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Berklee College of Music

Songwriting: Writing the Music

Berklee College of Music via Coursera


If your notebook is full of unused lyrics and you’re struggling to find inspiration for the music, this course is for you. Whether you are an experienced songwriter looking for new ideas or a beginning songwriter learning to read music, this course will lead you to a rich source of songwriting possibilities.

Led by award winning songwriter and Berklee College of Music professor Scarlet Keys, you’ll learn to construct strong, expressive melodies that your audience will remember as well as experiment with new chords to break out of any harmonic rut. Whether you are new to writing music or are looking for new ideas to change up your songs, this class will teach you how to make deliberate choices with your harmonies and melodies to best emulate the emotions you want your audience to feel. You will start by discovering common chord progression and tying specific emotions to each chords in a scale. Then you will practice changing the harmonic and melodic rhythm of a song to better highlight important lyrics. Finally, you will learn to create melodic hooks and simple techniques to help you generate new melodic ideas.


  • Welcome to Songwriting: Writing the Music
    • Welcome to the course! Here we will cover all the details about the course and what you'll need to know to get the most out of your experience.
  • Choosing Emotive Chords
    • In this first lesson, we will begin working with diatonic chords in a chosen key and learning how to borrow non-diatonic chords to create evocative harmonies for your songs. We will look at several popular chord progressions and begin experimenting with choosing the perfect chords to help you tell your lyrical story.
  • Creating Contrast with Harmonic Rhythm
    • In this lesson we will expand our knowledge of harmony to include 7th chords and added tensions. We will use these new chords to create more interesting harmonies for our lyrics and melodies. We will also practice changing the harmonic rhythm in our songs to better support our melodies and lyrics. Finally, we will use harmonic rhythm to show contrast between our song sections.
  • Developing Interesting Melodies
    • In this lesson we will begin to create better melodies for our lyrics. We will start by learning about different types and shapes of melodic lines. We will then practice creating melodic hooks and using stable and unstable tones in our melodies. We will also learn the importance of using melodic contrast between song sections.
  • Telling a Story with the Music
    • In this final lesson, we will begin to put everything together to help our lyrics tell their story. We will discover how to highlight our melodies by using chord tones and non-chord tones from our harmonies. We will also focus on setting our lyrics to the melody and harmony in a way that highlights the meaning we want to convey to the audience. Finally, we will practice creating melodies in minor keys.

Taught by

Scarlet Keys

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