BA (Hons) Creative Songwriting

Introduction

The BA (Hons) Creative Songwriting course enables students to develop a diverse and industry-relevant set of songwriting skills. You will generate songs that are suitable for a wide range of formats and create an appropriate songwriting portfolio. Under the guidance and supervision of internationally recognized leaders in the field, the course aims to produce graduates who are conversant with the mechanisms of the modern music industry and can demonstrate a creative and industry-relevant approach to their craft.

Your practical studies will be underpinned by research and writing skills and you will reflect critically on your practice. Participation in projects will help you to contextualize your work within a wider arena, enabling you to identify, forge and nurture many new career opportunities.

The intensive nature of the course enables learners to become skilled practitioners and provides the freedom for them to develop their own unique and innovative methods of working. Upon completion of the course, you will have built up a varied portfolio and will be equipped to identify, create and respond to the many career opportunities that exist in the ever-evolving music landscape.

DIME Detroit courses are offered as a full-time program, which enables you to complete your degree in three years.

Benefits

  • World class artists and educators, active in the music industry and educational practice.
  • Direct engagement with the industry through project-based work.
  • Students are guided and encouraged to develop their own individual area(s) of expertise.
  • Collaboration within a broader musical community; your regular interaction with peers and faculty groups is enhanced by live events and other extra-curricular activities including: master classes, private tutorial sessions, Open Mic Nights, regular Open House events, and one-off events in which DIME partners with local musicians and organizations.

How is the course taught?

The teaching strategies deployed within the award seek to reflect and apply the educational philosophy of the institution and the rationale, aims and learning outcomes of the course. The intention is to engage the active participation of a committed group of academic and technical staff and students. Students at DIME will benefit from the following modes of teaching:

  • Group lectures within the college environment, where all students will learn in groups regardless of their individual specialism.
  • Specialist lectures within the college environment, where students will learn in specialist specific groups.
  • Weekly Lectures with instruction by world-class industry professionals who have vast experience in the music industry.
  • Regular One-To-One Tutorial Guidance from the Head of Education and Head of Department on
    matters relating to the course, musical performance, career planning and student care.
  • Exclusive Masterclasses from renowned artists, educators and industry professionals.

What you’ll do

Explore the course content by clicking on the sections below:

Year 1: Level 4

Creating Subject Matter and Lyrics
Great songs are usually built on the lyrics and the subject matter. In this class we investigate the conventions of lyric writing and the use of structure. You will create much of the raw material for your writing and be encouraged to do so fearlessly. Additionally, you will be challenged to write at pace, perhaps producing more lyrics and titles than you are used to. We will discuss quality control and editing so that you can refine your lyric material in preparation for writing complete songs.
Songwriting Methodology
Songs are not always written from a lyric or title first. The point of this class is to share with you the almost limitless variety in the writing process. Many young writers get stuck in a rut, finding they produce one-dimensional material and run out of inspiration. We can use a tempo, a key, a visual cue (e.g. a painting) or an overheard conversation; any one of these could be starting points to stimulate the creative process. Sometimes the process can be free and artistically driven; other times, it can be more formal and the process or craft might take over. You will learn how the great hit writers of today work, from classic pop to modern experimental work, from full arrangements to minimal top line melody and lyric compositions. This class will transform your understanding of the writing process.
DIME will provide a house band and with guidance from your instructor, you will learn how to direct the musicians and take your songs from ideas in your head to working arrangements ready for stage or studio.
The Domestic Music Industry
This class will explain how record companies, publishers, managers, agents, writers, artists and merchandising interact in the modern age. It is a comprehensive overview of the music industry. Also you will examine sponsorship and product placement, discovering how artists and managers organize these income streams into a coherent business in the digital age. The class will incorporate the use of case study research on important artists, showing how they organize their commercial affairs in the United States.
Developing Subject Matter and Lyrics
This class builds on the work done previously in Creating Subject Matter and Lyrics and continues with the consolidation of specialist skills, techniques and methodologies for generating lyrics. The content of the class will play a key role in the continued development of your artistic voice and in providing more refined lyrics and titles for your developing portfolio.
Chart Writing
Not to be confused with writing pop songs aimed at the Billboard charts, this class actually deals with the business of score writing. Rather than using the specialist skill of standard notation, the technique of ‘bars and beats’ chart writing will be used, accompanied by detailed arrangement notes and reference material. In this way, we can produce a chart format that would be usable and acceptable in most professional situations. You will examine examples of charts of this description taken from the sets of live TV shows, studio sessions and live tours. DIME will provide live musicians as you will be required to direct and gain the skills of a musical director, controlling the creative direction of your material for both stage and studio.
The International Music Industry
This class builds on the previous study of the Domestic Music Industry by examining the rapidly changing online developments for record companies and artists. The class will cover the increasingly diverse income streams evolving due to interaction between new mediums and formats. Case study research on important artists will show how they exploit digital formats and organize their commercial affairs worldwide.

Year 2: Level 5

Arrangement Skills
Through the study of classic song arrangements you will gain the understanding and vocabulary necessary to transform your rough song format into a full song arrangement. You will have the authority to direct a band and manage your own material, being able to engage a producer, musical director or band member as an equal at every stage of the song’s journey from page, to stage to studio. You will learn about the essential components of a song as you pick apart the hooks, chord sequences, melodies and riffs within the arrangements of classic works from the 50’s and 60’s to the present day. Songwriters are not expected to read music (although you may learn if you wish), but this study will enable you to describe exactly what you want to hear in a clear and concise way in the most demanding of professional situations on stage and in the studio.
You will be expected to perform your complete works in class, live performance workshop and real gig situations.
Co-Writing
Co-writing is a specialist skill and many successful writers do nothing else. You will be asked to produce a wide variety of material as you develop your skills through the collaborative process. Additionally, you will learn how to prepare for a successful co-writing session and how to ensure that these projects go smoothly.
Principles of Record Production
Although the course is focused on creative songwriting, it is important that you understand the principles of record production, particularly if you decide to specialize in writing for various pop genres. This class takes over where Arrangement Skills left off, we have the opportunity to discuss the journey from a finished arrangement or demo in the rehearsal room to a master recording. Additionally, the lessons will explore the strategy of completely removing the demo process to producing a fully finished master. You will examine the production on various recordings and draw conclusions on what impact the process has had on the success of these recordings.
Writing For Artists
This class focuses on the specialized realm of writing for the pop market. In today’s industry, this will inevitably include writing for the contestants of TV talent shows as well as girl groups, boy bands and contemporary pop solo artists. This is a competitive area to work within, with its own set of conventions and expectations and is often fraught with political complications. Despite this, many writers have very successful careers in this role. There is much to be learned from studying the discipline of pop that can be applied to other genres. This class is a great opportunity to work with other musicians and vocalists on the performance courses.
Writing For Film and TV
This class explores the role of the composer and the range of material and sync opportunities available in contemporary media. You will deliver songs and compositions for a range of briefs, each of which will be a real-world example taken from a film, TV show or advertisement. With a focus on career development, you will examine networking, the process of building a profile as a composer and the effectiveness of online listings such as Sonic Bids and Broadjam.
Writing for Games
This class exposes students to the gaming industry and the rapidly growing opportunities for professional songwriters. Gaming has grown substantially in recent years and now employs significant numbers of full-time and freelance writers to produce audio content. The audio ranges from basic sound effects through to big budget fully scored orchestral compositions. The class will explore the myriad of opportunities available to a songwriter/composer in the gaming industry and how to adopt a writing style that is relevant to this industry. Additionally, you will explore the role of online listings, agencies and networking in this competitive and exciting industry.

Year 3: Level 6

Publishing and Copyright Law
Publishing and Copyright Law provides you with a detailed look at the publishing industry and the opportunity to gain an understanding of the major income streams available to songwriters. The class examines the content and terms of various types of publishing deals and how to protect your rights through knowledge of copyright law. You will explore other scenarios such as songwriting splits and how to agree them without conflict.
Songwriting Workbook
This class provides you with the opportunity to create and develop a portfolio of raw materials for songwriting under the supervision of your tutor. You will be asked to record your progress, file raw songwriting material and comment critically on your learning and development.
Songwriting Portfolio
This is your opportunity to present a mature, well-crafted body of work that demonstrates how you have refined your talent and skills. You will produce several complete songs with full charts, arrangement notes, lyrics and critical appraisal. You may have co-writes and song placements that could form part of the portfolio and any live, recorded or online achievements (including those as part of a band or as a solo artist).
Professional Practice Portfolio
The class requires you to research and report on the career opportunities available within your specialist area. You should also comment on how your craft can be contextualized in professional opportunities that will monetize your skills and inspire entrepreneurial practice and artistic excellence. Your portfolio will include a personal website and various forms of social media to support your professional work.

Staff

Throughout your studies with DIME Detroit you will come into contact with a range of artists, practitioners, educators, support personnel, and administrative staff. Your key contacts will be DIME’s Head of Education and your Head of Department. You will enjoy regular contact with these people during your time with DIME.

In addition, your education will be enhanced by input from a range of experts through master classes and their contribution to the design and writing of specific classes.

Assessment

The modes of assessment used in this award include:

  • Portfolio of work
  • Small in-lecture tasks (solo and group)
  • Tests
  • Essays (critical, reflective, research-based)
  • Case Studies
  • Podcasts and digital media
  • Project Presentation
  • Project Documentation

In some cases, more than one mode of assessment will be used within a module to ensure that the learner can demonstrate that they have met all of the learning outcomes. The work produced for these assessments develops graduate outcomes required in employment, such as a high level of managerial and entrepreneurial competency, time management, written and oral communication, portfolio production, critical reflection and team work. This is alongside self-motivation, independence and creativity of thought.

Careers

DIME is deeply committed to providing career advice and support. This starts in the recruitment of a roster of faculty who exemplify the values of a successful self-employed music professional in today’s music industry. DIME courses and learning outcomes reflect the music business as it is today, and our commitment to course development will ensure their currency in the future. Students are encouraged throughout the course to form realistic and achievable career goals; these will be underpinned by research and experience, providing a genuine understanding of the structure and operation within the industry. The philosophy is described as ‘designing your own professional life’ and you will see this theme recurring throughout the course.

Further career opportunities/destinations may include:

  • Solo artist
  • Songwriter/composer for a range of different areas including popular artists, film, TV and games
  • Music entrepreneurship
  • Author of educational materials (e.g. books, DVDs, etc)
  • Teaching

Further study opportunities include:

  • Graduate Certificate
  • Graduate Diploma
  • Master Of Arts
  • (K-12) Teaching Certification – National Board Certification by the American Board for Certification
    of Teaching Excellence (ABCTE)