What are the Chords: Understanding L2 songwriting

New Directions 25, p. 1-22. Nagoya Institute of Technology.

Abstract: This paper is part of a larger study which aims to better understand the processes involved in L2 songwriting and to assist L2 songwriters to write better songs in English. This is a highly complex area that includes issues from L2 writing, creativity, music composition and many other research disciplines. In this paper, an attempt is made to gain understanding of the L2 songwriting processes by reducing the number of variables studied. Songwriting involves many different processes. In the same way that a song can be thought of as being divided into music and lyrics, so the songwriting process can be conceptually divided into music composition and lyric writing. While many songwriters do both at the same time, it is useful to try to isolate the two processes in order to investigate them separately. This paper reduces the amount of music composition by asking the participants to write lyrics to a supplied piece of music. It does not completely remove the music composition element, as considerable melodic freedom is possible in the task. It presents data from two Ll songwriters and two L2 songwriters. The main research question behind this study is to identify what processes these L1 and L2 songwriters use as they write lyrics to a piece of music.

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