How a Songwriting Residency Works

Here’s how the basic songwriting classes work:

  • Songs are written in three 45-minute sessions, with a fourth session for rehearsal and “sweetening”. Groups are generally limited to no more than 25 participants, in order to ensure ample opportunity for everyone to contribute – everyone is encouraged to be seen and heard.
  • The subject matter can often be surprising, usually with a twist that can only come from the unrestrained imagination of a child.
  • A class session begins with a 5 minute playful physical warm-up exercise, and a breathing – vocal exercise to prepare body, mind and voice. We then gather in a circle and set our intentions and goals for that day.
  • During the lyric gathering there are multiple, lively brainstorming activities and variations to develop a song idea based on the student input. Using theater, dance and poetry improv techniques, the students may divide into small groups for Tableau, (a theater exercise in which the students embody characters or elements of the song) or partners or small groups may discuss different sections of the song to contribute their thoughts and lyric ideas. They quickly learn about metaphor, rhyme, melody and song structure simply by engaging in the experience, as it pertains to the song they are writing, age appropriately.
  • The songwriter and class work together to craft the children’s ideas into a song. The songwriter asks for a melody to go with each line to a completed section and reflects back the music to match a child’s suggestion – it’s always original. The songs come out in a wide array of styles, from country to classical, from folk to hip-hop.
  • Students are guided through the songwriting process, from the creation of an original idea to the finished song, in a fun-filled way that honors the input of every student.
  • We make a “rough” recording of each class singing their song for rehearsals and for the school to commemorate the workshop. We’ll have decided ahead if the residency will culminate in a Ho’ike-style School Assembly to share the results of the kids’ efforts with their school and community.
  • This Songwriting Residency Program and Recording Project (optional) can range from the simple short-term residency experience to school and community concerts to full blown CD projects with music videos and professional media promotion! All these guidelines will be confirmed and agreed before we begin.

Teacher Check-List & Preparations for Each Class:

  • Needed for each class are, a Chalkboard or Whiteboard writing space and a flip board for writing ideas, brainstorming, lyric development, and completion of the song.
  • Arrange for audio speaker/s in the class for playback – Bluetooth preferred.
  • Signed releases from parents of all students participating – these will be provided by Malamalama Maui and When We Shine Network.
  • Name Tags for each student participating.

Preparing for Your Professional Songwriter a few weeks prior:

  • Play selections from It’s Your Story, a collection of songs written by children for children, facilitated by Melinda Caroll – a free MP3 Download will be provided for each class. These are examples of songs children have already co-written with Melinda.
  • Warm-up students voices by giving them opportunities to sing and make creative sounds
  • Have them practice “Deliberately Listening” to ambient sounds in and outside the room and making their own creative “vocal explorations”.
  • Read poetry aloud to your class and discuss with them the rhyme and rhythm.

Songwriting Toolkit for Students and Teachers:

  1. What is your intention or the feeling you want to covey?
  2. List all ideas that might say this.
  3. Decide on one main idea in a phrase or subject title.
  4. Brainstorm main idea and cluster. Make more clusters if needed.
  5. Write Lyrics
  6. Write first line
  7. Write second line, etc….
  8. Decide if it’s a verse, chorus or bridge. A, B, C song?
  9. Write Melody
  10. Sing and Record it or play it on an instrument line by line.
  11. Go section by section.
  12. Decide on final order of verses, chorus and or bridge and the title of the song.
  13. Sweeten the music and phrasing with your style, then record it.

Song Intention Check-List:

  1. Does the song convey the feeling you were going for?
  2. Do the lyrics match the feeling?
  3. Does the lyric develop within a section, and from section to section, to express an urgent or coherent story, the way you intended? Can you say it even simpler, in less words?
  4. Does the melody have the right flow, i.e., does it climax and subside where it needs to? (from the verse into the chorus, etc..)
  5. Is there rhyme scheme consistency and development in the right places? Are there contrasts in the story?
  6. Have you mapped your melodic rhythm by using slash marks to count the number of syllables (for ex., map the Verse 1 melody so that Verse 2 will have the same melodic rhythm)?
  7. Who is this song for?

Rehearsals and Assembly Performances –  Practice Leading the children in singing:

  1. Be sure the children knows the lyrics, starting and stopping songs together
  2. Practice the intention they want to convey to the audience
  3. Practice on and off stage entrance and exit
  4. Practice bowing and thanking the audience.

After Songwriting Residency or Final Performances are complete for the school & teachers, you can continue experimenting with the song and music in even more creative ways:

  1. Practice singing the song with your students with the recorded music soundtrack, yourself or another accompanist.
  2. Have the students illustrate the lyrics to their song, make it a class storybook with one or 2 lines on a page, each student contributing an illustration.
  3. Try writing another song as a class using the techniques learned from lyric writing and putting it to music using a folk tune or other familiar melody.
  4. Allow students to write song lyrics individually that can then be read aloud rhythmically in a rap or hip-hop spoken word style. Encourage the students to create their own original melodies too! Record their work.