Songwriting Workshop 2013


Anyone can be a songwriter.

Music exists inside of each of us, and everyone has something to say. In this eight-week workshop, let your voice be heard and learn what it takes to write a great rock, pop, or folk song. Whether you’re starting from scratch or you’ve already written a bunch of songs, your understanding of melody, harmony, form, rhythm, and lyricism will deepen.

By the end of this eight-week workshop, you will write at least two original songs, record a demo, and perform at a prestigious New York City music venue. Each week focuses a different songwriting theme (outlined in the syllabus below). We will channel our creative energy with group breathing exercises, song analyses, and the development of vocal/instrumental technique. Each session is a safe space for everyone to express his/her ideas in a supportive musical environment.

Songwriting is more than strumming a guitar, plunking piano keys, or singing a tune. It is a journey into our innermost thoughts. It is an expression of our happiest moments and our saddest experiences. Let out what’s inside of you – the world wants to hear about your unique experiences.

Important notes:

– Students 11-17 years old are welcome to attend.

– All students should have a basic understanding of how to play the acoustic guitar or the piano. All levels are welcome.

– Guitarists are expected to bring their guitar to all sessions. A keyboard will be provided for all pianists.

– Each student will receive a songwriting notebook and a songwriter’s rhyming dictionary on the first day of class.

– Each week’s lessons are loosely based on of various textbooks from Berklee Press, the primary publisher at Berklee College of Music.


TUESDAYS – January 8 – March 5 (no class on February 19)

Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Final Performance: March 5

WEDNESDAYS – January 9 – March 6 (no class on February 20)

West Village, Manhattan

Final Performance: March 6


TUESDAYS – Complete Music Studios

227 St. Marks Avenue (btwn Vanderbilt Ave and Underhill Ave)

Prospect Heights, Brooklyn MAP IT


WEDNESDAYS – Singers Forum

49 W 24th Street (btwn 6th Ave and Broadway)

Chelsea, NYC MAP IT

SYLLABUS: Theme of the Week

Week One: “The Juggling Songwriter: Rhythms and Lengths of Phrasing”

Writing a great song isn’t magic. Anyone can do it. It’s simply a juggling act. The songwriter has to juggle four balls when writing his lyrics, and each hold a question: “How many phrases should I sing? How long are they? What should their rhythms be? How are the rhymes arranged?” By examining a mix of indie, pop, and rock songs, we’ll answer these questions and begin writing our own song fragments.

Week Two: “Form of A Song: Juggling The Balls Together”

The form of a song can have many different elements, the most common elements being: verses, choruses, bridges, refrains, and hooks. The verse sets a structural standard for the song, while the chorus is the central section that holds the core idea. By playing through different types of forms, we will choose one for our original compositions.

Week Three: “Memorable Melodies and Catchy Hooks”

The hook is your hero. It is the most memorable lyric. It is the melody your fans will have stuck in their head for days. It is your job to shine the spotlight on it. Which part of the form should it go? Is it rhythmically and lyrically balanced? Are all the balls being juggled?

Week Four: “Your Love Above On The Wings of A Dove: Avoiding Cliches and Unnatural Rhythms in Rhymes”

Great songwriters are skilled rhymers. Take control over your rhyming. Using the rhyming dictionary each student received on the first day of class, expand your rhyming possibilities and refine their songs-in-progress with rhyme substitutes. We will discuss alliteration, internal rhymes, and assonance. We will also explore family rhymes (plosives, fricatives, nasals).

Week Five: “Diction, Diction, Diction”

Diction creates they style you sing in. It conveys the moods, emotions, and story of your song. Wouldn’t it be a shame if you wrote brilliant lyrics but nobody could understand you? Diction means that your consonants are enunciated, the vowels are articulated, and the words are pronounced clearly yet still convey the emotion of your song. We will play with the different ways to pronounce all the vowels (there are a lot!) and find which inflections enhance your songs the most.

Week Six: “Making A Demo: A Recording Session”

Today you record your song! A mobile recording studio and engineer will come and record one original song per student. Learn studio etiquette, microphone technique, instrument placement, and other important tools for being in the studio. Each student will receive a copy of their demo before the final performance.

Week Seven: “All The World’s A Stage: Getting Ready For The Show”

Strong performers are aware of how to direct their energy on stage. Whether you’re performing for strangers or friends and family, it can be scary or intimidating to bear your heart and soul on stage. What if your guitar string breaks in the middle of the song? What if you forget a chord or a lyric? You can still put on a great show. We will practice the power of eye contact, microphone technique, performance anxiety, breathing for relaxation, and voice conservation.

Week Eight: A final performance at…. Bitter End? Knitting Factory? Living Room? Sidewalk Cafe? 
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