Free Songwriting

There’s a new, free, 6 week songwriting course starting in June on FutureLearn, the Open University’s online learning platform. You can see the course here. It’s run by the University of Sheffield and aimed at anyone writing songs in English, anywhere in the world.  If you sing in English, it’s worth a look, even if you’ve never thought of writing your own songs. Think of it as a course in word engineering.

When you sing, you’re handed music and words as a ready-made model. Writing a song forces you to do things in reverse, starting from scratch, weaving a structure of music and words. This course gives you a set of English lyrics (newly written by British poet Matt Black). You’ll build up a rhythm, chord structure and melody to suit Matt’s words and share the process with other songwriters as you go.

The University of Sheffield has drawn together a kaleidoscope of contributors, ranging from Shahbaz Hussein on tabla:

to folk-singer Martin Simpson:

via the metalcore band While She Sleeps:

It’s unusual to find a songwriting course that ranges so widely through the fields of music, with such a spread of contributors. It lasts 6 weeks and, once you’ve signed up to FutureLearn, you can start and finish whenever you want. It’s worth looking around their other courses too, especially now, while they’re all free!

If English isn’t your native language this course will be especially useful. Building a song will teach you a lot about the mechanics of the English language. You’ll hear how other students stitch English words into their music. You’ll have a chance to interact with students from around the world and you’ll be able to judge, by ear, what sounds good and what doesn’t.

If you’re learning English, the free British Council IELTS course here looks good. If you’re teaching English or learning any foreign language, the Understanding Language course here might pique your interest. If you’ve enjoyed any other FutureLearn courses, do let me know in the comments. They repeat every so often, so it’s worth knowing what good things might be coming up in the future.

© Sing Better English, 2015


11 thoughts on “Free Songwriting”

    1. Hi Aileen,
      Happy to hear that. I hope they enjoy the course. It certainly looks good. I was intrigued by the breadth of musical disciplines represented in the tutors/contributors, and I like the fact that a working, respected songwriter is given the same words to work with, at the same time, so it’s like an apprenticeship, where you work alongside a master practitioner.

      I think this is going to be the FutureLearn Golden Age – while courses are free and while universities are putting their best energy into making their courses good. We did the Trinity College ‘Irish lives in War and Revolution’ (it’s coming up again soon) and the enthusiasm and knowledge of the tutors shone through. If you know anyone who’s studying AS Politics, FutureLearn have a catch-up course focusing on the upcoming General Election here: It looks very useful.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Elaine, will have to check out that course you took! I studied History at Trinity years ago, but could definitely do with a refresher There are almost too many great classes on offer now, aren’t there? Hard to choose what to do!:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The course is beautifully put together. Have a look at the trailer on the course page. It’s got lovely thoughtful music too. I know what you mean about the number of courses. I tend to do them in lumps – like a boxed set of a tv series!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is MARVELOUS! Not only am I going to sign up for it myself, but I’m going to pass it on to a couple of other aspiring songwriters (one from the Ukraine and the other from Germany). Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does look good, doesn’t it? I like the breadth of musicians they’ve gathered and the fact that they give you new words to work with. One the good things about FutureLearn is that a lot of the students interact with each other very generously in the comments under lessons or outside the course in other groups. And it’s good, for my purposes, that the students will be from all over the world and, I’d guess, mainly not native speakers of English. Which often inspires new ways of using the language because they won’t have the same ready made phrases in their heads – so they’ll arrange the new words with a different kind of freedom. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I used to teach writing and composition, but now only occasionally tutor in ESL — which is probably why I laughed out loud at the jokes Scott Thornbury compiled in his wonderful post. Thank you for sharing the link! 🙂


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