Songwriting

Instructor:   Dana Sipos

Course Description:

Level: Not Applicable  (see Playing Experience Level descriptions at the bottom of the page)

The art of song writing is suspended in the delicate balance between the elusive gift of a song morsel, and the time and effort of continuously practicing your craft. As a process, songwriting can be meditative, playful, emotional, frustrating, satisfying. The practice can be transformative, healing, challenging and it is just that – a practice, and a discipline that improves with time, care and attention.

For this class, we will be exploring techniques and tricks of the trade through various writing exercises such as song prompts, co-writes and timed free writes. We will explore elements of what makes a compelling and classic song through melody, structure, lyrics and incorporate these ideas into the song(s) we will write over the course of the weekend.

I am so looking forward to diving into the art of songwriting with you all, in the nurturing and supportive environment we will create to collaborate, share ideas and learn from each other. Bring your favourite pen and journal!

Dana Sipos

Dana Sipos

Dana Sipos is an acclaimed Canadian songwriter who invites the listener beneath the surface through a nuanced lens that isn't afraid to be out of focus at times. Sipos’ talent for earthen imagery, rich spiralling vocals, and textured finger-picked instrumentation sets the stage for a deeply moving performance. Described as "one of the greatest songwriters out there" (Gold Flake Paint UK) Sipos is a consummate performer and has toured extensively through North America, Europe, the UK and Australia. 

Dana has facilitated youth songwriting workshops in remote communities in northern Canada and worked as a facilitating artist at Learning Through the Arts, an outreach and education program of the Royal Conservatory of Music and at festivals across north America. She is a particpaing Songwriter and Victoria Project Lead for Carnegie Hall's education program, The Lullaby Project.  She was invited to participate in the inaugural Songwriter Residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and has enjoyed the collaborative environment of many arts residencies across North America.

Written partly in residence at the Banff Centre and partly in the early weeks of the pandemic, her 2021 release The Astral Plane, explores imprints of memory, cycles of grief, loss and renewal and the deep connections between inherited trauma and the ecological crisis of our time. It was lauded as a " mesmerizing jewel of an album" (No Depression) and garnered Sipos a Solo Artist of the Year nomination at the 2022 Canadian Folk Music Awards. Dana now resides on traditional Lekwungen Territory among the redwoods and wilds of Vancouver Island, British Columbia and is very excited to be teaching at FAMI for the first time. 

Website Tenderly Skewed Folk

Playing Experience Levels

These guidelines aim to ensure that all camp participants have an enjoyable experience. They represent what your playing capability should be before you take the class (prerequisites).

Classes are generally designed to pace themselves to match the participants' abilities. Level 1 classes aim to proceed at the pace of the slower students in the class. Level 2 and 3 classes aim to move at the pace of the majority of students in the class. Level 4 classes are designed to push the capabilities of all students and will target the pace of the more capable students  Class descriptions that show a range (Levels 2-3) means the material presented is broadly applicable across that range.

LEVEL 1: You are new or relatively new to your instrument. You may be able to play basic chords or scales slowly. You want to learn the basics of the instrument. You have very little experience playing with others.

LEVEL 2: You are competent with basic chords and/or basic scales. You can keep rhythm and/or play basic melodies and/or sing and play at the same time if the song is familiar. You generally need the chords or melody to be written out in order to play along. You have some experience playing with others.

LEVEL 3: You are reasonably comfortable with most chords, basic major and minor scales, and can play at an appropriate tempo for songs. You are aware of time signatures, song keys, and know that there are chords called 6th, 7th, 11th, etc even if you can’t play them all. You are comfortable maintaining good rhythm and are willing to taking breaks while jamming with others, even if the breaks don't always turn out the way you planned. You may be hoping to take your playing up to the next level of performing with a group or band (beyond jamming) and you want to further improve your technique and speed.

LEVEL 4: You are skilled on your instrument and have a good understanding of musical concepts including scales, arrangements, harmonies and some improvisation. You play lead and back-up with a steady rhythm and can play skillfully with others. You know there is life further up the neck on your instrument and have some capability in that world. You have performing experience, can hold a tune, and can harmonize.