The journey to becoming a professional songwriter is certainly not an easy one, but it sure is fulfilling. Becoming a professional songwriter, one that has Rihanna and other Billboard artists on speed dial, does not happen overnight. It happens after years of trying, failing, then getting back on your feet and trying again, and again, until you succeed.
Truth be told, there is no exact recipe for success when it comes to songwriting. Whether your ultimate goal is to write songs for popular artists, or for Broadway, the number one thing you need to do is commit to your goal and start thinking and acting like a professional. But what exactly does make the difference between a novice and a professional songwriter?
Learn how to play an instrument
Although a good songwriter does not necessarily have to be a good singer, or know how to play an instrument, these are skills that will make your journey that much easier. When you are writing a song, having a guitar or a keyboard nearby, so that you can test and hear how the melody would sound together with the lyrics, will help you better your technique.
While everyone’s songwriting process is different, most writers do prefer to have an instrument around, as it helps not only with writing but also with saving time and money, as you don’t need to hire someone to practice with you.
You don’t need to master an instrument to become a skilled songwriter, but learning the basics can help you come a long way. Buy a second-hand guitar or keyboard, search online for some free courses and start learning. In a matter of weeks, you will be able to master a few chords, that will help breathe life into your songs from the very beginning.
Master song structures and rhyme schemes
Think of the song structure as the recipe that you need to use, in order for the final product to be successful. If you don’t know what the difference between verses, bridges, and choruses is, then you won’t be able to construct songs that appeal to the public.
While the audience is usually not aware of what song structures and rhyme schemes are, they will notice when a song lacks structure, simply because it will seem like something is wrong. Catchy songs on the radio are catchy for a reason: they combine the basic elements of a song in a specific way that is appealing to the public. Some examples, along with popular songs that are written in that style, are:
AABA (Verse/ Verse/ Chorus/ Verse) – “Surfer Girl” by The Beach Boy
ABAB (Verse/ Chorus/ Verse/ Chorus) – “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple
ABABCB (Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Bridge / Chorus) – “Hot N Cold” by Katy Perry
Use technology to your advantage
Gone are the days when the only tools a songwriter had were a pen, a notebook, and a guitar. Now, technology has reached a point where you can have an entire studio in your back pocket. The internet is full of tools that you can use, to write down your ideas, record samples, generate song concepts, or make sure your texts are as perfectly written as possible.
Not leveraging those tools to your advantage would be a huge mistake, as you need to work smart, not hard, in order to become successful in any domain. You can use apps such as GarageBand and HumOn, to generate song ideas and melodies that go with your lyrics, Evernote for writing down lyric ideas and anything that inspires you, as well as Trust My Paper, Grammarly and Grab My Essay, to ensure your lyrics are correctly written.
Acknowledge the importance of networking
Leslie Dean, a writer at Studicus shares a piece of advice: “If you want to make it in the music industry, you need to know some people, who know some people. This is how business works in many other industries as well, so you better start networking from day one “. With that being said, attend events, go to places you know may be frequented by people in the industry, and start building bridges. Otherwise, years may go by, until you finally manage to get your demo heard.
If you are a good singer as well, try going to open night and sing some of your songs. Agents are known for frequenting those places scouting for new talent. And if they find you, it’s only a matter of time until you get your major breakthrough.
Doing this will also help keep you motivated and push yourself to create, create, create. After all, you can’t afford meeting a producer or agent, and showing them your newest work from…2 years ago. You will need fresh content that is in line with what the audience likes these days.
Don’t limit yourself to just writing songs for albums
Becoming a successful writer does not only mean getting your song on the radio, sung by one of the freshest faces in the music industry. There is so much more you can actually do with your songs. If you find it more appealing, you can start writing music for theatre plays, or musicals, and maybe even become as famous as Stephen Schwartz, or write music for movies.
Once you understand that you are not limited to writing songs for albums only, you will start to see a lot of potential in other areas of the industry as well, and maybe even find your true calling.
Draw inspiration from anywhere around you
If there is one piece of advice that any reputable songwriter can give you, is to keep your ears open wherever you go. Inspiration can come when you least expect it, from TV commercials, obscure podcasts or even graffiti on the street. Make sure you listen to as much music as you can, from all genres and artists, because you never know where you’ll find that one line that can turn into your most famous show.
Sometimes, something as little as a short dialogue heard on the streets can become the foundation for an entire song, so whenever you hear something that might have potential, write it down, so that you never miss an opportunity.
Becoming a professional songwriter requires a lot of practice and dedication, so write as much as you can, whenever you feel your creative juices might start flowing. You never know which song can be your first big hit. Learning how to play an instrument, as well as making sure you know the basics of a good song are very important, but expanding your network and learning how to find inspiration everywhere around you may be even more significant steps in your journey.
Angela Baker is a self-taught writer, who works as a freelancer for BestEssay.Education and PickTheWriter. She is a firm believer in the fact that growth can only be reached if you constantly seek new ways to improve yourself, both in your personal life and in your professional one. This is why, through her writing, she always seeks new ways to better herself and inspire others. She also writes for LiveInspiredMagazine, as a way to complete her professional writing career.