The Art Of The Song

The Art Of The Song

5.0 (9)
1 hire on
1 employee
27 years in business

About this pro

I teach songwriting at UC Berkeley and have taught at Blue Bear in SF and have many private students.  I believe the best creative impulses come from our unconscious minds.  I help students get past blocks, tune into their own instincts, and then use specific skills to shape rough ideas into finished songs that succeed in communicating their tideas and emotions.  Unlike many teachers, I focus on composition as well as lyrics: Melody is HUGELY important and I teach tricks to create fresh interest in the ears of your listeners.  I don't believe in rules or generalizations--every song is different and songwriting concepts are only useful when they're tied to specific examples.  My songs have been heard on NPR, KFOG, the Dr. Demento Show (yes, I write funny as well as serious songs) and I've won numerous contests.  In 2016 I challeneged myself to write and record a new song every week.  You can hear a variety of examples here:

I love helping students get past their creative inhibitions and blossom as songwriters.  I love watching them go from generic melodies to melodies full of color and pleasant surprises.  I love helping them write more vivid, visual lyrics.

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Berkeley, CA 94703
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9 Reviews


  • Tim Reeves

    I've taken three series of classes with Ira already. I'll admit that, though, I'm not new to music, I was brand new to composing music. There wasn't a class in the 20 or so I've attended where I didnt' go away with surprisingly new insights. And not only that, but I sensed that no one else went away without brand new ideas about how to put into song a feeling or idea, or how to generate new ideas, how to get through writer's block, how to come upon new musical tropes, or how to engage the audience with lyrics that hit the mark (and don't make them bored, or cringe), or how to build the emotion of a song with chord progressions that sound new and which stay fresh when repeated. This applied to those starting out like myself, and to those who already had published CDs of their music in hand -- both types of people have been present in all 3 series of classes I took. Ira applies gentle pressure to invent and improve just enough to get people moving (I've written 5 songs over three classes) but never so much to feel overwhelmed by the task. Ira pays attention to every individual in the class and his advice is *always* beautifully tailored to that one person's progress, abilities, and tastes; always with a empathetic sense of what that individual is trying to get at. It is an honor to recommend Ira at the Monkey House, to any musician of any degree of skill wishing to hone their skills in songwriting.

  • Kelly Kitchell, singer/songwriter

    What I appreciate most about Ira Marlowe is his ability to teach the “intangible”. Ira understands that becoming a great songwriter demands more than simply writing great lyrics and a catchy melody. It’s recognizing how to stay out of your own way, taking risks outside your comfort zone, experimenting even when you think you’ve got it, and being able to “let go” of something good for potentially something even better. Ira Marlowe’s thoughtful instruction has helped me to identify (and address) key barriers that have held me back in my songwriting for years. I have experienced growth in both confidence and ability. I have enjoyed learning from Ira, and I look forward to future opportunities to develop my songwriting knowledge, confidence, and skills.

  • Tom Duncan

    Without taking over the songs, Ira’s input and guidance helped me craft my songs in ways that I did not expect. He is respectful of the writer and the song always. His skills and talents as a musician and producer are immense. The end result for me was a CD of which I am very pleased and proud.

  • Brian Hicks

    Ira is a really good songwriter, and that doesn't necessarily make for a good songwriting teacher. But he is that as well. He's filled with ideas, when he hears a new song of yours, you can tell there is much he could say - but is very good at hearing what YOU like about your song, what you want it to be, and offering what is most helpful toward achieving that. He knows 'song' backward and forward and can help with structure and the intangible aspects. If you are taking a class (rather than just working with material you bring) you will find the content and the prompts to be well planned - but I think where he stands out is with feedback on you song (or the very beginnings or first draft of a song - whatever you have). Try it!

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What is your typical process for working with a new student?

We talk about the student's goals, their experience, their taste in music.  We often start with a few great songs they wish they'd written and we look at these -- what makes them work, what other choices the writers might have made.  Almost every great song has something specific you can learn from and I encourage students to steal shamelessly -- then cover their tracks so no one would ever guess where the song got its start!

What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?

I am largely self-taught and I believe this is a great strength.  I don't get lost in minutia and unnecessary theory and I help students develop their own INTUITVE approach to writing.  I've read books on songwriting that are so steeped in analysis and left-brained thinking that I find myself amazed these people have ever written a decent song.  (Many times, they haven't!  :)

Do you have a standard pricing system for your lessons? If so, please share the details here.

Sliding scale, $80-100/hour.

How did you get started teaching?

Back in the 90's someone heard me performing at the old Owl & Monkey Cafe, loved my songs, asked for lessons.  I've been going ever since, and I feel like I become a better and better teacher over time.  Last year I was honored to be selected by the UC Berkeley Music Department to teach the songwriting portion of their Songs and Songwriting course.

What types of students have you worked with?

From age 10 to senior citizens.

Describe a recent event you are fond of.

When I teach a group songwriting class at The Monkey House, the Berkeley performance space I own, we celebrate with a performance/party at the end, sharing the students' new songs.  I am always so proud and amazed at the quality of work I hear.

What advice would you give a student looking to hire a teacher in your area of expertise?

Meet them in person, or at least talk on the phone before committing.  Songwriting is hugely personal and you need to feel a strong rapport with your teacher.  Nasty, "tough love" teachers work great in movies, but in real life they will leave you running for the hills!

Lessons offered