Commercial Songwriting Techniques
Authored by Andrea Stolpe
Course Code: OSONG-240
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.
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
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
Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements
Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
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.
- Popular Lyric Writing: 10 Steps to Effective Storytelling by Andrea Stolpe (Berklee Press, 2007)
- Students are required to record themselves 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 such as GarageBand (Mac), Audacity (PC), or any DAW.
- Students are required to capture their performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
- Input (one required):
- XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended option)
- USB microphone
- Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
- Output (one required):
- Headphones (required if multitracking and/or input monitoring)
- Studio monitors and audio interface
- Built-in or external speakers
- Input (one required):
- Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need an XLR cable, microphone stand, and pop filter.
General Course Requirements
Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course.
- Latest version of Google Chrome
- Zoom meeting software
- Speakers or headphones
- External or internal microphone
- Broadband Internet connection
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.
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
Noah Lubert is a songwriter, keyboardist and producer based in Nashville, Tennessee. His credits and collaborators include Emily Rowed (604 Records), Nate Smith (Sony/ATV), Brooke Alexx, Chris Condon (Billy Ray Cyrus), Angie K, Lily Kincaide and Jaclyn Kenyon. Since relocating to Nashville, Noah’s songs have been included on top country Spotify playlists and tours. His continued passion for education and academia have led to teaching stints on Berklee’s Boston campus at Aspire: Five-Week Music Performance Intensive and Berklee’s Summer Songwriting Intensive, as well as continued work teaching Songwriting and Production Fundamentals for Songwriters through Berklee Online.
When taken for credit, Commercial Songwriting Techniques can be applied towards these associated programs: