Master in Songwriting
This is the world’s first and only Master’s Degree in Songwriting. Offered in both attendance-based and distance learning formats, it is aimed at unpublished songwriters wishing to develop their craft to a professional level, and published songwriters wishing to achieve academic accreditation whilst continuing to improve creatively. The course, which is based at the university's Corsham Court campus, will help you to develop a range of critical, practical, communicative, industrial and research-based skills.
During the programme you will learn to:
- Comment critically upon your own and others’ material;
- Examine the musicological and historical 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.
Professional songwriters, music publishers and others involved in the songwriting industry visit regularly to teach, host Q and A sessions and give master-classes.
The core teaching staff on this pathway include: Richard J. Parfitt, Davey Ray Moor and Joe Bennett.
Course Structure and Content
The course is available on either a full-time (typically one year) or part-time (typically two year) basis. The academic year is 12 months long and comprises three trimesters: October-January; February-June; and June-October. Taught sessions are held during the daytime at the post-graduate centre for research at Corsham Court, as well as at Bath Spa University. The course is also available in a distance learning format.
- 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 project. The module will be largely student-led, with most of the work centred around individual practice. You will receive tutorial support.
We offer a low-residency distance learning version of MMus Songwriting that is open to both UK and overseas applicants. Initially, students spend an induction week at our Corsham Court Campus (in mid-September) performing and writing songs, getting to know tutors, and working with other students.
During the induction week tutors host a series of lectures and seminars that serve to introduce you to the themes of the programme. From then onwards the course is delivered using a range of tutor and student-led e-learning methods.
Like the on-site version, the distance learning option is available on either a Full-Time study (one year) or Part-time study (two year) basis and course fees are identical. Similarly, 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 'M' level;
- to guide you in planning and recording a portfolio of high-quality songs.
Teaching Methods and Resources
Bath Spa’s approach to the teaching of songwriting combines analysis of existing repertoire with a focus on song crafting techniques and methodology. 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. A Virtual Learning Environment supports this curriculum so that course materials can be accessed from any web link.
Faculty and Campus
The University's Corsham Court Centre has been established with an emphasis on postgraduate study, offering the space and incentive to write within a community of inspirational and imaginative artists. All instructors at Bath Spa University are practising professionals and have multi platinum selling status, representing almost every genre of popular music.
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 are 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, on a first come first served basis, to laptop based 'notepad' setups and industry-standard plug-ins (Stylus, MachFive, BFD, Trilogy, Waves etc) throughout their studies. Our facilities include:
- 4 dedicated songwriting rooms, each including Apple Macs running Pro Tools, Garageband and Logic Studio.
- Dedicated performance venue, plus lighting and PA system.
- Lecture facilities.
- Selection of instruments and microphones.
- Acoustic piano and electronic keyboards.
Assessment takes the form of individual assignments for each module. These typically include audio and video presentation, essay, and evaluative account. Assessment is continuous and there are no written exams.
We offer places on the basis of the student's experience, potential and commitment as a songwriter. Normally, but not invariably, applicants have a first degree (or equivalent music industry experience) plus a substantial body of recorded work, equal to that which would be obtained as part of a related undergraduate course. Applicants should submit a portfolio of work with their application comprising a four-track CD of original songs with lyrics in the English language accompanied by printed A4 lyric sheets. Applications are invited from candidates with a range of academic disciplines and from a variety of national backgrounds. Where an applicant does not have a degree, he or she is required to complete an APEL (Accreditation of Prior Learning Experience) form.
MMus Songwriting is designed to enable students to develop a broad range of intellectual, practical and transferable skills. Given the practical nature of the course, it is envisaged that graduates may choose to work as a songwriter or in a related field such as music publishing. Others may use the critical skills they have acquired to work elsewhere in the music industry, perhaps for a record label or as a music journalist.
Upon graduation from the programme, it is the aim of course tutors that students will have acquired the core problem-solving, analytical and critical skills needed to adapt to the changeable and unpredictable work environment of the twenty-first century.
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