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How do I Become a Songwriter?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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When people search for how to become a songwriter on the Internet they’re likely to get lots of commercial offers for the five, ten, or twelve easy steps to fame and fortune by writing songs. These advertisements are misleading since they suggest this profession is easily achieved. This isn’t always the case; few people become a songwriter without musical knowledge, and many write numerous songs without recognition. The music business is a hard industry, and lots of musicians write their own work, which means demand for songwriters is not that high. Some people do find success in this work, and attempting it demands professionalism, talent, and good luck.

Musical knowledge is important to become a songwriter. People should read and write music and understand music history so they aren’t simply rewriting the same tired tunes. No matter what area a person wants to write songs in, getting familiar with the history of contemporary music is important, through informal or formal training. It’s suggested people take every opportunity to listen to jazz, rock, gospel, and country from the past and present to avoid repeats. Some people are savant musicians without the ability to read music; if so, they’ll need to hire writers or use computer programs to write down what they compose.

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Songwriting, when lyrics are included, is a combination of poetry and music. People must find just the right words, and the right notes to become a songwriter of note, and studying poetry is advised. Many people are stronger at music or lyrics and may collaborate with a partner. These arrangements can work very well, but partners should obtain copyrights in both names when songs are finished.

Unless a person plans to perform his/her own work, he/she will become a songwriter by producing what is a called a lead sheet. This is a very simple combination of lyrics and the notes that accompany them, and chords, or the basic harmony accompanying lyrics. With even basic musical knowledge most people can write a lead sheet, by asking themselves how the song is sung, and what chords goes with it.

How to write the lead sheet can be determined on many instruments; guitars and pianos or keyboards are the best choices to determine chords. Lead sheets usually have time signatures too. The rest of the song would be interpreted when played, and could be interpreted in many ways depending on the artist performing it.

Songwriters wishing to get recognition usually must submit work to agents or recording companies. It’s advised that people never sell their songs but retain rights to them. If the song eventually gets recorded, this is more profitable and people will receive royalties each time it is played in most of the world. It can take many submissions before a person ever will become a songwriter that is recognized, and some people could be songwriters for life without achieving recognition. Good lyrics and good harmony may help, but the music industry is very fickle.

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