Article Written by Guest Author – Crystal Casey
Many students take music lessons only to learn how to play other people’s music, which is a great accomplishment and a fun and rewarding activity. However, some music students get curious about how composers and songwriters actually write the songs they’re playing and start to think about writing their own music. When students have an interest in learning to create original music and write songs, they can learn all these skills from a qualified instructor. This is also a great way for students to hone their musicianship all around. Songwriting lessons teach novice composers about song form and allow students to put their music theory knowledge into action in ways that they might not get to in regular instrument or vocal lessons.
Can Songwriting Be Learned?
Yes! Like many elements of music, songwriting is a technical skill, and with time and practice it can be learned just like anything else. Anyone can learn to be a songwriter, although those with a penchant for music, rhythm, and language will naturally excel at songwriting. While there are plenty of self-taught songsmiths, private songwriting lessons are the best way to learn how to craft your own music with the best chance for success.
What Makes Something a Song?
By its most broad definition, a song is a combination of melody and words. Unlike an instrumental piece or composition, songs are meant for singing.
To write a song, one needs to create a melody and words to go with it. This would be a bare-bones approach to songwriting, especially in this day and age where music production has become an art and science of its own. Ideally, a modern song would need at the very least a structure, harmonic accompaniment (chords), a melody, and lyrics.
Songs have six components of organization, and this is what is meant by “structure.” Not all songs will have every component. Some songs are even more stream-of-conscious and could be likened to free-verse poetry where there is little to no reliance on structure or form. But, as a general rule, almost all songs will have some or all of these elements:
- Intro – A short introduction that leads into the first verse. The intro sets the tone of the song and prepares the listener for its meaning and overall mood.
- Verse – The verses of a song are the meat of the story that is being told. They typically repeat through the song in terms of melody and rhythm, but the words will change with each new verse.
- Pre-Chorus –Sometimes a small mini-chorus will occur right before the chorus. It is similar in nature to the chorus in that it will remain all or mostly the same upon each repeat.
- Chorus – This is a recurring refrain in the music that is identical or nearly identical each time it is sang. It typically happens between verses and after the bridge. It usually defines the overarching theme or meaning of the song and is the “catchiest” part of the song.
- Bridge – The bridge is a unique section that often occurs after one of the verses and before one of the choruses, usually toward the end. It will sound the most different from any other part of the song, not matching the words, melody, or rhythm of the verses or the choruses.
- Outro – Similar to the intro, this is a short section after the final verse or chorus that denotes the end of the lyrics and the end of the song.
While a song could be anything that is sung, (including but not limited to some poetry,) it is clear that there is really much more to it than that. Most of the time, words put to a melody in random fashion are not enough to capture the hearts and minds of the average listener. We use form and structure to flesh out a song in a carefully organized way.
What Makes a Good Songwriter?
Whether a songwriter is “good” or not is highly subjective. We can see this just by looking at the wide variation of listeners’ tastes in music. Every famous songwriter out there with millions of fans also has millions of haters.
However, a few points to consider would be that skilled songwriters can convey a message to the listener that is understood on an emotional level. They can write a tune that sticks with the listener long after the song has ended. Skilled songwriters have a process that allows them to think objectively about their work enough to complete and share it. All of this is easier said than done. It takes creativity, determination, and tenacity to see a song to completion and share it with the world.
Some obtainable goals for songwriters would be having their song played at a local or community event, getting their song played on the radio or in TV and film through sync licensing, obtaining several streams or going “viral” online with their song, having another artist cover their work, or holding their own in a songwriting contest. Any of these circumstances would rightly lead a songwriter to feel confident in their work.
What is the Best Way to Learn Songwriting?
While it’s true that songwriting can be self-taught through practice and reading literature on the subject, the absolute best way to learn songwriting is with lessons from an experienced instructor.
There are several ways to do this. For example, you can take in-home songwriting lessons where an instructor comes to your house each week. This approach is more hands-on, as the instructor can provide instruction and demonstration right in the same room with you.
Another approach is to take online songwriting lessons. Virtual lessons are a quick and convenient way to regularly meet with an expert in your corner. They can incorporate technology and a wider variety of teaching tools than in-home, but may somewhat lack the synchronicity of a “live” session.
Both in-home and online are highly effective routes with their unique pros and cons, and students can choose either with confidence knowing that they will have a coach to inspire them and provide guidance in the timeless craft of composition.
What Are the Benefits of Songwriting Lessons?
There are many benefits to songwriting and songwriting lessons. The craft itself is beneficial emotionally, as it can help you find your voice and express what is on your mind and heart. It’s also a great workout for your brain as it requires associative and divergent thinking, creativity, organization, and patience. It’s also an excellent way to improve or maintain your language skills.
Songwriting lessons have many added benefits:
- Inspiration – A songwriting instructor can help you get past creative blocks and provide you with tips and techniques to keep the pen flowing.
- Accountability – Your teacher will create attainable tasks with deadlines for you, which will push you to do the work.
- Feedback – You can lock yourself in your room and write your nights away, but without someone to offer feedback, it’s difficult to know if you’re making any progress and how you can improve.
- Encouragement – Songwriting is such a personal vocation, it can be hard to put yourself “out there.” The fact that songwriting, like all art forms, is subjective makes it that much more difficult to discern for yourself how you’re doing. It feels good to have an expert tell you when you’ve done it right.
Are You Ready to Start Learning Songwriting?
If you or your child have an interest in the musical creative process, songwriting lessons are a great way to get started. You will learn the basics of song structure, creative ways to construct a song from the ground up, and be provided with encouragement, inspiration, and feedback. Forbes Music provides private songwriting lessons both in-home and online for beginners and experienced songwriters looking to improve their music skills.