By: Barry DeVorzon
Learning how to write songs is not unlike learning how to play an instrument. The difference is, you have a teacher when you’re learning to play an instrument and you don’t have one when you’re learning to write songs. Almost anyone can learn to play an instrument, but not everyone can learn to write a song. The reason being, the ability to write songs is a God-given talent, you either have it or you don’t. That being said, everyone who learns to play an instrument will not always have the talent that is required to become an extraordinary musician and in fairness, the same can be said for songwriting.
The songwriter has to accept that he is both the student and the teacher. Which brings to mind “what came first, the chicken or the egg”. How does the songwriter teach himself? A good place to start is to listen carefully to the songs that are currently popular. When I say carefully I mean the melodies, the rhythms, the syncopations, the chords, the lyrics, the choice of words, and the rhymes and inner rhymes. You might also listen carefully to the songs and songwriters you most admire from the past. One of the ways you learn to teach yourself is by learning from others.
The other and perhaps most important way to learn how to write songs is to write songs. Here once again, it is similar to learning to play an instrument, “practice makes perfect” and practice for the songwriter, is writing songs. Those early songs may be far from perfect but you took the time to write them and that’s how you learn. Once you realize you can do it, you have to try and do it better. This is a very competitive world that only rewards the exceptional. Good is rarely good enough so your goal if you want to be a successful songwriter is to write great songs. That’s not easy to do and even with a lot of effort, most songs turn out to be another lesson in songwriting, but if you refuse to settle for good, the great ones will come along.
It also helps to write with other songwriters who will bring a different energy and approach to the song. Great things can happen when two talented songwriters are on the same page with the same goal, and the finished song will be different than one written on your own. I’m not necessarily saying it will be better, but it will be different. The rewarding thing about this experience is that it’s more fun to have someone to suffer with and you learn from each other in the process.
If your aspiration is to write exceptional songs that will touch others, you must use every song, every writer you work with, and every related experience to improve and grow your songwriting skills. Follow these rules, resist settling for good, and be willing to do whatever it takes, and you will become a professional songwriter. Taking this serious approach to the art of songwriting will serve you well and ultimately, will be the path to success.