MUSPMACT 1201 - Song Writing & Performance 1A

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2018

This course introduces students to the creative, technical and professional skills used by composers in a contemporary popular music context, with a focus on the creation and presentation of new original music. Seminars introduce composition and song writing techniques, including creative impetus, the musical materials of rhythm, pitch, melody, chords progressions and song structures, and approaches to writing lyrics. Stylistic idioms used in contemporary popular music styles are contextualized in relation to established song-writing forms. Through Workshops, students will work in small groups to prepare their original work for live performance. Rehearsal, improvisation and performance techniques will be introduced, culminating in on and off-campus student performances.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code MUSPMACT 1201
    Course Song Writing & Performance 1A
    Coordinating Unit Elder Conservatorium of Music
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 4 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites Audition
    Incompatible MUSPMACT 1011
    Restrictions Available to Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Media (Popular Music & Creative Technologies major) students only
    Course Description This course introduces students to the creative, technical and professional skills used by composers in a contemporary popular music context, with a focus on the creation and presentation of new original music. Seminars introduce composition and song writing techniques, including creative impetus, the musical materials of rhythm, pitch, melody, chords progressions and song structures, and approaches to writing lyrics. Stylistic idioms used in contemporary popular music styles are contextualized in relation to established song-writing forms. Through Workshops, students will work in small groups to prepare their original work for live performance. Rehearsal, improvisation and performance techniques will be introduced, culminating in on and off-campus student performances.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Luke Harrald

    Other Teaching Staff

    Ms Robyn Habel

    Mr Derek Pascoe

    Dr Peter Dowdall

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    1 Understand basic composition and music production principles used by professional songwriters;
    2 develop their own compositional “voice” at a basic level;
    3 create a cogent and quality portfolio of songs in a recorded and notated format;
    4 interpret and perform the compositions of others;
    5 understand the roles, responsibilities, and activities involved in live Contemporary Music performance; &
    6 critically evaluate their performances and communicate instructions and technical requirements to others.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1, 5
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    2, 3, 4, 6
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    1, 2, 5, 6
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
    2, 6
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    • Class handouts and materials placed on MyUni.
    • Each week students will be required to bring their instruments, or other technology they require to realise their group work.
    Recommended Resources

    Bailey, D. (1980) Musical Improvisation: its nature and practice in music. Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

    Beall, Eric (2009) The Billboard Guide to Writing and Producing Songs that Sell. Billboard Books: Crown Publishing Group, New York.

    Bergonzi, J. (1992) Vol. 1 Melodic Structures. Advance Music, Rottenburg.

    Blume, Jason (1999) Six Steps to Songwriting Success. Billboard Books: Crown Publishing Group, New York.

    Braheny, John (2006) The Craft and Business of Songwriting. Writer’s Digest Books, F+W Publications, Cincinnati.

    Cardew, C. ed. (1974) Scratch Music. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    Chase, Wayne. (2006) How Music Really Works. Roedy Black Publishing, Vancouver.

    Covach, John (2009) What’s that sound: an introduction to rock music and its history. Second edition. W.W. Norton & Company, New York.

    Crook, H. (2002) How to Improvise. Advance Music, Rottenburg.

    Kachulis, Jimmy (2005) The Songwriters Workshop: Harmony. Berklee Press, Boston.

    Perricone, Jack (2000) Melody in Songwriting: Tools and techniques for Writing Hit Songs. Berklee Press, Boston.

    Webb, Jimmy (1998) Tunesmith – inside the art of songwriting. Hyperion, New York.

    Wood, Clement (1936) The Complete Rhyming Dictionary and Poet’s Craft Book. Dell Publishing, New York.


    Gary Ewers – The essential secrets of songwriting

    Rhymer – a free online rhyming dictionary


    The Music Library located in the Hartley building is an excellent source for music, literature and recordings:

    Music Resources Guide

    The Music Resources Guide contains quick links to key music databases for scholarly research and online listening. It also contains links to websites of publicly available online scores, collected editions, and professional associations. Here too you can find a regularly updated list of new books, scores, CDs and DVDs available in the Elder Music Library:

    Online Learning
    Learning materials and assessment will be placed on MyUni. Usage of MyUni will include Announcements, Digital readings, External web-links and Recordings of classes; particularly student performances to enable students to critically reflect on their experiences in class.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    The course structure and content is delivered through a range of classes and materials. Class delivery modes include a weekly seminar and practical workshop. The classes in this course use a format where students are presented with theoretical and/ or practical content through the seminar. The theoretical content creates a topic framework that students then expand theoretically through discussions and exercises during the seminar, and practically through performing their work in the workshop. Students will also be expected to further expand the topics presented using out-of-class resources that are presented online, and rehearsing in their own time. The online resources will compliment, reinforce and extend the concepts presented.

    The classes provide theoretical explanations of composition and song writing techniques; discussion of their creative and technical application in various styles and genres; and their practical application to creativity through students preparing their work for performance.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    1 x 2-hour seminars per week 24 hours per semester
    1 x 2-hour workshop per week 24 hours per semester
    6 hours rehearsals & readings per week 72 hours per semester
    1 hours research per week 12 hours per semester
    2 hours assignment preparation per week 24 hours per semester
    Learning Activities Summary
    The course structure and content will examine the areas below through weekly theoretical and/or practical demonstrations and exploration. The following list of topics is supplied as a guide, and may change depending on needs arising through the semester. Further detail regarding weekly content can be found on MyUni.

    1 Introduction to song writing & the creative process / Improvisation Class 1
    2 Song Forms / Improvisation Class 2
    3 Lyric Writing – Rhyme & Rhyming Structures / Improvisation Class 3
    4 Melodic Writing – Phrasing, Melodic Motion and Contour, Hooks / Improvisation Class 4
    5 Creative Portfolio creation and considerations for writing to briefs  / Improvisation Class 5
    6 Harmony – Common Chord Progressions & Writing in a Key Area / Improvisation Assessment
    7 Rhythm – Subdivisions in relation to musical styles / Ensemble Rehearsal 1
    8 Arranging – introduction to arranging for small ensembles / Ensemble Rehearsal 2
    9 Lyric Writing – Metaphors, Similes and Symbolism / Ensemble Rehearsal 3
    10 Harmony - Minor Keys, Chord Colours, Secondary Dominants / Ensemble Rehearsal 4
    11 Structured Activity - Students work on song writing portfolios / Ensemble Rehearsal 5
    12 Structured Activity - Students work on song writing portfolios / Ensemble Rehearsal 6
    Specific Course Requirements
    EMU Facilities

    This course will involve using the resources of the Electronic Music Unit (EMU). This includes facilities such as studios, recording spaces and digital audio workstations. For more information about these facilities and how to make bookings go to the EMU website:

    Access and use of EMU is based upon the following:

    Users must complete and pass the EMU Guide Assessment (EGA). In order to pass the EGA users must receive a 90% or above grade. Users will have a maximum of 3 attempts at passing the EGA before being prohibited from taking the assessment further. If a user fails to pass the EGA after 3 attempts, or doesn’t pass by the end of week 4 of the course, they will not be permitted to continue the course and won’t be provided access or permission to use any of the EMU facilities.

    Users agree to and sign the EMU User Agreement (EUA). Users found in breach of the EUA will automatically have their access and booking privileges suspended. An initial breach will result in a 4-week suspension. Any subsequent breach will result in suspension until the start of the next academic year. Information is available on the EMU website:

    Rehearsal Spaces

    This course will also require that students rehearse both individually and as a part of their group. For individual practice, students may book and use any of the rehearsal rooms contained within the Conservatorium with a limit of two hours per day for any individual space as per the Conservatorium’s Rehearsal guidelines. For more specific group work, rehearsal space with a backline (Drumkit, Guitar and Bass Amplifiers and an electric piano) and PA system has been provided in Schulz B14. Bookings of this space may be made through the EMU online booking system:

    A dB meter is installed in this space. If you exceed the set dB limit for the space, the lights will flash. Levels should not exceed the 88dB limit, which is considered the safe working limit for venues around Australia. Students found exceeding these levels will have their booking privileges revoked for two weeks, and repeat offenders may have their booking privileges revoked for the remainder of the academic year.

    All spaces must be left in a neat and tidy state ready for the next user when you finish rehearsing.
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    Through this course, students will compose original creative work. In small groups, students will prepare their original compositions for live performance. Through this process, students will learn collaborative and research skills, enhance and further develop their creative process, and disseminate their new work publicly through live performance. Students will meet with mentors between weeks 7 – 12 in small groups of 5. Groups rehearse simultaneously in individual rehearsal spaces, with the mentor moving between the groups as required.

    A variety of performance venues are used semester-to-semester, including on-site venues such as UniBar and Scott Theatre, and off-site venues such as The Wheatsheaf Hotel, The Promethean, Jive, and The Jade Monkey.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Online Journal Summative 20% 1, 2, 3, 6
    Improvisation Proficiency Exam Summative 20% 2, 4, 5, 6
    Portfolio Summative 30% 1, 2, 3
    Recital Summative 30% 1, 2, 4, 5, 6
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Expectation & Penalty

    As per Conservatorium policy, active and positive participation in 100% of classes is expected, any student who attends less than 100% of required classes without approved leave may result in a 5 (five) mark penalty for each unapproved absence. The penalties will be applied to the final total percentage mark for the year for the relevant component i.e. after all other assessments have been completed and calculated. Arrival after the scheduled starting time or departure before the scheduled finishing time may, at the lecturer or Co-ordinator’s discretion, be regarded as an unapproved absence.


    The Conservatorium recognises that extenuating circumstances may occasionally affect a student’s ability to participate in a rehearsal, workshop, class, lecture, tutorial or performance. In such cases leave may, upon application using the leave form (available online, or from the Music Office), be approved by the relevant staff member.
    Assessment Detail
    Online Journal: Students will complete a weekly journal reflecting on their experiences applying the techniques presented in class to their songwriting, composing and performing. The journal will include a critical reflection on students’ song writing, composing and or improvisation of approximately 100 – 150 words per week, which is informed by readings from the reading list and musical examples listened to in classes. A log of rehearsals will be also be required as part of this assessment. The Journal gives context to each student’s creative practice and will be compiled online via a Wordpress blog.

    Improvisation Proficiency Exam: Students will be assessed practically in class on skills they have learned through the workshop via solo and small group improvisations.

    Portfolio: The Portfolio represents the major practical assessment for the semester and will involve the creation of a minimum of two songs, one of which will be a set work; ie. students will be required to write to a brief. All creative works will be required to be recorded for submission, either through groups assigned in the workshop, or alternatively students may organise their own groups.

    Recital: Students will be assessed on their contribution to the preparation and delivery of a public recital of their work, held during the examination period. Central to this assessment is the role they play in the delivery of both their work, and that of other students, and their level of performance in the Recital.
    All written and recorded materials will be submitted online via MyUni.  Practical assessments will take place either in-class, or at the off-campus performance.  Note that due to practicalities, extensions for practical assessments are not possible.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

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