Songwriting is a LEARNABLE Skill!
Most people think that you need to be born with tons of talent to learn to write your own songs but that’s a total myth!
Songwriting is a LEARNABLE skill – just like any other musical skill (with the exception, perhaps, of perfect pitch – and even that is arguably learnable).
A couple of things you should do right off the bat are:
– Learn as much as possible about your main songwriting instrument.
If you intend to compose your songs on a guitar, learn to play it well. Knowing how to use your instrument will greatly increase your ability to express yourself.
It’s not really vital that you learn to play super technically but at least cover enough ground to where you can call upon your musical vocabulary to “say” what’s on your mind. This includes learning as many chords as you can, improving your listening skills, working on your sense of timing and rhythm and some scales to help you improvise. It’s good to get familiar with a lot of different styles of music even if you only plan to write in one particular style. It’s crazy how much an unexpected chord you learned from messing around with jazz tunes, for example, can add to one of your compositions.
It definitely won’t kill you to sit down with some music theory and chordbooks but the best thing to do is to simply copy and play your favorite artist’s songs. That way you’re learning while having fun and it doesn’t seem like this big chore or “practice”.
Likewise, if you want to write your own songs using the piano, you have to become somewhat proficient with the piano or you’ll be stuck with only a few ways to express your musical thoughts. Learning at least the basics of SOME kind of chord based instrument (piano, guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, etc.) is really important because you won’t be able to hear the harmonies if you’re only working with melody or bass. Why is that even important? Because when you pick the perfect chords for your song, the music itself will INSPIRE you. Trust me on this one, great music feeds upon itself and you need to see the “whole picture”, if you will, to make the most of your songwriting efforts.
Study your favorite songwriters
Like I said earlier, you can learn a lot just by emulating your favorite singers and songwriters.
Learn to play their songs and analyze the content. What are they doing with their voices when they sing? What are they doing on their instruments?
Study these nuances and apply them to your songs. It’s OK to copy them. I think it was Louis Armstrong, one of the greatest musicians of all time, who said that there’s no such thing as copying, just borrowing. Or it might’ve been B.B. King. Doesn’t matter – even if all you wanted to do was sound exactly like you’re favorite musical artist, you’d never totally succeed because you’re YOU and the better you get at music, the more your personality will come out in it, whether you like it or not!
Eventually, your songwriting will evolve beyond imitation and into your own sound and rather than copying directly, you’ll look for tidbits from various musicians to incorporate into your style in a unique way that’s yours and yours alone.
Getting a little help from technology
Technology and the internet make it easy to get quick access to a world-class education in just about any subject, including songwriting. A good songwriting course or some well-designed software can teach you a lot of what you need to know about composing your own music without ever having to leave your house.
A few things you should look for in songwriting software include:
- Teaches how to sing in harmony
- Has a recording feature (SUPER important!!)
- Teaches the basics of reading music and key signatures (fundamental music theory)
You see, being a songwriter means that you should have good musicianship, and your songwriting software should teach you at least the basics of the music language ON TOP OF any specific songwriting techniques. The best analogy I can come up with is basketball. Michael Jordan was an incredibly talented basketball player but even before his basketball skills there was an amazing athlete. In fact, you probably know that he went on to play baseball and golf very well. He had a solid foundation, which is what music theory gives to a musician.
I’ve tested a few courses and I like Singorama’s Songwriting Software. (You can check it out HERE if you want)
Keep practicing and staying passionate, and eventually your emotions and personality will begin to come through in your compositions in a way that makes other people really FEEl something. That’s what it’s all about!