module specification

MD5051 - Advanced Composition and Song Writing (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Advanced Composition and Song Writing
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 150
30 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
84 hours Guided independent study
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Group Coursework 35%   Partner song writing and online diary
Coursework 65%   Individual song composition with reflective report
Running in 2022/23

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester City Friday Morning

Module summary

In this module you will build upon your understanding and practice in composition and song writing learned at Level 4. Through the study of established approaches in arrangement, harmony, melody, and rhythm you will develop more intuitive approaches to writing and structuring songs in Digital Audio Workstations (DAW’s).

Through analysis and practice you will explore a range song writing approaches across time, applying traditional and contemporary methods. You will examine the building blocks of songs, including verses, choruses, bridges, refrains, and middle-eights, how they are used effectively and how technology can be used to aid the creative writing process.

By developing your compositional skills, you will explore the use of instrumentation in song, examining the roles of drums, bass, rhythmic and melodic parts. As well as also examine cadence and voice leading as tools make music with more continuity and flow.

You will cultivate your collaborative skills by composing in partnerships, developing effective means of communication and cooperation in a musical setting.

Your progress will be assessed through a number of formative exercises in composition, including form and structure, chord progressions, harmony, writing melody and hooks.

By practicing lyrical composition, you will also develop skills in adapting material for use as effective lyrics, for example from a range of different stimuli such as newspapers, social media, or personal experience. By developing this practice, you will be better equipped in collaborative song writing and working with clients.

Therefore, this module aims to:
• Develop your composition and song writing approaches, allowing you to make more engaging and interesting music
• Allow you to work more effectively in small groups
• Facilitate your decision making in song writing
• Grow your understanding of melody and harmony to make better use of intervals and conveying meaning in music
• Allow you to make better structured music, with direction and a balance between unity and variety


• Traditional and contemporary song writing approaches (LO1, 4)
• Song structure and form (LO1)
• Hooks, melody, and prosody (LO1, 3, 4)
• Cadence, voice leading and chords (LO1, 3, 4)
• Rhythm, polyrhythm, and syncopation (LO1, 3, 4)
• Basslines and drum patterns (LO1, 4)
• Intervals and harmony (LO1, 4)
• Collaboration and song writing teams (LO1, 2, 3, 4)
• Lyrics and meaning in song (LO1, 4)

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Students teaching and learning will consist of weekly classes comprising a combination of seminars, and studio practice workshops totalling 36 hours of contact time. Students will be given the opportunity to engage in practical workshops in the Music Studios, including guided demonstrations and group composition tasks.

The learning and teaching in classes will be supported by the University’s VLE and a blended learning approach, sharing class materials, recommended reading. Tutorials will also be offered to support students in the preparation of their assessments.

In addition, students will undertake independent study, including researching, assessment planning and song writing practice. By developing collaborative working and song writing in partnerships, students will undertake working in groups, both inside the class and independently.

Students will engage in reflective practice, reviewing their own, and each other’s compositions.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module, you should be able to:

LO1. Demonstrate an effective approach to song writing and composition including collaborative skills and composing in partnerships
LO2. Analyse and discuss your work critically to make clear recommendations and conclusions
LO3. Apply learned music theory practices including polyrhythm, harmony, cadence and melody in composition.
LO4. Portray and frame meaning through music, melody, and words

Assessment strategy

Partner song writing and online diary – 35% weighting
In pairs, students are required to compose a circa 3-minute song using a piece of external stimuli as the base concept (for example and news article). By doing so, making use of the song writing techniques covered so far. Whilst composing the song the partners are required to document the process in an online diary format.

Individual song composition with reflective report – 65% weighting
Individually, students are required to compose the complete music for a 3-minute song, including lyrical, melodic, rhythmic and foundation elements. The song should convey a specific meaning or message (proposed in week 10) and demonstrate the techniques and practices covered across the semester. In addition to the completed song, students are required to submit a 2000-word reflective report, critically examining the song writing process and analysing the outcomes alongside reference works.


Core Reading:
• Aldwell, E., Schachter, C., & Cadwallader, A. C. (2019). Harmony & voice leading.
• Allen, J.A. (2018) Music theory for electronic music producers: the producer’s guide to harmony, chord progressions, and song struture in the MIDI Grid. Minneapolis, MN: Slam Academy.
• Bell, E (2017) The Art of Songwriting: How to Create, Think and Live Like a Songwriter. Song Foundry.
• Carter, N. (2020) Music theory: from absolute beginner to expert.
• Hewitt, M. J. (2008). Music theory for computer musicians. Delmar.
• Pattison, P. (2009) Writing better lyrics: the essential guide to powerful songwriting. 2nd ed. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books.
• Perricone, J. (2000) Melody in songwriting: tools and techniques for writing hit songs. Boston, MA : Milwaukee, Wis: Berklee Press ; Distributed by Hal Leonard (Berklee guide).
• Sturman, P (2010) Harmony, Melody and Composition. Cambridge University Press.