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IRA MARLOWE has taught songwriting at UC Berkeley, Blue Bear School of Music, and the Monkey House.  He promotes an intuitive approach to songwriting, believing that our best creative impulses come from our unconscious minds.  The conscious, analytical brain is then very useful as an editor, shaping raw inspiration into a finished song. 

Ira served four years as songwriter-in-residence for the SF Mime Troupe, the Tony Award-winning political theater ensemble.  His songs have appeared in places as far flung as NPR, the Dr. Demento Show, The Songs Inspired by Literature Project, Reader Rabbit kids' DVDs and the Diner Dash video game series.  He briefly had a deal with Dreamworks Records and knows dark secrets about a famous studio drummer.  Michael Laskow of called him, "One of the three or four best lyricists on the planet."

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Some things we'll look at  in all classes:

Ways to generate ideas     Lyrical focus     Lyrical details     Setting up choruses and hooks

Using chord substitutions     Using "slash chords"     Varying melodic intervals

Being fresh / avoiding cliches / exploiting cliches

Metaphor and simile     Motifs and cultural memes     Using verses as templates 

Moving between multiple keys     Mixing lyrical rhythms     The power of POV

Building contrast between sections     "The Art of Stealing"

...and more.

If this sounds heady and technical, it really isn't.  It's about creative play, experimentation, learning new tricks to try, new ways to stumble onto happy accidents.  Above all, it's about developing your own creative instincts and learning to trust them.

Ongoing bi-weekly drop-in Zoom class:

Anyone is welcome to join this ongoing bi-weekly song swap and friendly group critique. .Each class begins with an assignment for a new song, sent in advance—something lyrical (a category, subject, title, etc.) as well as a musical trick to try (a certain chord change, time signature, bass line, tuning, etc…) 

Then the class (limit six students) meets and we share our songs.  I offer my notes and the rest of the class gives feedback as well.  Then I dish out a new assignment and either two- or four weeks weeks later we do it all again. 

(As always, I’m not that concerned that you stick to the assignment, only that you come to class with a song.)


People are really liking this because it keeps them writing without the pressure of having to do something every week.


The cost is $40 per class.  


Classes meet on alternating Wednesday evenings, starting at 7

but are limited to six participants.. 

The length of each class depends of the number present.

Private one-on-one lessons, taught in person or via Zoom, are $95/hr.

Check out  some songs I wrote during my

Song-a-Week Challenge of 2016.  (lyrics included)


Email: [email protected] 

Call or text:  Ira Marlowe   (510) 460-0063

In this eight-session class, we'll look at sixteen great songs and the melodic, harmonic, rhythmic and lyrical ideas that make them so special.  This workshop includes in-class exercises and games, weekly assignments, and the sharing of your new work for friendly feedback--all ending in a performance party at The Monkey House.

Please scroll down to read reviews and testimonials.


(Dates to be determined)

A Zoom class will also be offered if there is sufficient demand.

$350 for new students, $320 for returning students.


"Ira is very knowledgeable about so many aspects of songwriting and performance. He is a fabulous resource. He really helped my songwriting in areas I need help in and suggested other ways I can make it better. He listens and observes very well and is in tune with what students need for improvements. And he does it with good nature and humor."                                                    

 --David Kim 


“I have found Ira Marlowe's coaching sessions to be supportive, motivating, and challenging. With his encouragement, I have become more confident in my ability to explore chord substitutions, maintain high standards for every line in the song, and "let go" of a good lyrical phrase and/or melody to make room for a better one. I am grateful for Ira's instruction.  I believe it has helped me to become a better songwriter.”                                                                

--Kelly Kitchell

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.

                                                                                    —Tom Duncan

"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!"

                                                                                     --Brian Hicks

“Ira engineered, mixed and co-produced the EP A Little Bit Sane by my band Ponder. He's great at making suggestions but keeps his ego out of it, steadfastly focusing on making the artist's vision come to life. His suggestions on arranging had a significant impact on more than one of my tunes; one so much so that I gave him a co-writing credit. Likewise, many other small suggestions like something as simple as an added chord to a progression or a slight lyric change really made the difference. Ira is a master story teller within a song and a melody craftsman. I can't recommend him enough.”                                            

--Amos Glick

"Taking Ira's class was the highlight of my week for 8 weeks. You can count on a relaxed yet structured curriculum. You'll get weekly songwriting assignments, instructional handouts, insightful analysis and feedback on your originals and helpful ways to think about song titles, song structure, song themes etc. My personal favorites were analyzing recorded songs (followed with a related, song writing assignment) and the writing worksheets that played with idiomatic verbs and metaphors. There was always much laughter as we shared our creative concoctions. Two of the songs I wrote will be on my forth coming CD and I am very proud of both of them. I highly recommend this class especially since Ira is a very gifted songwriter and instructor. It was money and time well spent."

                                                                                   --Edie O'Hara

"I love this class. Ira makes everyone, no matter their experience level, feel comfortable and safe expressing themselves through varied fun and engaging exercises. He offers excellent suggestions and critiques on the songs that vary depending on the individuals needs. It also takes place in The Monkey House, a great intimate venue with a stage, sound and lighting setup that provide a real performance experience. Very highly recommended."

                                                                                   --Michael McGovern

"I did this course in 2017 and had a great time! Each week if felt like I was given a lot of inspiring ideas and great practical suggestion for how chip away at the process of song writing. Ira does a great job facilitating the group dynamic, brings kindness to every comment and has a real knack for pushing you in the right direction. I will do this course again someday."

                                                                                    --Peter Alexander


"Ira uses many clever games and techniques to put students into their creative mojo. From word-association games to presentation styling to working through chord progressions, people of all ages and backgrounds generally come away surprised at how much creativity these tricks and techniques pulled out of them and onto a stage. Newly hatched musical expressions keep popping up on the Monkeyhouse stage, lovingly overseen by a master musician, teacher, and song writer. Ira's songs are pretty magical also. He has at least two that convey a story without ever mentioning the key word that every listener knows and imagines in their mind, all the more keenly because it is never said. One song is about werewolves. The other is about, ahem, an organ. Writing an entire song without once mentioning the central theme by name shows a rare skill with language."

                                                                                    --Peter Ferber


"Ira has that rare ability to be both an extraordinary artist and very capable teacher.  Not only is he able to quickly articulate weaknesses in music or lyrics, but he does so in a gently constructive way that challenges and invites the student to raise their game".                                                                        

--John O’Mahoney


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Songwriting is very personal and you need to find the teacher right for YOU.  Feel free to call or text with any questions 510-460-0063

“I have found Ira Marlowe's coaching sessions to be supportive, motivating, and challenging. With his encouragement, I have become more confident in my ability to explore chord substitutions, maintain high standards for every line in the song, and "let go" of a good lyrical phrase and/or melody to make room for a better one. I am grateful for Ira's instruction.  I believe it has helped me to become a better songwriter.”                                                                

--Kelly Kitchell

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