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MUSIC 118 - Popular Songwriting - William Macpherson

Course:Popular Songwriting
Professor:William Macpherson
  • OnlineLive
Course Length:
  • 16 Week


William Macpherson

Hello.  Here is a little background on me.  Officially my first name is William but I go by Bill. I was raised by medical missionary parents in Congo, Central Africa. My classmates in the boarding school I attended were from all over the world so I had an unusual and multi cultural upbringing.   Along the way I learned to speak French and two dialects from Congo, Lingala and Kituba. Upon graduation from high school I moved back to my home state of California to attend university. I received my undergraduate degree from The Berklee College of Music (Boston) in Professional Music and then did a Master’s in Jazz Performance at San Diego State University.  I have been a professional musician for over 40 years and have recorded and toured extensively with my band Native Vibe. Native Vibe plays all original African/Latin jazz fusion music. I also play other styles like blues, rock, pop, soul and other styles of World music. Much of what shapes me as a music teacher was learned from playing those styles in all different kinds of bands.  I also learned from the ground up the Music Business.  I have my own record label and publishing company and continue to perform and record in Southern California.

I'm excited to meet all of you and watch your songwriting skills expand and grow as you interact with your fellow classmates.  Collaboration in songwriting is an important real life skill out in the professional world so in this class we have a safe environment to experiment and bounce ideas off each other and arrive at finished products, your original songs!

Course Description

This course introduces popular song writing and the construction of lyrics for the commercial music industry. Basic knowledge of music fundamentals is assumed. Aspects of collaboration and basic copyright knowledge is examined.

What to Expect in this Course

Each week we will meet via zoom.  We will have a short lecture/discussion about various aspects of the craft and business of songwriting.

There will be weekly individual assignments that each student will present to the class.

There will be lyric and song title assignments periodically throughout the semester

Students will have opportunities to present additional songs they are writing or working on to the class.

Based on each students abilities the instructor will divide the class into songwriting teams.  The teams will be given a topic to write a song about.  One finished song from each team is due at the midterm, one song due at the final.  Students will work in breakout rooms to do their collaboration. These final projects need to be home recorded via layering. Each team will have a student designated as the "recording engineer" to facilitate assembly of the song. These songs will be presented in class as they are developing and when they are finished.

There will be weekly reading assignments from the textbook. The midterm and final exams will cover the reading assignments.

There will be 4 videos to watch about songwriting and a short paragraph summary will be due in writing.

Types of Assessments

Lyric writing assignments
Collaborative song writing assignments
Weekly individual song fragment assignments
Assigned videos to review
Midterm and Final exam

Textbook Information

Textbook Title: The Craft and Business of Songwriting by John Braheny, 3rd edition.
ISBN 9781582974668

Each student needs to have some way to record their musical parts and song ideas at their home.  Some of the assignments are collaborative songwriting so students will need to be able to share their musical ideas via the internet so the song can be collectively built.  You will need a computer, tablet or smart phone with some kind of recording software like GarageBand, Logic or Pro Tools loaded into it.  Everyone needs an interface and a mic if you are a vocalist.  I will recommend tutorials for home recording should anyone need help with the technology side of things.

Additional Resources


This course can be accessed on the first day of class via Canvas at Log into Canvas using your CanyonsID single sign-on:

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Please visit the Get to Know Your Online Classroom page for help logging into Canvas and for tips on using Canvas and Zoom. Canvas Chat Support is also available 24/7 for any Canvas related issues.

Online Education

Check out the Online Education website for more information on a variety of topics that can help you be a successful online student such as: exam proctoring, learning styles, computer skills, and tips for student success. If this is your first online course, feel free to take our online learning readiness assessment to assess your skills.

The Learning Center (TLC)

The TLC provides FREE online tutoring resources to COC students!

Academic Accommodation Center (AAC)

College of the Canyons AAC provides educational services and access for eligible students with documented disabilities who intend to pursue coursework at COC. A variety of programs and services are available which afford eligible students with disabilities the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of the college programs and activities through appropriate and reasonable accommodations. For more information on their services visit the Academic Accomodation Center website.

Online Counseling

The Counseling Department offers appointments online. You can schedule an appointment by visiting the Online Counseling website. Counselors can help you map out a plan to reach your educational goals as well as advise you on course selection and registration.

Management of Stress and Mental Health

Often the pressure on our students is very strong, involving academic commitments, relationships, outside jobs and family pressure to name a few. The staff and faculty of College of the Canyons are here to see you succeed academically and care about your emotional and physical health. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential student services, including counseling and mental health services available on campus by visiting the Student Health & Wellness Center in the Student Services Building (across from the bookstore). The phone number is 661-362-3259 that you can call 24/7. You can also e mail for an appointment at At the Canyon Country Campus the Health Center will be in the new Student Services Building.

Also, the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number is now 988. All students at COC are encouraged to enter that phone number in their cells. You can call it when you, or someone you know, is having thoughts of suicide or is in severe distress.

You can also now use the Crisis Text Line: Just text "Courage" to 741741. Someone will get back to you immediately. Its free, 24/7, and confidential.

Veterans Resource Center

The College of the Canyons Veterans Resource Center is a department within the Student Services Division at the college, created to help veterans and veteran dependents with applying to College of the Canyons, enrolling in classes, and requesting VA Education or Vocational Benefits. For more information please visit the Veterans Resource Center website, email or phone (661) 362-3469.


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Last updated: 10/18/2021 Sub#: 891