There are two main ways that I help songwriters with their work:
as a songwriting coach and as a music producer.
In both cases what is notable about my approach is my focus on the wellbeing of the songs… Whether we are excavating for your true content in a songwriting session, or trying out instrumentation options in the recording studio, I am consistently attuning to the wants and needs of the song, so that I can help you to find its truest and most compelling expression.
The joy of all of this is the courting and development of your unique songwriting voice. It is never my interest to pass along conventions that move you toward passably replicating songs that have already been written. What we seek are the songs that are yours alone to write. Not just lyrically, but also in the realms of melody, harmony, form, tracking basics, vocal takes, choosing overdubs, and even mixing… Every aspect of the songwriting process is an opportunity for you to know your songwriting voice.
You no longer have to be in the Bay Area to benefit from one of my songwriting groups. In this special online forum, I will guide you through a clear and succinct songwriter-focused study of lyrics, melody, harmony, and form, as well as provide a space for you to begin to give and receive feedback with your peers on original songs and songs-in-progress. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to get some direct feedback from me on how to improve your songs and further develop your songwriting. You will have access to 6 helpful lectures on what I consider to be the most crucial tools for songwriting, learn methods to study the songs you most love so that you can begin to learn directly from your favorite songwriters, and find new space to take creative jumps and risks with your own writing. The goal is for you to come away with a deepened friendship with your songwriting voice, as well as one to two new finished songs.
The most efficient songwriting coaching I offer is the one-on-one sessions. The wonderful thing about meeting privately is that we get to work exactly on your edge. I have the luxury of attuning entirely to you and your songs, and we can home in both on what your songs need and what you need to most effectively springboard your writing in general. Students have used these sessions to begin songs, to finish songs, to design live shows, and to prepare a repertoire for entire albums or pieces of musical theater.
I offer one-on-one sessions both in-person at my studio in Oakland and online via Skype.
My most intensive group setting for songwriters is my weekly Songwriter’s Salon. It is compromised of a small number devoted songwriters interested in expanding their songwriting, deepening their listening, and making big strides in their general musicianship. There is a lecture component, where I address some of the more nuanced aspects of songwriting — examples have included modulation, what makes a hook, how to create the right amount of contrast in a bridge, and the use of space in melody — but the true focus of Salon is the workshopping of your new songs and songs-in-progress. Participants witness their songs, as well as their listening abilities, strengthen over time as they practice the careful giving and receiving of feedback.
Salon is held on Sundays 4-6pm in rounds of 7-10 weeks. Many participants are graduates of my Jazzschool course, but by invitation others are welcome as well.
If you are a songwriter living in the Bay Area, and like group settings, you might consider taking my course, Songwriting, at California Jazz Conservatory’s Jazzschool. Once weekly for 9-10 weeks I shine a spotlight on each of the most important components of songwriting, namely: lyrics, melody, prosody (negotiating the relationship between lyrics and melody), diatonic harmony, chord progressions that leave the key, and song form. Additionally, I provide a safe and dynamic space in which you can learn from your favorite songwriters and receive feedback on your original songs and songs-in-progress. This is a great way to establish a foundation in the stuff of songwriting, to springboard your songwriting, and to strengthen under-noticed areas of your songwriting that may be preventing you from writing your most effective songs.
My very favorite thing is not only to help songwriters develop a body of work that reflects an exciting evolution in their songwriting voices, but also to see that body of work all the way through the recording process into a beautiful finished album. This means creating the right sonic home for your songs, by figuring out the right instrumentation for them, finding the right musicians to interpret them, helping everyone work out the best parts to play, and getting positively vibrant takes. When harnessed right, the recording process can be a positively catalytic environment for creative expression and artistic growth. It will be a vibrant recording experience and you'll come away with a phenomenal rendering of your songs that represents you as a songwriter and performer.
Rachel is an excellent songwriting teacher. There are so many factors that contribute to making a good song and she is an expert at all of them. I have received so much valuable feedback from her and she has assisted me in developing many of my songs to be so much stronger than when I first presented them. I am a prolific writer and I came to her class to learn how to go about taking my raw songs and crafting them to make them better. I got that and so much more. My entire world of songwriting has been broadened and changed forever in a wonderful way. I am so grateful I decided to take her class, it’s one of the best investments I’ve made in my career as a singer songwriter. —Bekah Barnett, singer/songwriter
I am delighted and grateful to say that Rachel Efron has been the midwife of many of my songs. In the several years I have had the pleasure and honor of working with her, both the quality of my music and my understanding of its construction have improved dramatically. Warm, empathetic, patient, creative, and brilliant, she is without a doubt one of the finest teachers I have ever had! —Patricia Stamm, songwriter/playwright, psychiatrist
I came to Rachel purely as a tunesmith who thought he had no gift for writing lyrics. Within months she had me writing not only better music but lyrics I’m proud of, and I’ve seen similar improvement in other Efron disciples. Well-versed in styles ranging from cabaret to rock, Rachel, never attempting to force a songwriter into a mold, begins her coaching by asking what a song’s message is and what, if anything, should be changed to strengthen it. She might suggest surgery (say, the deletion or addition of a bridge or a shift to from major to minor to improve the compatibility of sprightly melody and somber words) or merely a small reduction in number of syllables or a change of one or two chords. (Rachel has cured my habit of piling on show-off chromatic harmony at the expense of emotional honesty and gotten three-chord folk-rockers to add harmonic excitement by venturing into secondary dominants and augmented chords.) A superb song doctor, Rachel is also a guide to freeing the imagination. I’ve gotten past creative blocks via such Efron recommendations as scribbling free-associatively in a notebook or leaving the piano bench I’ve been squirming on for a mind-clearing jog in the streets.—Joe Kornfeld, songwriter
I first met Rachel when I took her class on songwriting at the California Jazz Conservatory. It was like I had been standing around the kitchen for a few years really, really hoping to cook and create something musically, and Rachel welcomed me in, lent me some spoons and knives and showed me how to chop. In the three years since, I’ve worked with her frequently at the Salon and defrosting the piano lessons of my youth. We had a weekly phone meeting for over a year to keep me on track to create my demos and bring this project into the world, as well as comb over all my seven potential songs in pre-production. Precise, compassionate, empowering, and rife with hilarious visual metaphors, Rachel is a master teacher and a jewel of an editor. Who else would say, “There’s too much weather in that verse – it’s too Jane Eyre,” and know I would understand, exactly? —Melanie Chopko, singer/songwriter, visual artist
Rachel’s class is one of the most enjoyable and inspiring classes I’ve attended in quite a while. I marveled at her ability to teach and guide musicians of different backgrounds and with different styles - from classical to jazz to popular. I appreciated her well thought-out framework for the class, beginning with the analysis of different types of songs, to creating one’s own songs, and culminating in the workshopping of student’s songs. Songwriting is an intimate process and Rachel established a friendly and supportive environment where students had the freedom to express themselves creatively. The class ended up being the highlight of my week: I not only enjoyed exploring my own creativity, but was inspired by the creative output of the other students. This is a rare and wonderful experience! —Margot Murtaugh, songwriter