module specification

MD4014 - Music and Song Writing Approaches (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Music and Song Writing Approaches
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 300
60 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
168 hours Guided independent study
72 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 10%   Song review presentation (individual)
Coursework 40%   Song Portfolio and 1000-word reflection
Coursework 50%   Song production with online diary
Running in 2023/24

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

Module summary

In this module you will develop your practice and understanding of approaches to writing songs and music. Through the engagement with technology and taking a computer-based music production approach to learning, you will explore important aspects of music theory which will enable you to better write and produce music.

The fundamental aim of this module is to reduce the trial-and-error approach by establishing a theoretical foundation of the fundamental concepts of rhythm, harmony, and melody. By understanding the backgrounds and core principles of writing music, you will be able to better develop your creativity as a music creator, producer, or composer.

Therefore, in this module you will examine current examples of music and songs from a range of styles and genres, developing critical and analytical listening skills. By doing so you will better understand ways of conveying meaning and emotion through music.

As part of group seminar discussions, you will engage in the analysis of songs and the ways in which writers use musical approaches, both in general, and specifically to certain genres and styles.

Therefore, this module aims to:
• Develop your understanding of rhythm, harmony, and melody
• Explore the types and uses of chords and progressions
• Establish critical and analytical listening as a core part of your practice
• Examine intervals and their uses in music
• Analyse song structures in examples of music
• Equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to write songs

Your progress on the module will be formatively assessed over the course of each semester through exercises in song writing and composition, ranging from listening and analysis to short compositional tasks in writing melodies and rhythms.


• Rhythm, time divisions and time signatures (LO1, 2, 4)
• Scales, pentatonic, major, minor, and diatonic modes (LO1, 2, 4)
• Chords, progressions, and voice leading (LO1, 2, 4)
• Circle of fifths, intervals, and harmony (LO1, 2, 4)
• Style and genre in music (LO1, 3)
• Song structures and form (LO1, 2, 4)
• Melodies and hooks (LO1, 2, 3, 4)
• Drum patterns and syncopation (LO1, 2)
• Critical and Analytical listening (LO2)
• Computer-based music production (LO4)

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Students teaching and learning will consist of weekly classes comprising a combination of lectures, seminars, and workshops totalling 72 hours of contact time. Students will be given the opportunity to engage in seminar discussions surrounding music and song writing, with listening examples and discussions of style and genre, developing their understanding alongside their peers.

The learning and teaching in classes will be supported by the University’s VLE and a blended learning approach, sharing class materials, recommended reading, and example songs. 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 practice in music theory and production.

Students will engage in reflective practice, reviewing their own, and each other’s compositions. Through songs writing exercises students will also explore new concepts and collaborative song writing.

Learning outcomes

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

LO1. Demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental concepts of music theory, rhythm, harmony, and melody.
LO2. Apply of theoretical approaches to writing music and songs.
LO3. Analyse and discuss music critically.
LO4. Develop a range of computer-based production techniques, in relation to writing and composing music.

Assessment strategy

Song review presentation – 10% weighting
Individually, students are required to give a presentation, critically reviewing a chosen song. In doing so discuss approaches used by the artist/producer to convey an intended meaning, for example by using specific instruments. The review should include commentary on timbre, structure, and instrumentation. As a result, students will demonstrate their critical and analytical listening skills.

Song portfolio and 1000-word reflection – 40% weighting
For the midterm assessment students will develop a portfolio of 4 short songs, 32 bars long. Each song should demonstrate a different style and genre, making use of approaches covered in the first semester. In addition, students are required to submit a 1000-word reflection on the completed portfolio, critically analysing their outcomes.

Song production with online diary – 50% weighting
For the final assessment students are required to write and produce a 3-minute song in their chosen style or genre. The song must demonstrate effective use of the concepts covered across the module. In addition, students are required to submit a diary documenting the conception, composition, and production of the song. The diary should be presented as a blog or online journal.


Core Reading:
• Allen, J.A. (2018) Music theory for electronic music producers: the producer’s guide to harmony, chord progressions, and song structure 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.
• Owsinski, B. (2016) The Music Producer’s Handbook, 2nd ed., Applause Theatre Book Pub.