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Pat Pattison is a Professor at Berklee College of Music, where he teaches Lyric Writing and Poetry.

In addition to his four books, Songwriting Without Boundaries, Writing Better Lyrics, The Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure, and The Essential Guide to Rhyming, Pat has developed three online lyric writing courses, and one on poetry, available through Berklee's Online School. He has filmed a series of lectures and masterclasses, available through Songwork.com and has written over 50 articles for various magazines and blogs. 

Pat continues to present songwriting clinics across the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Several of his students have won Grammys, including John Mayer and Gillian Welch.

Interview with Pat Pattison

How does it feel to know that some of your students have become so successful as to have won Grammys?
Great! I’m so proud of them. But for every John Mayer or Gillian Welch, there are literally hundreds of solid professionals working in the industry who have come through my classes, and use the tools they gathered there on a daily basis. That’s what feels best – having a positive impact on people’s lives.


And I learn a ton from my students: the better they are, the more challenging it is to find ways to help their songs get even better. It always makes me go deeper and look harder.

How did you get started with music? Is it something that has always been part of your life?

My mom and dad were both in barbershop quartets and in the church choir. Lots of music in the house. They used to stand together in the bedroom door after tucking us in and sing standards to us in beautiful harmony. Mom was an alto, dad a tenor (or “nine-and-a-halfer” he’d say and grin). And could they ever fox-trot. They looked like one person gliding across the floor, mom moving mostly backwards.

I got hooked on Elvis and did my first air guitar (with a tennis racquet and a green necktie for a strap) was to Heartbreak Hotel. I didn’t start playing until college, but I won best dancer in my high-school, mostly, I think, because my girlfriend was a pretty hot dancer. My sister taught me the lindy and the jitterbug.

I started playing out while I was a graduate student in Philosophy at Indiana University. I learned Four Strong Winds  by Ian and Sylvia and walked down to the Owl coffeehouse, waited my turn, and played it to a smattering of applause. Not so encouraging, since the audience was mostly stoned hippies who like almost everything. I knew I wasn’t going to do much solo, so I decided on reinforcements and put a band together with three woman music students there. Nice harmonies. Cover songs, but odd things, like tunes from Orff’s Carmina Burana.

I moved to a position teaching Philosophy at The University of Notre Dame, where I put another band together, bringing in two of the women from the Bloomington band, plus a male singer/guitarist. We called ourselves The Crystal Ship and started sending tapes out. “We only consider bands doing original music,” was the common response, so I started writing songs for the band. How hard could it be?

I continued to put bands together after I left Notre Dame. I moved to New Mexico and put an original band together I called featherrain. We got some offers, but the best offer was from Berklee, where, after years on the road, I interviewed and was offered a job teaching
English. Best thing that could’a happened. I’ve been there ever since, and it’s been an amazing education. Teaching is the best learning vehicle ever. Teaching songwriting has made me use the skills I developed in analytical philosophy (Doctoral Candidate) and Literary Criticism (Masters) to see what makes a song work – to extract tools and principles my students will really be able to use.

To date I've written four online courses for Berklee's award winning online school, with a fifth debuting in April. Three courses on lyric writing, one on poetry, and one on metaphor.My fourth book, Songwriting Without Boundaries, was released January 9th, 2012, bringing the total to four:

Songwriting Without Boundaries
Writer's Digest Books, 2012

Writing Better Lyrics
Writer's Digest Books, 2nd Edition, 2009
1st Edition, October, 1995

The Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure
Berklee Press, distributed by Hal Leonard, January, 1992

The Essential Guide to Rhyming
Berklee Press, distributed by Hal Leonard January, 1992

For me, writing a book is simply a way to think more clearly and systematically. I always learn more than I imagined I could. It's a wonderful adventure, and teaching at Berklee College of Music is an inspiration. I love it there  the students are curious and passionate, always stimulating me to learn more.

For me, everything works together; writing, teaching and touring.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting with music or lyric writing?

Don’t be afraid to write crap – it’s the best fertilizer. The more you have, the more likely something wonderful will spring up. Pay attention as you write. Listen. Imitate at first, then, go from there. You might take a look at my website, patpattison.com, under “Lyric Tips,” and while you’re there, click on “online courses” – http://patpattison.com/patsonlinecourses/

You should also check out songwork.com, a video site I’ve put together with Steve Seskin.



eBooks found: 2
Pat Pattison's Songwriting: Essential Guide to Rhyming: A Step-by-Step Guide to Better Rhyming for Poets and Lyricists ePub (Adobe DRM) download by Pat Pattison
List Price: $16.99 Our price: $12.99
Songwriting Without Boundaries: Lyric Writing Exercises for Finding Your Voice ePub (Adobe DRM) download by Pat Pattison
Songwriting Without Boundaries
Pat Pattison
Writers Digest Books, December 2011
ISBN: 9781599632971
Format: ePub
List Price: $17.99 Our price: $13.99
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