Simple But Powerful Tips to Go From Average to Professional Songwriter
Being a songwriter is arguably one of the most important careers in the music business. It’s the meat to the music business due to the fact that it’s the position that creates the song. The songs are what everything revolves around. It’s what the artist records, it’s what the label promotes and it’s what gets everyone paid. This is why they’re are so many songwriter within the music industry. When you see a professional songwriter in action it may look easy. You may think “anyone can do that.” Yes anyone can do anything if they work hard and put their minds to it. However, being a songwriter is no easy task. A lot of people write here and there, but to thrive as a professional songwriter it takes a lot of work and dedication. So what separates a professional songwriter from an average one? You’d be surprise the simple yet powerful factors that separates the two. Check out these 8 tips on how to go from an average songwriter to a professional one.
1) Knowing music theory
One of the biggest things that separates an average songwriter from a professional songwriter is knowing music theory. This may seem like a difficult skill to achieve but in reality it isn’t. No you don’t have to be as skilled as Prince with music theory to thrive as a professional songwriter. However, having knowledge of or knowing how music theory works will instantly take your songwriting skills to the next level. There are plenty of famous songwriters who don’t play an instrument. But they do understand the basics of music theory and how it works. They understand melody, harmony, what chords are, etc. Knowing these simple fundamentals to music theory will help to make your a fantastic songwriter in any genre. Instead of just writing to an instrumental or a beat in your head, you can now say to whoever you’re working with “I want you to sing this melody in this key.” Or you can say “I want to hire background singer to do you harmonies for this song.” It’ll even help expand your songwriting catalog. The more information you have the more tools you have to work with. You won’t have to worry about running out of songwriting ideas or song structure ideas.
2) Don’t try to follow trends
If you’re inspiring to become a professional songwriter, one of the main things you need to know is to not follow the trends. Don’t try to make your songs sound like what’s on the radio. Be yourself. It makes you more authentic and it’ll show in your music. Besides if you think trying to sound like what’s currently popular is going to make your popular you’re sadly mistaken. 9 times out of 10 whatever is currently popular now on the radio is considered “old news” in the music industry. Within the next few months by the time your song is launched the trend will be something new. So while trying to follow the trend you’ll end up missing your initial goal. The same trend you’re trying to be apart of will be leaving as you’re coming in. Why not be original, new and creative and start the new big trend?
3) Play an instrument
This professional songwriter tip isn’t mandatory but it’s extremely helpful. Most of the top songwriters of today and yesterday play an instrument. Some would even argue all if the best songwriters of the 21st century plays at least 1 instrument. You don’t have to to become a great songwriter. However, it does help tremendously and takes your songwriting skills to another level. It also expands your creativity as a songwriter and takes you places you never thought you could go with music. If you’re honestly not interested in playing an instrument you can always learn just the basics. For example instead of learning how to play the piano fluently, you can simply just learn how to play chords. This gives you enough knowledge to still create a song on the piano. This also allows you to write around an already created melody. Below is a list of songwriters who plays at least 1 instrument and some on this list plays about 3 or 4.
4) Put in the work
Another factor that separates an average songwriter from a professional songwriter is putting in the work. Putting in the work and taking the time to sacrifice for your career is the key to becoming successful. There are so many aspiring artists who don’t develop the discipline to put in the work. You have to be willing to work hard and prioritize. This goes for professional songwriters as well. When initially pursuing your career you have to be willing to sacrifice free time, leisure activities and spending money to invest in your career. Investing in the right amount of time in your career is more vital than investing in money. Songwriting isn’t just about writing lyrics over a beat. When pursuing a songwriting career you have to work on perfecting your craft. You have to network, market and promote. You have to develop strong songwriting techniques. If you’re interested in playing an instrument you have to put in the time to study to master that instrument. To become successful at being a songwriter there is plenty of work you have to put in.
5) Don’t focus on others
This is a songwriting tip that many artists are guilty of. In life, a lot of times we tend to focus on others. Sometimes we do this even when we don’t mean to. It’s an easy trap to fall into. However, what truly separates average from great or good from great is the ability to have tunnel vision and only worry about yourself. Don’t focus on others. Don’t fall into the trap of being in an “unspoken competition” with someone else. Don’t find yourself worried about what the next songwriter, singer, producer, etc. is doing. The greatest songwriters of all time when on their career path didn’t worry about others. They focused on themselves. They focused on building their technique and mastering their craft. You’ll never get ahead constantly looking back at you to see who’s coming up behind or who’s getting close to you. You’ll never become a professional songwriter or go to the next level if you’re worried about others or think everything is a competition.
6) Go to professional studios
Like many independent songwriters and artists, when pursuing your career you may be on a tight budget. The reality is most people aren’t rich. As an indie artist you have to finance your own career while also paying living expenses. This is why many songwriters and other indie artists work out of home based studios. This is understandable. But at one point while pursuing your career you’re going to have to upgrade and start going to professional studios. This is something that helps to create a professional songwriter. Yes it’s more money, but it’s truly worth it. The quality in the production speaks for itself. You have a better chance of working with more advance engineers and producers. Another great thing about attending professional studios is the networking aspect. You have a greater chance of meeting an established producer or artist who may be able to grant you your big break. For instance if you live in New York City and record at one of their top notch studios you may end up having a session with the same engineer that worked with Mariah Carey, Rihanna or Beyonce. You may even see an established artist in passing while at the studio. Instead of “nickel and diming” your studio sessions at smaller ones, why not take months maybe a year to save up and do 1 major production at an established studio. There are ways to save up in a timely manner to make this happen. Below are some ideas:
- Collect donations locally in your community from stores, churches, organizations, etc.
- Apply for local grants
- Utilize a natural talent you have and make a side gig out of it (event singer, resume writer, hair stylist, etc.)
- Start a coin bank and purposely break dollars to fill coin bank up quicker
- Sell items on eBay and similar sites.
List of top sought after recording studios open to the public and their locations:
- Platinum sound recording studio – New York, NY
- Capitol Studios – Los Angeles, CA
- United Recording Studios – Los Angeles, CA
- JamBox Entertainment Studios – New York, NY
- Lil Drumma Boy Recording Studio – Philly, PA
- Sounds Like Soma – Philly, PA
- The Blue Room Recording Studio – Atlanta, GA
- 11th Street Recording Studios – Atlanta, GA
- Ocean Way Nashville Recording Studio – Nashville, TN
- The Hideout Recording Studio – Las Vegas, NV
*Of course if you don’t live near any of the recording studios listed you would simply Google a high quality studio near you.
Another thing professional songwriters do that separates them from the average songwriter is network. A lot of aspiring songwriters tend to already have a big head so they may assume they don’t need to network. This tends to be common with aspiring songwriters and artists who have already have a name locally. However, no matter how popular you are you should always network. You can never network enough. As the old saying goes “it’s a small world.” You truly never know who knows who. You never know how your name may come up in a conversation. It may come up in a way that lands you a huge opportunity. The great thing about networking it doesn’t take a lot of money or effort. You can attend free or cost friendly business related events. You can attend easy going events such as a music festival. You can always network via social media which is completely free.
8) Study the greats
In order to be great you must study the greats that came before you. No matter what talent you have or field you work in there’s someone that came before you who you admire. Sure you have your own style and personality, but you also have an idol in that field or a major influence. Don’t just admire him or her, study them and learn. Find out what their strengths are. Find out what their weaknesses are. Find out what their songwriting technique is and how they developed that technique. Learn what inspires them. Notice what topics they tend to write about more than any other topic. Notice their lyric patterns and style. This will then help you become a better songwriter. It’ll open your mind to many more songwriting topics and possibilities. It’ll also provide you with creative growth. Now you’re more than just an average songwriter who simply puts lyrics behind a beat.
Becoming a professional songwriter isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time, dedication and most of all experience. Some things you just can’t write about until you’ve experienced it yourself or something similar. However, these 8 simple and powerful songwriting tips will advance you to the next level a lot sooner and prepare you to become a great universal songwriter.