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Writing Song Lyrics

Course Code: CRWR 1234
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: Creative Writing
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Tutorial
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course concentrates on the process of writing song lyrics. Students learn key aspects of the craft, including song structure, rhyme, and various literary devices, plus the integration of lyrics with musical elements such as melody and meter. Students develop an appreciation for a range of genres through analysis of published works. Songs written by students are critiqued by the instructor and students in a supportive workshop environment. Some musical ability is an asset in this course, as simple recorded or performed versions of the students’ songs are required. However, students are not required to be virtuoso musicians.

Course Content

Course Content


  • Students' own song lyric manuscripts and recordings will form the bulk of the course content.
  • The history and evolution of songwriting will be studied, providing a foundation for students' own creative work.
  • An exploration of different songwriting genres will be spread out across the duration of the course. This contextual material will complement the craft-oriented topics explored each week.
  • Craft-oriented topics will include key aspects of song structure, literary devices, meter and rhyme.
  • The published work of songwriters across a range of genres will offer perspective on various challenges of craft and form.
  • Texts and videos on the art of songwriting, including artist interviews, will also feature in the course.

Methods of Instruction

Classes will be conducted in the traditional creative-writing workshop format, in which students receive direction from their instructor and participate in exchanging constructive criticism with their peers.

The following may be combined with the workshop:

  • lectures and discussions
  • small group work
  • assigned readings and class presentations
  • in-class exercises

Means of Assessment

Several creative assignments submitted for workshopping will constitute up to 40% of the final grade. These may include:

  • a song written in 4/4 time or 3/4 time
  • a ballad written in a minor key
  • a song about/inspired by a place
  • a song written in third-person POV
  • a song written as a letter or other type of document
  • a suite of songs connected by a theme, character or place. 

In-class exercises, constituting 20% of the final grade, may include work such as: 

  • a verse and chorus written in 4/4 time
  • a verse and chorus written in 3/4 time
  • a series of verses written on a theme.

These in-class exercises will encourage students to explore different aspects of the songwriting process. 

An essay on a song or series of songs by an established artist will form at least 15% of the final grade.

Class participation will constitute up to 25% of the course grade. Participation includes contributions to workshops, written and verbal responses to other students' work, ability to process constructive criticism, and support in developing a constructive class atmosphere.

Students are required to attend 80% of the workshops. A student missing more than 20% of the workshops for any reason will receive a zero in Class Participation. 

Learning Outcomes

General Objectives

The student will become familiar with the poetic and narrative elements of song lyrics. The student will use these elements in constructing work that will be presented for class discussion.


Specific Objectives

 Successful students will be able to


  1. Prepare for creating their own material by studying key aspects of song structure, including verse, chorus and bridge.
  2. Acquaint themselves with some musical fundamentals of songwriting, including pitch and rhythm aspects, while focusing primarily on the lyric element of songs studied.
  3. Consider personal experience and learn how this experience can be used in writing songs.



  1. Identify a variety of modern and traditional forms and learn to use these forms in their song lyrics.
  2. Experiment with aspects of song structure including verse, chorus and bridge.
  3. Employ literary aspects such as character, setting, imagery, narrative arc and point-of-view in their song lyrics.
  4. Develop writing habits consistent with the production of quality written work.
  5. Produce readable, listenable and well-structured song lyrics.



  1. Adapt and use the narrative and poetic techniques discovered in published song lyrics.
  2. Develop the critical skills necessary to judge the effectiveness of written work.



  1. Recognize the value of revision as an essential writing process.
  2. Evaluate critical suggestions from instructor and peers, and incorporate them judiciously into the revised songs.

course prerequisites

Any College entrance Language Proficiency Requirement with the exceptions of the Douglas College Course Options in ELLA or ENGU and the assessments listed below. These require the specified higher standard for entry into CMNS, CRWR and ENGL courses.

  • a minimum grade of C- in ELLA 0460, or a minimum grade of C- in both ELLA 0465 and 0475, OR
  • a minimum grade of C- in ENGU 0450 or ENGU 0455 or ENGU 0490, OR
  • Mastery in ELLA 0330 and any two of ELLA 0310, 0320, or 0340, OR
  • TOEFL overall score of 83 with a minimum of 24 in Writing, OR
  • IELTS overall score of 6.5 with no band below 6.0, OR
  • CLB score of 8, OR
  • CEFR level B2+, OR
  • CAEL minimum overall and essay score of 70 (computer or paper based), OR
  • recognized equivalent or exemption.


Courses listed here must be completed either prior to or simultaneously with this course:

  • No corequisite courses


Courses listed here are equivalent to this course and cannot be taken for further credit:

  • No equivalency courses

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.