Bath Spa has pioneered the teaching of songwriting, and launched the world's first Songwriting Master’s degree in 2007. Its blend of practical, theoretical and scholarly practice is taught by published, practicing songwriters and academics. The course is aimed at unpublished songwriters wishing to develop their craft to a professional level, or published songwriters wishing to achieve academic accreditation whilst continuing their creative development. Based at our postgraduate centre at Corsham Court, and also offered as a distance learning option, the course maintains strong links with industry through publishers, guest artists and guest lecturers, and offers the chance to consolidate and focus your creative output whilst developing a perspective on your work informed by research. You'll study with us on Mmus Songwriting so that you can:
• Comment critically upon your own and others’ material
• Examine the musicological roots of your craft
• Consider the commercial value of your songs in the marketplace
• Rewrite and collaborate
• Conduct academic research
• Develop technical skills
• Create a professional-standard portfolio of your work
• Establish networks, collaborators and contacts
COURSE STRUCTURE AND CONTENT
The course is available on either a full-time (typically one year) or part- time (typically two year) basis. We also offer a low-residency ‘distance learning’ option that will be open to both UK and overseas applicants. The course aims:
• To enable you to write and record songs to a professional level
• To develop critical awareness relating to your own songs and others'
• To develop your ability to perform/present your songs
• To inform you of historical and musicological developments in songwriting
• To enhance your understanding of the market value ((and artistic value) of your own work
• To provide opportunities for you to discuss current developments in songwriting with songwriters, producers and publishers
• To encourage you to develop re-writing and collaborative songwriting skills
• To help you to develop technical skills relevant to songwriting practice
• To develop your academic writing skills at level 7
Songwriting Skills: As an essential component of this module you will engage weekly with a series of preparatory creative writing and compositional exercises designed to supply you with the raw creative material from which to increase your lyrical, harmonic and melodic range. These exercises are technique-based and serve to extend your creative palette and songwriting choices. Tutorial and group-playback support engage real-time with critical feedback and professional advice. Online virtual classroom exercises are supported by instruction videos and examine imagery, metaphor, narrative, rhyme, meter, melody, harmonic construction, narrative perspectives, intertextuality and rhetorical principles.
History of Song: Through this module you will gain a systematic and comprehensive knowledge of strategies and form used in popular songwriting. You will also develop an advanced ability to contextualize your own songs. With reference to popular songs written between 1920 and the present day, a series of lectures examines key developments in the musical, lyrical and structural development of song. The teaching approach is analytical and particular attention is paid to strategies used by songwriters to convey ideas.
Context and Methodology: In this module, visiting professional practitioners deliver master-classes to explore particular ecologies within the songwriting profession. In master-classes and seminars, students explore diverse songwriting contexts such as writing for musical theatre, writing for the charts, writing to pitch-sheets and writing for an original performer. Research methods and postgraduate research methodology skills are then utilised to explore a possible blend of contexts identified by the student as being potential markets for their music. Becoming aware of the modalities and nuances of these cultures is the key to successful songwriting. In preparation for the Major Project portfolio, this module serves to refine your eventual work by investigating the cultural, semiotic, linguistic, musicological, economic and pragmatic structures of your intended song culture. This is a key Level 7 module, with a generic research emphasis designed to prepare the student for further postgraduate and doctoral study.
Collaborative Songwriting: This module aims to develop skills in collaborative songwriting, enabling you to experience a variety of collaborative methods, and to explore the relationship between collaborative process and final song product. Although primarily based around a systematic understanding of the creative process of collaboration, the module also helps students to explore collaborative works in their cultural and economic context, including royalty splits, publishing implications, and issues of shared Intellectual Property between joint creators.
Major Project: This double module represents the culmination of the MMus, and a chance for you to work on a substantial album/portfolio project. The module will be largely student-led, with most of the work centered on individual practice. You will receive tutorial support.
TEACHING METHODS AND RESOURCES
Bath Spa’s approach to the teaching of songwriting combines analysis of existing repertoire with a focus on song crafting technique and students are encouraged to develop by writing new songs throughout the course. Lectures, seminars and tutorials combine to offer a range of expert and peer critique that seeks to enable the student to examine original and known works in a range of critical and technical contexts. Students have access to laptop-based recording equipment and the programme has its own dedicated facilities. The curriculum is supported by a Virtual Learning Environment, so course materials can be accessed from any web link.
Recording Facilities - while our studio facilities are designed to enable the capture of high quality recordings, in keeping with contemporary songwriting industry practice it is anticipated that learners will become self-sufficient in the sense that, following completion of the course, they will be able to repeat the core processes of writing, planning and recording without incurring recording studio expenses. To enable mastery of the home recording process, students have access to laptop based ‘notepad’ setups and industry-standard plug-ins (Stylus, MachFive, BFD, Trilogy, Waves etc) throughout their studies.
Assessment takes the form of individual assignments for each module. Typical assessments include audio CD, presentation, essay, and evaluative account. Assessment is continuous and there are no written exams.