . . .)

Good

(Ahh!)

Excellent

(Wow!!!)

Lyrics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 points

24 points

28 points

32 points

36 points

40 points

Melody

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 points

24 points

28 points

32 points

36 points

40 points

Harmony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 points

12 points

14 points

16 points

18 points

20 points

Total points

 

Performance indicators will be completed by students as an individual assignment and then revised as a group activity.

Reflection Rubric

 

 

 

Discussion Rubric

 

Criteria

Performance Indicators

Failing

Poor

Fair

Good

Excellent

Original Post

No song submission

Incomplete song submission or submitted more than one week late

Song submitted one week late, complete, all requirements met

Song submitted one day late, complete, all requirements met

Song submitted on time, complete, all requirements met

 

0 points

30 points

35 points

40 points

50 points

Responses

No responses including “good job” responses with no helpful feedback

One response missing or one response is an “good job” response with no helpful feedback

One or more responses is less than 3 sentences long or 3 responses that add little feedback

3 complete responses that include helpful feedback

More than 3 complete responses that include helpful feedback

 

0 points

35 points

40 points

45 points

50 points

Total points

 

 

 

 

 

Writing

 

bullet

Poetry assignment

One set of song lyrics (poetry form) will be submitted to the TSU Anthology

bullet

MidTerm reflection (free form)

 

bullet

Final reflection

From the syllabus: 

bullet

Articulate how they have applied learning from music, political science, history, sociology, psychology, and writing in writing songs

bullet

Evaluate how this applied learning experience has expanded their views of academic, political, social, cultural, and/or economic environments and prepared them to contribute more meaningfully to a global society.

 

Compositions

Compositions in progress may be in any written form:

 

bullet

Finale files

bullet

Lyrics with lead sheet symbols

bullet

Hand-written

 

The final product, however, must be converted to PDF for inclusion in the ePortfolio.

Students will employ a constructivist approach in setting criteria by which their compositions will be judged.

 

Performances

bulletEach song-writer will put together and rehearse the performer/performers for his/her song.  The song-writer must participate in at least one performance of his/her compositions.
bulletPerformances will be critiqued by the class and again, students will use a constructivist approach in setting criteria for evaluation.
bulletVideos are required for each composition performed to be included in the ePortfolio.  Videos do not have to be of the performance itself, but may be made 'in studio.'

ePortfolio

Software, Tools, and Resources for Digital Portfolios

 

 

 

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Created and maintained by Vicky V. Johnson