Songwriting

  • Award: MMus
  • School: School of Music and Performing Arts
  • UK/EU Fees: Tuition fees for full-time study are £6,210 (UK/EU students) or £10,905 (International students)
  • Fees and Finance Information
  • Course length: MMus full-time: three trimesters (one calendar year); MMus part-time: six trimesters (two calendar years); Also available as a distance learning route.
  • Campus: Corsham Court

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Bath Spa has pioneered the teaching of songwriting, launching the world's first Songwriting Masters degree in 2007. Its blend of practical, theoretical and scholarly practice is taught by published, practising songwriters, working alongside academics with songwriting-specific research expertise. 

Corsham Court has a significant history that goes back over 500 years. Established as a centre for the Arts in 1946, this English Country house is set in a park designed by Capability Brown. With an emphasis on postgraduate study, offering the creative space and incentive to write within a community of inspirational and imaginative artists that enjoy performance facilities, studios, pro audio equipment, libraries and a place to reflect, this classic environment allows for a stimulating experience designed to motivate and inspire, and is the perfect retreat for those wishing to bring their musical vision to fruition, while at the same time, study for a Post Graduate Degree. 

As well as the traditional university experience, the MMus Songwriting is also on offer as a Distance Learning option, delivered through a series of Low Residency weeks in Corsham Court, Skype tutorials, webinar playback critiques and video lectures for streaming. 

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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. We are an Academic Supporter of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.

'Bath Spa is clearly setting the benchmark in this specialism, both nationally and internationally' (External Examiner's report 2012)

'The songwriting course at Bath Spa always throws up a couple of gems, and I very much enjoy working with the students on developing their material' (Hugo Turquet, Head of A&R: BMG Chrysalis Music)

This course is aimed at unpublished songwriters wishing to develop their art & craft to a professional level, or published songwriters wishing to achieve academic accreditation whilst continuing their creative development.

Why study Songwriting?

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, musical and scholarly skills
  • Create a professional-standard portfolio of your work
  • Establish networks, collaborators and contacts

Course structure

The course is available on either a full-time (typically one year); part-time (typically two years); or distance learning basis. The academic year is 12 months long and comprises three semesters: October-January; February-June; and June-October. Taught sessions are held during the daytime. Professional songwriters, music publishers and others involved in the songwriting industry visit regularly to teach, host Q & A sessions and give masterclasses.

Like the on-site version, the distance learning option is available on either a Full-Time study (one year) or Part-time study (two years) 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 develop technical skills relevant to songwriting practice
  • To develop your academic writing and research skills at Level 7
  • To guide you in planning and recording a portfolio of high-quality songs

 

MMus Songwriting 2014/15 Timetable

Trimester 1, the Barn at Corsham Court

Monday: History of Song 11am - 1pm

  • 29 September
  • 6 October
  • 13 October
  • 20 October
  • 27 October
  • 3 November
  • 10 November
  • 17 November
  • 24 November
  • 1 December

Office and Skype tutorials by appointment

Wednesday: Songwriting Skills 12pm - 4pm

  • 1 October 
  • 8 October
  • 15 October
  • 22 October
  • 29 October
  • 5 November
  • 12 November
  • 19 November
  • 26 November
  • 3 December

 Office and Skype tutorials by appointment

 

Trimester 2, the Barn at Corsham Court

Mondays: Collaborative Songwriting 10am - 1pm 

  • 9 February
  • 16 February
  • 23 February
  • 2 March
  • 9 March
  • 16 March
  • 23 March

Spring Break

  • 20 April
  • 27 April
  • 4 May

Office and Skype tutorials by appointment

Wednesday: Context and Methodology 12pm - 3pm

  • 11 February
  • 18 February
  • 25 February
  • 4 March
  • 11 March
  • 18 March
  • 25 March

Spring Break

  • 22 April
  • 29 April
  • 6 May

Office and Skype tutorials by Appointment


Trimester 3, the Barn at Corsham Court

Wednesday: Major Project 12pm - 3pm

  • 17 June
  • 24 June

Office and Skype tutorials by appointment

 

 

 

Modules


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

This module is intended to fulfil the requirements of a research methodology module. However, since a large part of the programme is practice-based, and the methodology for this aspect of students' work is covered by other modules in the programme, it is intended to combine a study of research methodology with a study of context in terms of the student's own practice – specifically of a set of paradigms that characterise the field's current, creative and industrial boundaries. The primary teaching method for this module is a weekly lecture/seminar, with some tutorial sessions that focus on pathway specialism. The assessment item is a topic review, demonstrating an understanding of the methodologies covered by the module and an awareness of the context of the student's own practice.

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 students to work in a research-oriented environment dependent largely on personal direction and working methods. Students use the skills acquired in their undergraduate work and the first two trimesters to produce a substantial portfolio of practical creative work. The exact nature of this work is to be negotiated with the module leader, but it must represent the quantity of work required by a double module. Seeking to establish interdependence of enquiry, the module is largely student-led, with most of the work centred upon individual practice.

Course assessment

Assessment takes the form of individual assignments for each module. Typical assessments include audio uploads, CD's, online presentations, live presentations, essays, and research outputs. Assessment is continuous and there are no written exams.

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, or published songwriters wishing to achieve academic accreditation whilst continuing to improve their creativity.

Distance Learning

We offer a low-residency distance learning version of MMus Songwriting that is open to both UK and overseas applicants. Initially, students are encouraged to spend a couple of induction weeks at our Corsham Court Campus (in mid-September and late-January) 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.

Teaching methods

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. The curriculum is supported by our Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment where 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.

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 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:

  • Four 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.

Application method

Application forms are available online and should be completed and returned to us either electronically or through the post. If you have any queries please contact the admissions department:

Telephone: (01225) 875624.

International students should visit our international pages for more information about our entry requirements, fees and scholarships, and student support.

Course enquiries

Please contact Richard J. Parfitt (Course Director, MMus Songwriting, Corsham Court):

r.parfitt@bathspa.ac.uk

Telephone: +44 (0)1225 876521

d.moor@bathspa.ac.uk

Entry requirements

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 their application together with 3 songs on a weblink accompanied with lyrics. 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.

Career opportunities

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.

What students say...

"We enrolled because we wanted academic recognition, and ended up gaining new skills and inspiration."

Maryann Tedstone, interviewed in the Guardian, 19 June 2013

"I learned more in one year on the MMus than I had in the whole ten years I'd been writing songs previously. The course helped me grow as a musician, a creative writer, a collaborator, and as an academic. I loved every minute of the course, thanks to the passionate lecturers, positive atmosphere, beautiful setting, and of course, all the wonderful songs shared by the class on a weekly basis"

Guy Nottage, 2012

"As a songwriter - a revelation, life-changing. I feel I have finally found the magic 'key' that unlocks the door to that elusive 'secret' knowledge have always intuitively known the great songwriters must possess. I now have the deluxe edition titanium 500-piece 'Songwriting' toolkit in my possession. Now it's up to me to use it. I could not recommend this module highly enough to any serious songwriter, whether at the start of their career, or a highly seasoned professional"

David Brogan, 2012