Commercial Songwriting Techniques


Authored by Andrea Stolpe


Course Code: OSONG-240

Next Term Starts April 8

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


For over a decade, course author Andrea Stolpe has written for the commercial music industry, including songs performed by Faith Hill and Josh Gracin. Her online course, Commercial Songwriting Techniques is a perfect combination of theory and concrete skill building that focuses songwriters on the key element of writing a hit song: creating patterns of content that will help to create memorable melodies and lyrics that forge an emotional connection with the listener.

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In this course you'll learn a ten-step process to reproducing the time-tested traits of successful songs while still maintaining your unique voice—a practice critical to the success of any songwriter. You'll learn to control the connection to your audience through toggling—moving between detail and pulling back for a broader picture. You'll also learn to use all of your senses—touch, taste, smell, sight, sound, and movement—as springboards for creativity in a process called destination writing. These enhanced descriptive skills will give you the power to determine the intensity of the experience you create with your song lyrics. By focusing on a different song section every week you'll also learn how to streamline your writing and create more descriptive songs in less time. This course plants the seeds necessary for writing great commercial songs in an easy to understand step-by-step method, while always leaving the door open for individual artistic expression.

By the end of the course you'll have three completely written songs that are organized in a way that is accessible to the mainstream, as well as firm ideas for many future songs.

You will learn to:

  • Streamline and accelerate your writing process
  • Apply a 10-step songwriting strategy to any new idea
  • Connect with and create a memorable experience for your audience
  • Write even when you're not initially inspired
  • Discover your own unique writing style
  • Employ new patterns for content based on memorable songs
  • Combine lyrics with music more effectively
  • Continue building on your catalog of three completed songs and several developed ideas
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Lesson 1: Exposing The Artist Perspective

  • Topic 1: Word Paintings: Six Keys of Connection
  • Topic 2: Two Kinds of Detail: External and Internal
  • Topic 3: Bringing Order to Detail

Lesson 2: Truth In Detail

  • Topic 1: The Laws of "Whoville"
  • Topic 2: The Three Elements
  • Topic 3: Benefits of Near-sightedness

Lesson 3: Secrets of Structure

  • Topic 1: Toggling
  • Topic 2: Five Degrees of Rhyme
  • Topic 3: Toggling and Rhyme Scheme
  • Topic 4: The Power Position

Lesson 4: Dialing Into The Audience

  • Topic 1: Connecting With Tense
  • Topic 2: Connecting With Prepositions and Conjunctions
  • Topic 3: Musical Characteristics of the Verse

Lesson 5: Reflections of Music Form and Structure

  • Topic 1: Music and Lyric
  • Topic 2: Topic Movement
  • Topic 3: Rhyme and Melody

Lesson 6: Inventing the 'Why'

  • Topic 1: Chorus Function
  • Topic 2: Abstract/Metaphorical and List
  • Topic 3: The Great Title Search
  • Topic 4: Powerful Positions
  • Topic 5: Setting the Chorus to Music

Lesson 7: The Content Compass

  • Topic 1: Panning on Large and Small Scales
  • Topic 2: The Three P's: Plot Progression Strategies

Lesson 8: Breaking the Old Routine

  • Topic 1: The Importance of Contrast
  • Topic 2: Functions of the Second Verse and Bridge
  • Topic 3: Musical Characteristics of the Second Verse and Bridge

Lesson 9: The First Draft Physical

  • Topic 1: Verbs Get All The Action
  • Topic 2: Point of View
  • Topic 3: Tense

Lesson 10: Shining the Toolbox

  • Topic 1: Recap of Steps 1-4

Lesson 11: More Tools in Action

  • Topic 1: Recap of Steps 5-10

Lesson 12: Off and Running

  • Topic 1: Final Project



Completion of Music Theory 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Familiarity with popular music song form, basic proficiency on a harmonic instrument and the ability to sing a melody over a harmonic progression are also necessary.

Required Textbook

Software Requirements

  • A basic audio recording tool that will allow you to record yourself playing along with a background track and save the recording in MP3 format. You will have a tool to use for this purpose inside the learning environment. Alternatively, you can use software like Audacity or Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface)
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)



Author & Instructor

Andrea Stolpe is a multiplatinum songwriter, performing artist, and educator. She has worked as a staff writer for EMI, Almo-Irving, and Universal Music Publishing. Her songs have been recorded by artists including Faith Hill, Jimmy Wayne, Julianne Hough, and others. Andrea is the author and instructor of the course Commercial Songwriting Techniques, part of Berklee Online's songwriting program.

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Her books, Popular Lyric Writing: 10 Steps to Effective Storytelling, and Beginning Songwriting, describe how to apply a unique process for uniting our artistic voice with the commercial market.

Andrea lives in Los Angeles, and continues to serve as a guest clinician for music organizations around the world. Read Less


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.