As a songwriting major, you’ll learn to write artfully as well gain the skills for writing commercially-viable songs. Over eight semesters, while completing the college’s core music curriculum, you’ll develop a creative approach to contemporary music compositions. Using the college’s state of the art facilities, you will work with a diverse community of musicians, faculty, and industry professionals, gaining real world experience while earning a bachelor's degree.
As a student majoring in songwriting at Berklee, you will develop skills in melody, harmony, and arranging as well as creative approaches to musical composition, lyric writing, and an individual writing style. You will choose a curriculum that focuses on both songwriting and performance, culminating in a portfolio of your original songs. If you are interested in writing songs for other artists, you will have the option of taking more arranging courses and you will learn studio and MIDI demo production techniques.
To demonstrate mastery of songwriting skills and concepts, you will work with faculty over the span of two courses to complete portfolios that typify various current practices of contemporary songwriters. The first portfolio will be created in the SW-398 Directed Study in Songwriting course, and will include lead sheets, lyric sheets, and demo recordings of each of the songs. The second portfolio, created in the SW-497 Senior Seminar course, will include branding and a career plan as well as a set of songs. That set of songs may constitute a record-release project or be used for pitch or sync projects, and will include recordings that have the level of production quality that are typically presented to music industry representatives by professional songwriters and producers.
Through the study of acknowledged masterpieces of the songwriter's art, you will develop the critical skills necessary to recognize and discuss quality elements in musical and lyrical structure. Interpersonal and situational skills will develop through the many collaborative situations that exist in the professional environment, such as cowriting songs both as composer and as lyricist, working with vocalists and instrumentalists in the production of demo recordings, and working with engineers, artists, and producers in the studio environment.
As a graduate of the songwriting program, you will have sufficient skills and knowledge to work in the music industry as a songwriter, lyricist, singer-songwriter, arranger, and/or demo/MIDI-production worker. You will also have a sufficient background in stylistic breadth, analysis, and understanding of permanent musical values to work in a variety of situations and environments with changing stylistic, artistic, and production demands.
What Will I Learn?
Upon completion of a major in songwriting, students will:
- analyze the harmonic and melodic structures of songs in a variety of contemporary and traditional styles;
- contextualize songs in their historical, musical, and social context;
- synthesize and apply knowledge of contemporary and traditional musical styles to the composition of songs;
- synthesize and apply knowledge of contemporary and traditional song lyrics to the composition of original lyrics;
- arrange songs in a variety of musical styles for ensembles of varying size and instrumentation;
- create professional quality recordings of songs using Pro Tools and other DAWs; and
- create a professional portfolio of original songs.
There are no prerequisites to declare this major. Please follow the regular declaration of major process as outlined by the Registrar's Office.
Interested students should note that they must complete HR-112 Harmony 2 in order to take SW-211 Songwriting 1.
Curriculum and Courses
There are 31 required credits specific to this major in addition to the B.M. required core music courses (41 credits), liberal arts courses (39 credits), and general electives (9 credits) for a degree total of 120 credits. See the sample curriculum here.
- ISKB-111 Keyboard Fundamentals (1 credit)
- Select one of the following:
Foundational Songwriting and Lyric Writing
- SW-211 Songwriting 1 (2 credits)
- SW-212 Songwriting 2 (2 credits)
- SW-221 Lyric Writing 1 (2 credits)
- SW-222 Lyric Writing 2 (2 credits)
- Introductory DAW class (select one):
- Advanced technology requirement (select one):
- SW-261 Advanced DAW for Songwriters: Pro Tools (2 credits)
- SW-281 Advanced DAW for Songwriters: Ableton Live (2 credits)
- SW-291 Advanced DAW for Songwriters: Logic Pro X (2 credits)
- SW-362 Advanced Song Production Seminar (2 credits) **instructor permission required
- SW-383 Advanced Skills for the Songwriter/Producer (2 credits)
Other Required Courses
- SW-231 Arranging for Songwriters (2 credits)
- Select one of the following:
- SW-241 Survey of Popular Song Styles (2 credits)
- SW-335 The Business of Songwriting (2 credits)
- SW-398 Directed Study in Songwriting (2 credits)
- SW-497 Senior Seminar in Songwriting (2 credits)
Four credits of major electives (see your major grid for more information)
Updated for catalogue year fall 2022
Sample Curriculum by Semester
Shape Your Songs in a Community of Songwriters
Hear from students and faculty on what makes Berklee's Songwriting Department a great place to find who you are as an artist. Explore a wide range of styles, including EDM, roots, and hip-hop, and find your voice in a close community of songwriters who will support you while pushing you to take creative risks.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Learn about financial aid, scholarships, and others ways of paying for your Berklee education.
Study abroad at our Valencia, Spain, campus. It is recommended that songwriting majors study in Valencia during their third, fourth, fifth, or sixth semester. For specific program information, please see the chair of your major or contact the study abroad office.