Credit points


Campus offering

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Unit rationale, description and aim

In order to operate in professional settings, musicians need to be able to create, adapt and communicate musical ideas.

This unit examines and applies the creative processes that underpin song-writing and melodic construction in a range of styles and contexts. The unit builds on fundamental understandings of song structure, intervallic relationships and diatonic harmony, and provides the setting for the study of instrumentation, basic orchestration and arranging.

The aim of this unit is to provide students with an opportunity develop and apply skills and knowledge to compose songs and arrange music for different instruments and contexts.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Demonstrate knowledge of song structure, melodic and harmonic design, idiomatic writing for instruments, and music style in relation to diverse repertoires (GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO2 - Develop skills in creating leads sheets, scores and digital records of musical ideas using established and emerging music conventions (GA5, GA8, GA10)

LO3 - Apply knowledge and skills to compose songs and arrange music for a range of real-world professional contexts (GA3, GA5, GA8, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

  • a consideration of aesthetic and functional issues related to how music is used in different contexts
  • an examination of song writing processes using case studies from a variety of contemporary styles drawn from diverse repertoires
  • issues, conventions and practices associated with the composition, notation and construction of lead sheets, short scores and scores
  • an investigation of contemporary and traditional instruments including an understanding of range and tessitura
  • the development of skills related to idiomatic writing for contemporary musical instruments
  • setting lyrics and scoring original songs
  • processes and conventions associated with music arranging for a variety of contemporary ensembles
  • the use of music technology to realise music scores

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Students encounter diverse ideas and processes related to song-writing and arranging by listening, analysing and performing repertoire in-class and independently. Skills are developed gradually and via small, low-weighted formative exercises, students have the opportunity to explore different strategies for music making and receive continuous feedback on their efforts. Through the unit of study, students observe, analyse and evaluate ways the skills they are developing operate in different musical styles and develop strategies to inform their own approach to song writing and arranging. The unit culminates with students developing a folio of developed songs and arrangements that see them apply the skills and knowledge developed throughout the unit.

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. The following table gives examples of the types of assessment that may apply to this unit.

The assessments in this unit are designed to gradually develop skills in song writing and arranging. Assessment item 1 focuses on specific skills around manipulating musical materials in industry recognised contexts. Assessments 2 and 3 provide opportunities for students to put skills into practice. The assessment in the unit allows students to simulate the work of professional musicians working in a variety of contexts, including music industry, educational, liturgical and community settings.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Short exercises in music notation and analysis

Students complete music notation tasks designed to build skills that support song writing and arrangement. Skills developed relate to the production of a lead sheet, a short score, and a scored transcription.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8

Developed original songs and exegesis

Students write and develop two original songs using different structural and technical approaches to demonstrate the application of music techniques. Songs are presented as lead sheets and are accompanied by a brief exegesis of the techniques used to create the song.


LO2, LO3

GA3, GA5, GA8, GA10


Students undertake two arrangements/orchestrations of existing musical works for two contrasting ensembles to demonstrate their capacity to manipulate and adapt musical ideas to different contexts.


LO2, LO3

GA3, GA5, GA8, GA10

Representative texts and references

Adler, Samuel. The Study of Orchestration. Fourth ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2016.

Beech, Nic, and Charlotte Gilmore. Organising Music: Theory, Practice, Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Benward, Bruce, and Marilyn Nadine Saker. Music in Theory and Practice. Ninth ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Blume, Jason. Six Steps to Songwriting Success, Revised Edition: The Comprehensive Guide to Writing and Marketing Hit Songs. New York: Billboard Books, 2008.

Coerne, Louis Adolphe. Evolution of Modern Orchestration. EKitap Projesi, 2015.

Damschroder, David. Foundations of Music and Musicianship. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Schirmer, 2006.

Laitz, Steven. The Complete Musician: An Integrated Approach to Tonal Theory, Analysis and Listening. (3rd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Leikin, Molly. How To Write A Hit Song. (5th ed.). New York, NY: Hal Leonard, 2008.

Sapiro, Ian. Scoring the Score : The Role of the Orchestrator in the Contemporary Film Industry. New York ; London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.

West, Andrew. The Art of Songwriting. London: Bloomsbury, 2016.

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