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Online course

How to Write Your First Song

Get a practical introduction to the mechanics of songwriting and meet established songwriters with this free online course

How to Write Your First Song

Why join the course?

Ever wanted to write a song, but not known how? This free online course will give you the practical and theoretical understanding you need to create a finished song of your own.

Get to grips with songwriting theory

Over six weeks, we’ll be exploring the basic musical concepts that underpin successful songs. From the fundamental elements of melody, rhythm, harmony, metre and key, to the relationship between words and music.

We’ll uncover the tools and techniques that songwriters use to create effective melodies and discover how chords combine to give shape and structure to your songs. We’ll also learn how giving your song a musical form or structure can help to make it captivating and memorable.

Learn from established musicians and songwriters

As well as experts in music and psychology at the University of Sheffield, we’ll be talking to established musicians to find out what makes their songs successful. Special guests include:

  • Martin Simpson (award-winning folk songwriter)
  • Tom Ravenscroft (BBC Radio 6 Music presenter)
  • Christopher Hague (Producer, Sheffield Steelworks Studios)
  • Shahbaz Hussein (Tabla player)
  • Martin Curtis Powell (Cradle of Filth)
  • Kate Jackson (The Long Blondes)
  • Nat Johnson (singer-songwriter)
  • MC Matic Mouth (Clubs and Spades)
  • Mat Welsh and Sean Long (While She Sleeps)
  • Jon McClure (Reverend and the Makers)
  • Neil McSweeney (singer-songwriter)
  • Toddla T (DJ and producer)
  • Anastasia Walker (Bang Bang Romeo)
  • Paul Wolinski (65daysofstatic)

Write your first song using specially commissioned lyrics

To help get you started, we have commissioned Sheffield poet Matt Black to write some song lyrics. Each week, we’ll be using these lyrics to build up a song and encouraging you to do the same: setting the words to rhythm; writing a melody; harmonising the melody with chords; and structuring your ideas into a satisfying musical form.

World-renowned musician, Martin Simpson, will be using the same words and the same set of techniques to write a song. We’ll be checking in with him each week for inspiration and guidance on the songwriting process.

Download video: standard or HD

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced
Add to Wishlist to be emailed when new dates are announced

Who is the course for?

Whether you’re a complete novice who has never written a song in their life, a budding amateur looking to develop further skills or an accomplished professional brushing up on the basics, this course will deliver comprehensive practical and theoretical knowledge to help set you on your path. While it will be useful to have access to a musical instrument this is not a requirement, you can participate in the course just using your voice or with freely available music software.

Who will you learn with?

Adam White

Hello, I'm Course Director for Music, at The Department for Lifelong Learning, University of Sheffield, an Associate Lecturer in Music with The Open University and a professional musician.

Who developed the course?

The University of Sheffield is one of the world’s top 100 universities with a reputation for teaching and research excellence.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised certificate in both digital and printed formats, to celebrate taking part.


Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

  • Looking inside a song
    Looking inside a song

    In this video, Adam White from the University of Sheffield breaks down a song into the five fundamental elements of music.

  • A mixing desk all lit up
    The five elements of music

    In this article, lead educator Adam White explains the five musical elements of a song in more detail.

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