Genius’ Deconstructed

Submitted by Mike Lembke

If you haven’t checked out any Genius Deconstructed videos yet – get on it! “The Making of Thank U, Next” is great to share with kids and helps us remember that making music is really about having fun and sharing an emotional connection with friends, artists, and fans!

Stay up to date with the latest music trends. Below is Genius’ Deconstructed series YouTube Playlist

Genius’ Deconstructed YouTube Playlist

Target Method Lyric Writing

Submitted by Anne Joseph

Anybody having a hard time getting your students to write songs? Well, for me, the Target Method really helps my kids with getting words onto paper and allowing creativity to flow. I used this method with my class, and we won the Little Kids Rock songwriting contest in our age group and category!

First you start off by drawing a 3 ring target. The most inner ring is where you write the topic of the song i.e. Food, The Beach, Love, Friendship, etc.
Then in the middle ring, you ask your students to call out words that first come to mind when you say the topic word (food) i.e. greasy, delicious, plenty, fruit, snacks, junk, tasty, fried, chips, baked.
After establishing those words, you then choose out of that middle selection one word (i.e. baked) to then expound upon in the last ring i.e. cake, dessert, apple pies, sweet, brownies, cookies, filling.

Now, you have a whole bank of words, that you came up with as a class. You task your students to write 2-4 lines using the words on the board. After some time, the students present their 2-4 lines with a melody they have come up with, or some students may rap their lines. As the teacher, you discern which melody is catchy, simple, and easily played. You also establish the notes that are being sung/played, the rhythm, beat, & the tempo.

A student’s example could be:
Thinking about food gets me hungry all the time
The grease, the taste of it is now on my mind
Chips, brownies, cakes, I would choose
Even though my mom says “Eat more fruit!”

Give it a try! And if there are other methods you use to get your kids to start writing, please let me know!

Example “Target Method Lyric Writing” 

Makey Makey Beats

Turn apples, bananas, and muffins into drum triggers  – Submitted by Javier Lozada

Looking for a new way to engage young participants?

Here at the Everett Studio Clubhouse, we use the Makey Makey as a way to introduce young participants into thinking about rhythm and grooves without being intimidated by the interface provided by the usual midi controller + DAW. In a sense, it provides a distraction from the pressure they may feel to “get it right” in the first try. We like to redefine lunch table beats and the use of Apple products by setting up the Makey Makey kit during their lunchtime and use the food items they are currently eating as pieces of a drum kit. The aesthetic of the kit is what usually draws young participants in to participate even if they have never shown interest in the music program. This also helps them develop 21st-century skills when they have to use logic and their knowledge in science to figure out what items could be conducive or how to wire the Makey Makes in a way that makes sense!

Items required:

  • Computer
  • Makey Makey Kit ($50)

The Makey Makey kit comes with proprietary software which lets you use it as a virtual instrument but here we like to use NI Battery or any other software samplers in order to be able to use custom samples which are more relatable and appropriate for the genres they are used to.

Warning: High Schoolers may love it too

Update: Using a Makey Makey kit + Logic’s musical typing I was able to pair it up with a sampler and use custom samples

Music Production for Large Groups

Got a big group for your studio – why not have them all contribute on a track?!

Sometimes you end up with 15 beginner participants in your studio and they all want to make a beat right now! Music Production for Large Groups gives you some tips on how to create a “patchwork quilt” music production project. This allows many different participants with different tastes, preferences, ideas and skills all to contribute to one big tapestry… your final track!  

In addition participants:

  • Learn basic music production and songwriting techniques
  • Learn collaboration while working towards an end goal
  • Are inspired to work on solo music production projects
  • Produce enough tracks to release an album

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How to…

  • Establish:
    • End goal/s (i.e. “Album Release” party and/or performance at end of the semester)
    • Session days and times. Meet with the group on a regular basis.
    • Participants who are interested in contributing (include as many as possible)
    • Themes or topics, decided upon as a group and influenced by the music mentors/staff
  • Participants collaboratively produce style/genre, samples, sounds, and beats
  • Break down the beat into smaller sections or individual elements for participants to perform/record
    • For example, to produce the drum track:
      • Participant “A” performs bass drum pattern on trigger pad
      • Participant “B” performs snare drum pattern
      • Participant “C” performs hi-hat pattern
      • Participant “D, E and F” record claps on 2 & 4
      • Etc…
    • Repeat this process for bass and chords
      • Participants layer single notes on guitar, bass, and/or piano
    • Involve different participants for each Verse, Chorus, and Bridge. Mentors continually keep the momentum going.
  • Add lyrics once beat is finalized
    • Download a rhyming dictionary App on iPads
    • Each participant writes lyrics to contribute to the project (i.e. 1 or 2 bars worth of lyrics)
    • Each participant performs their lyrics in the isolation booth right away. This gets them hooked, motivated, and involved.
  • Mix and finalize the track
    • Participants who don’t want to sing/perform can help with the final mix by editing and adding effects.
    • Participants can also get involved in creating album art, photo/video, etc., to help support the album’s creation.
  • Repeat this process until participants have produced several tracks
  • Rehearse and prepare for an album release party, and have all participants perform their original songs
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Collaborative Music Production Projects

Tips for getting participants to work together as a team to complete a music production.

Objective: Encourage collaboration between participants who have specific Music Production skills

  • Participants will strengthen their individual music production skills
  • Learning how to work as a group (with minimal mentor/staff involvement) towards an end goal
  • Collaborative led projects involving participants with specific music production skills including:
    • Beat maker/producer
    • Lyric writer
    • Singer/rapper
    • Instrumentalist
    • Technical/engineer
    • Graphic design and/or video production

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Solo Artist Music Production Projects

Give participants a true “indie-label” experience by helping an up-and-coming artist complete an original album

Help guide an independent, solo artist through all aspects of a music production including songwriting, lyric writing, production, engineering, performance, and marketing/promoting their brand. These projects give independent and self-directed participants the freedom to produce an original album while having support from staff members along the way. 

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How to…

  • Create an invite only in-house “record label” for dedicated participants 
    • Solo artists are invited to be part of “record label” 
  • Meet with Solo Artist to discuss their project timeframes, goals and outcomes 
  • Artist is responsible for all songwriting, lyrics, production, content, ideas, artwork, etc.
    • Coach the artist on production process, needs, and goal setting
  • Recording sessions should be booked in advance and as needed
  • Support, support, support! And keep Solo Artist on task 
  • Help troubleshoot with music industry questions like:
    • Publishing album online 
    • Marketing/promotion on social media 
    • Booking performances
    • Etc.
  • Record a “commercially ready” original album and post for sale (iTunes, etc) 
  • Help artist book performance and market their album to friends, family and supporters 
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3 Quick Songwriting Activities

Three proven ways to get participants engaged in songwriting right away 

Songwriting and especially lyric writing can be a daunting experience especially if a participant has never done it before. The three examples below get participants writing original songs as quickly as possible using techniques used by professional songwriters. Participants will learn basic songwriting/lyric writing skills and techniques and work as a team to create original songs/lyrics and record/perform their own original songs!

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How to… 

A “blank canvas” can be intimidating for even the most experienced artist. The following examples have built-in “creative limitations” to help keep participants focused on completing the task at hand and sets them up for success. Keep your participants accountable to work within the boundaries of the writing activity or songwriting technique and watch how it helps drive participants’ creativity. 

Here are 3 examples of successful songwriting activities:

Example 1: “Just write” – Encourage participants to explore stream-of-consciousness lyric writing. 

  • Pick any topic (really ANY topic… e.g. “water bottle” was used once and worked great!)
  • For 5-10 minutes, participants write in a notebook (or on their phones) without stopping.
  • Encourage participants to go back through their notes and look for lines or words that jump out.
    • Help them look for metaphors or build a story behind the theme they chose.
  • Participants can then rewrite or continue to develop lyrics into a full song.

Example 2: “Scaffolding” – Create an original song using the song form and chord changes of another song.

  • Participants choose a song they like and are familiar with and analyze the song form and chords.
  • Participants choose a new theme/topic and write new lyrics to the verse, chorus, bridge, etc.
  • Participants then take their new lyrics and rewrite the melody of the song.
    • Optional: You can also choose a new chord progression, key, tempo, and/or whatever works
  • Record and/or perform!

Example 3: “Changing Perspective” – This activity places a participant/s in their peer’s shoes, encouraging empathy and shift in perspective and voice.

  • Divide participants into pairs.
  • Participants share a “small moment” experience from their day.
    • Optional: Pairs can pick a topic or theme so their lyrics are similar.
  • Loop a beat or chord progression (whatever feels right for the group).
  • Each individual writes lyrics about their partner’s experience (in first person).
  • Participants then add or change tempo/beat/melodies to adjust to the mood.
  • Participants can then rewrite or continue to develop lyrics into a full song.
  • Record and/or perform!
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Key Players in the Music Industry

Easy to understand definitions of who’s who in the music biz (for your youth participants)

Help your participants understand who the key players are in the Music Industry and the insider lingo. Examples include: What’s the role of a Producer, Artists and Repertoire (A&R), Songwriter, Record Label, and Music Publishing?

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How to… 

Discuss the different roles with your participants or bring in special guest lectures: 


  • A person whose job is to oversee and manage the recording (i.e. “production”) of an artist’s music 
  • A producer has many roles that may include, but are not limited to:
    • Gathering ideas for the project
    • Selecting songs and musicians
    • Coaching the artist and musicians in the studio
    • Managing the recording sessions
    • Supervising the entire process through mixing and mastering
  • Over the latter half of the 20th Century, producers have also taken on a wider entrepreneurial role, often with responsibility for the budget, schedules, and negotiations. 
  • The scope of responsibility may be one or two songs or an artist’s entire album. In that case, the producer will typically develop an overall vision for the album and how the various songs may interrelate. 
  • Today, the recording industry has two kinds of producers with two different roles:   
    • Executive Producer – Oversees a project’s finances
    • Music/Creative Producer – Oversees the creation of the music

Artists and Repertoire (A&R)

  • The division of a record label that is responsible for talent-scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists
  • It also acts as a liaison between artists and the record label.


  • Someone who writes the lyrics or music for songs or compositions. 
    • To further clarify, someone who writes only lyrics may be called a lyricist, while someone who writes only music may be called a composer
  • Songwriters of the past commonly composed, arranged, and played their own songs. More recently, however, the pressure to produce popular hits has distributed responsibility between a number of people. Popular culture songs may be written by group members, but are now often written by staff writers: songwriters directly employed by music publishers. 
  • Some songwriters serve as their own music publishers, while others have outside publishers.

Record Label

  • Usually pays for project, markets/promote, tour support
  • Indie record labels (as opposed to major record labels) may be small, localized, and “independent” (“indie”), or they may be part of large international media groups, or somewhere in between. 
  • The largest 4 record labels are called major labels. A sub-label is a label that is part of a larger record company, but it functions under a different name.

Music Publishing

  • Music publishing is the owning and exploiting of songs in the form of musical copyrights. 
  • “Exploiting a musical copyright” means that the owner of a particular composition (the music and the lyrics) is putting that song to use in a way that generates money in the form of:
    • Mechanical royalties
    • Performance royalties
    • Licenses for synchronization
    • Licenses for sampling
    • Print rights for sheet music

Additional Resources: 

  • Recommended Reading: “Copyright Handbook for Music Educators and Directors” A Practical, Easy-to-Read Guide By Pam Phillips and Andrew Surmani (ISBN 13: 978-1-4706-3598-5) 

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