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Music 238

Introduction to Songwriting Workshop–Spring Semester 2020

MW 2:00-3:15p, CA 147


Instructor: Jono Kornfeld

Office: CA 166F

Office Hours: M & W, 11a-1:00p; and by appointment

Phone: 415-338-6013, email



PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS SYLLABUS: (Rules & Regs)  (Topics & HW – temporarily disabled)




Required Text

Recommended Recording Software

Recommended Book

Music Theory for Intelligent Beginners


(free .pdf download, no need to print-out)

Garageband (Mac only)

Audacity (Mac or Windows; free!)

Ampedstudio (web-based; basic version is free)

The Songs of John Lennon The Beatles Years


Berklee Press, ISBN 0-634-01795-0

(features a medium amount of music theory vocabulary)

Useful Links

West Coast Songwriters    Aaron Kerowicz - Beatles Blog


Course Objectives

In this class we will learn how to capture and develop musical song ideas in a supportive, feedback-based environment. We will explore the songwriting process through both creative and analytical windows, with an emphasis on group sharing and constructive criticism. Class time will alternate between discussing specific songwriting techniques (via a variety of styles), and sharing/reviewing one and other's work. We will do this through touching on music analysis/theory, notation, musicianship, recording software, performing, and most importantly, the general creative process.


The ultimate goal of the class is for each student to compose, document (record & notate), and provide an analysis of an original song (with or without lyrics). Along the way there will be short composition-based exercises, critical analyses of existing songs, a smaller midterm composition project, and explorations of music theory, vocabulary, and notation.


The seminar-based aspect of this class will require students to be present and participatory on a regular basis. We will be sharing our work with one and other with the intent of receiving and giving constructive feedback. We will listen to one and other's work with the intent of developing our critical listening capabilities, and refining the ability to communicate/critique clearly and meaningfully. Class discussions will also involve sporadic lectures on music theory and notation.


There are no perquisites for this class, especially with regard to any academic music studies, but there is an expectation that students will be enthusiastic about exploring and sharing their creativity, balanced with the acquisition of a more formalized musical knowledge.


Well I ain't often right but I've never been wrong
It seldom turns out the way it does in the song

­–Robert Hunter


Grading:  All grades will be given as a percentage.  Only your final grade will be a letter grade.

Each assignment and/or quiz, etc. will have its own grade. You can also look up your grades to date through this link—grades are listed via an assigned alias to protect your privacy.


Class Participation/Communication: 20%

Students are required to attend all classes, and expected to participate, unless excused.  After two unexcused absences, your grade may be lowered; the more absences, the lower the grade. Three unexcused late-arrivals (or early departures) will equal one unexcused absence. Participation includes arriving on time, being fully present and engaged, not behaving in a distracted or distracting manner, and treating your classmates with respect.  Use of cell phones and/or electronic devices for non-emergency, or non-class-related purposes will be considered disruptive, and will count against your participation credit—they should be put away during class. Students should practice professional-level communication in class, and in written correspondence. To have an absence, etc. be excused, you must communicate with me as soon as possible beforehand (or after the fact, if unanticipated).


Midterm Project: 15%

A presentation (recording) and possible live performance of an original song. It need not be documented/notated/analyzed in the way the final composition project must be. This project can be based on prior exercises already completed. There will be the option for people to collaborate (limited to two people) on a single song.


Final Composition Project: 25%

An original song ready for presentation (recorded) and possibly performed live. It will be notated in lead sheet style (charted), and have an accompanying brief analysis incorporating the vocabulary and analysis techniques acquired throughout the semester.


Homework/Exercises: 30%

These will be short composition and/or analysis projects focusing on specific techniques or ideas discussed in class.


Quizzes: 10%

Quizzes will be short vocabulary/listening evaluations of your accumulating knowledge. Some will be in-class (open book/note), and others take-home.


Redo Policy: Unless otherwise specified, you can redo any homework assignment that gets less than a 93% (excludes quizzes and the final project).  The score of the redone version of the assignment will be averaged with the original score for a final assignment grade, with a maximum possible grade of 93%.  Redone assignments are due two class periods after the original assignment is returned. Redoing an assignment means that you either make clear corrections on the original assignment, or that you hand in a copied-over, corrected version of the original assignment on a separate piece of paper. For the latter, you MUST staple the redone assignment to the original marked-up version; you don't have to copy over portions of the original assignment that were done correctly. This does NOT apply to quizzes or the final composition project.


**Please note: the above percentages are subject to redistribution**


Missed assignments, quizzes or exams: in the event of an unforeseen absence, make-up quizzes or assignment-extensions may be granted for extenuating circumstances, and only on a case-by-case basis.  Such circumstances must be documented when possible (i.e. a doctor's note, etc.) and I must be notified as soon as possible.


Extra credit assignments (optional): may be assigned and will be announced.


Plagiarism: While some collaboration is expected and productive, the bulk of your assignments and definitely any compositions must be done individually unless otherwise specified.  Violations will be subject to the University's Code of Conduct as it relates to such matters.


Please note the following from the SFSU Bulletin: To receive credit toward completion of the degree requirements, a grade of C or better is required for all music courses in the Bachelor of Arts in Music major...To receive credit toward completion of the degree requirements, a grade of C or better is required for all music courses in the Bachelor of Music major.


Disability access

Students with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations are encouraged to contact the instructor.  The Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC) is available to facilitate the reasonable accommodations process. The DPRC is located in the Student Service Building and can be reached by telephone (voice/415-338-2472, video phone/415-335-7210) or by email (


Student disclosures of sexual violence

SF State fosters a campus free of sexual violence including sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and/or any form of sex or gender discrimination.  If you disclose a personal experience as an SF State student, the course instructor is required to notify the Title IX Coordinator by completing the report form available at, emailing or calling 338-2032.


To disclose any such violence confidentially, contact:

*The SAFE Place - (415) 338-2208;

*Counseling and Psychological Services Center - (415) 338-2208;

*For more information on your rights and available resources:

Attendance and Classroom Guidelines

It is your responsibility to get notes from any class you miss.  Do not send emails or request appointments regarding material covered during an unexcused absence.  Disruptive or distracting behavior will not be tolerated and may result in you being asked to leave or have an assigned seat.  Such behavior includes: inappropriate talking with classmates, using cell phones or other electronic devices, repeatedly arriving late, and/or engaging in distracting behavior.


There may be instances where we need to make individual, special arrangements.  In these cases, it is best that we do so in person.  However, it will also be necessary to follow up such face-to-face communications with confirmation emails.  In the event that we have made a special arrangement, please make sure we have at least done so in writing.  If you write to me, please communicate as clearly as possible.  While this is a music class, you are expected to practice college-level, professional communication standards in your written and oral communication. Make sure your SFSU email is set up to forward to your regular/personal email.

Revisions to this Syllabus

The syllabus (including assignments, quiz and grade distributions) and downloads are subject to revisions as the semester progresses.  Check the syllabus web page often and listen for announcements in class.  Do not download the lecture notes and/or assignments all at once in case revisions are made as the semester progresses.

Printing Materials for Class

The Music Office is requiring as little photocopying as possible.  You should plan to be able to print supplemental, required materials for class on a regular basis.  All materials will be available through the web syllabus and will be PDF files.



(Week No.)

Week of

Class Topics, Relevant Links, Downloadable Notes

(day covered–"M, W, F")

Assignments, presentations, and items to download

and/or print for that week with specific due day


Jan 27


Basics of analysis/critical listening

Composition overview


Spider Bait: Glockenpop  (lyrics)

Cat Stevens: Tea for the Tillerman  (lyrics)

Lyrics Born: When I Get MY Check (lyrics)

Kool and the Gang: Celebration (lyrics)

Beach Boys: Surfin USA (lyrics)

Joan Baez: We Shall Overcome (lyrics)

Nina Simone: I Wish I Knew How it Felt to be Free (lyrics)

Sesame Street: Up and Down (lyrics)

John Coltrane: Village Blues

Download (do not print):

Women in Jazz (.org): Communicating with the band... vocab


Feb 3

Music Theory: basics of notation (treble/bass clef),

melody, chords, form, lead sheets

Song forms: sectional labels


Major key: Star Wars Theme

Minor key: Imperial March


Beatles: I want to hold your hand

(verse, refrain, bridge)

Simon & Garfunkle: 59th Street Bridge Song

(verse, refrain?/chorus?)

Smoky Robinson: Second That Emotion

(verse, pre-chorus, chorus)

Aretha Franklin: Think

(verse, refrain?, single chorus?, verse, bridge...)

Beatles: Here Comes The Sun

(intro, verse, chorus...BRIDGE!...etc., short coda)

Read: Kornfeld pp 1 – 22

Download (do not print): music/songwriting terms


Feb 10

(M & W) Song Analysis – email me your audio file (or link to it) AND bring it to class for playback/presentation. Bring in a hard copy of your diagram.

**All papers, etc. are due Monday. Presentations will take place on Mon & Wed. People will be called-on randomly.


Feb 17

(M & W) Music Theory: melody (motifs, sequences, sentences, open/closed endings); modes, modes of the C major scale, modes in context


(W) Discuss Modeling Exercise, including the recording process


Chopin: E Minor Prelude

Radiohead: Exit Music for a Movie (modeling the melody in the beginning)


Armstrong: What a Wonderful World

Mozart: Ah, Vous Dirais-Je, Maman (the main melody)


Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, 2nd movement

JK: Beethoven 7th/5th symphonies mashup

(M) Song analysis continued

(W) take-home quiz due by 2pm (via email)


Feb 24

(M & W) Modeling exercise presentations – email me your audio file AND bring it to class for playback/presentation.

**All files, etc. are due Monday. Presentations will take place on Mon, Wed and the following Mon. People will be called-on randomly.


March 2

Music Theory: more on melody; chords/harmony (chord structure, progressions)

(W) Discuss melody midterm project

(M) modeling exercise presentations continued

(F) Take home quiz due by 11:59pm (via email) 


March 9

(M) Music Theory: more on chords/harmony



(W) Melody-based midterm project presentations – email me your audio file AND bring it to class for playback/presentation.

**All papers, etc. are due Wednesday. Presentations will begin on Wed. and continue into the next week. People will be called-on randomly.


March 16

Midterm Projects:




Kevin (lyrics)




Vivienne (lyrics)




Anthony M. (lyrics)

Elias (lyrics)


Anthony S.

Lauryn (lyrics)



(M & W) Melody midterm project presentations continued

**Presentations will take place on Mon & Wed.

(F) take-home quiz due by 11:59pm (via email)


March 23 – 27: Spring Recess, No Class



March 30

Music Theory: form (song structures, phrase design, irregularities)


Blues form map


Blues form examples:


The Lemon Song – Led Zeppelin

Confusion – Ivan Boogaloo Joe Jones

Stoked – The Beach Boys

Surfin USA – The Beach Boys

Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry

Potato Head Blues – Louis Armstrong

Blues for Alice – Charlie Parker

Blue MonkThelonius Monk

Freddie Freeloader – Miles Davis

C Jam Blues – Oscar Peterson

Motel Blues – Alex Chilton


Single-section songs:


Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix

Take The Money And Run – Steve Miller

Sweet Home AlabamaLynyrd Skynyrd

With Or Without You – U2

Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles

Free Falling – Tom Petty


Same music for verse/chorus:


Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd


Atypical/complex/irregular forms:


Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys

A Day In The Life – The Beatles


Song Building Blocks -


Song Structure - Wikipedia


The Hook - Wikipedia


Take-home quiz 3 responses


(F) take-home quiz due by 11:59pm (via email)


April 6

More with Blues Form, and the composing process

Take-home quiz 4 responses


April 13



Anthony M

Anthony S









Raji (lyrics)






(M & W) Blues Form Assignment presentations


Chord & bass line tutorial


JK Example


Email me your .mp3 audio file on Monday. Presentations will take place on Mon & Wed.


April 20


Roy Peter Clark - Embrace the Lyric on


Student Presentations


RajiLetŐs Sing The Blues

Caroline – Out The Water

Aaron – FallinŐ

Ayo – Toxic Masculinity


April 27

The Creative Process


Guest Artist: Ariel Wang



Paul Simon interview


(F) take-home quiz due by 11:59pm (via email)


May 4


Final composition presentations & discussion


May 11

Student Music Links


Ayo Benjamin – Soundcloud

Saśl Castellanos-Schindler – Soundcloud

Caroline WolfsonSoundcloud

Anthony SzetoSoundcloud

Anthony MorailaSoundcloud, Youtube,   

                          Instagram, Facebook





Final composition presentations & discussion