[REVIEW] Songwriting Workshops (Watford and Hatfield)

girl writing

Ozz Leach, workshop leader at Hertfordshire Music Service (HMS), shares his review on his songwriting workshops.

In October half term week I led two songwriting workshops for large groups of young people. Myself and the team worked with 20 to 25 participants at each venue (Watford School of Music and Mid Herts, Hatfield) divided into smaller groups as chosen by the participants themselves. I find that in these instances whilst preparation is important, the ability to think on one’s feet and adapt to the requirements of each participant is most valuable. Letting the participants group themselves seems to have the best result as generally, the older students prefer to work in smaller groups or individually and it’s important to nurture the best environment for everyone involved.

Young people’s agency

The biggest challenge is making sure that everyone gets as much as they can from the day and with so many different personalities, ages, abilities and learning styles, it’s important to get each person to speak up about what’s best for them even whilst working with others. I find that encouraging a voluntary division of labour is most useful! Most participants already have a strong idea of what they would like to contribute and what they are best qualified for. Most often there will be a clear divide in people who wish to write lyrics and those who wish to write supporting music or melody.

Starting everyone on the same page

With songwriting workshops, we gave an introduction to layout of structures, common terms and definitions. This enables everyone to work from the same page and prevents confusion and frustration further down the line. The best thing about song writing is there are no hard and fast rules about what’s correct, but it helps to see the format of existing successful material. These days, even the same group of friends in the same class at school can have hugely disparate musical interests, so having experience in a wide range of genres is crucial. For the only person attending who loves metal, it will make be instantly refreshing to find that a tutor understands and has experience in their field of interest. Conversely, it’s nice to defend those participants who listen to mainstream pop. After all, every band, regardless of genre, aims to be popular! This is often dismissed as ‘sellout’ music, particularly by older students, but the reality is that songs popular enough to reach the charts have been written very carefully within their style by writers with huge experience and success rates!

“The most rewarding thing about group workshops is comparing the energy in the room at the beginning to the energy at the end”

Seeing people come out of their shell, work though barriers of confidence, age, social inhibition and experience to arrive at the end of the day in a bustling music-fuelled environment. It’s fantastic to watch.

The workshops were filmed for MusicNet East by Light Gap Productions – watch below!

For more information on HMS’ Songwriter programme, click here.

Changing Tracks is a programme of peer support and learning for and with music services wanting to improve equality, diversity and inclusion. It is run by Hertfordshire Music Service and funded by Youth Music as part of the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England. It was previously called MusicNet East. We help music services to be more inclusive by providing a peer network facilitated by Music Mark, funding for action research, support and challenge, advice and resources.

Find out more about us, or check out the other resources and blogs on this site for more helpf for music services, and If you can’t find what you need, visit the AMIE Musical Inclusion Resource Hub for more inclusion tools and guidance, blogs, videos, and case studies, to help you break down barriers to music-making.

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