Pianist - Songwriter

Songwriting: Your Best First Advancements

What’s the most effective way to learn songwriting? Is it like other topics that you might learn in a college school?

I taught music for years in public school and then at university, but I don’t believe that school is the best way to learning everything.

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True, if you want to learn to be a doctor, a dentist or an economist, school is the only route available to you to become a professional.

But I’m not necessarily talking about “becoming professional” here. If you like cooking, becoming better (not necessarily professional) might come from going to cooking school, but your best first advancements would come from learning from a good cook — your mother or father, for example.

If you like carpentry, you might go to a trade school, but your best first advancements would likely come from a skilled relative who is willing to show you what they know.

For songwriting, you can go to a music school, but I think the best first advancements comes from using your observational skills — by listening to excellent songs, and becoming curious about why they sound so great.

A course in a music school might teach you how and what to listen for, and show you all the intricacies of music, but if you aren’t listening daily to good songs, all that instruction will be for naught.

Nothing replaces basic curiosity as a way for improving songwriting skills. If listening to someone else’s songwriting efforts doesn’t get your own creative juices excited and flowing, you need to put the magnifying glass on why you want to be a songwriter in the first place.

In a way, you should be putting yourself in your own “songwriting school” by doing the following:

  1. Listen to good songs daily, and try to figure out what makes them so good.
  2. Talk to other songwriters about what they do, how they do it, why they do it.
  3. Read what famous and well-regarded songwriters say about writing music. (Online searches will reveal a treasure trove of thoughts and opinions that you can use as part of your daily improvements as a songwriter.)

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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One Comment

  1. One other source for hearing the thoughts of songwriters – podcasts! Two I like are “Song Exploder”, where the band dissects and explains the choices and inspirations for one song, and “The Working Songwriter”, an interview-based podcast. The interviewer is a musician himself, so songwriting processes come up frequently in the discussions. Any others out there?

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