A songwriter is someone who writes the
lyricsto songs, the musical composition(chords) or melodyto songs, or both. That is to say, a songwriter is a lyricist, a composer, or both. The word "songwriter" is however more commonly used to describe one who writes popular songs than to describe a writer of art songs.
History and background of songwriters
Songwriters may perform the songs they write themselves, or they may write for somebody else to perform. People who sing their own songs are nowadays typically called "
singer-songwriters", although the tradition of doing this dates back hundreds of years. More recently, the troubadours of the Middle Agessang their own works, as did the German Minnesingers. In the contemporary era, the songwriting competitionhas become a valuable venue for aspiring songwriters.
Most art songwriting is written for somebody other than the composer to perform, although it is known that
Franz Schubertoften sang his own songs at private parties. In fact most popular songwriters of today enjoy having their work recorded by a variety of artists and hearing different renditions.
rock and rollbands have one or two songwriters, usually members of the band. Then there are songwriters like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, John Lennon, Sir Paul McCartney, Prince, Trent Reznorand others that write songs then record them playing their own instruments or all the instruments using a process called overdubbing (see multi-track recording). The advantage to being able to play many instruments and operate a studio is that one can write the music first then weave the words into the tune, experimenting on the way. Still, many songs or foundations of songs are written with simply the songwriter and one instrument. The guitarand pianoare the most popular instruments to use for songwriting because they have chordal as well as melodiccapabilities. There are no rules, although commercial writers speak of hooks and such required to fit into radio formats, but in the 60s and 70s writers broke new ground and forced the radio to make room for them.
Many songwriters also serve as their own music publishers, while others have outside publishers. Songs in
country musicare often written by "staff writers"; songwriters directly employed by music publishers. Legally, songs may only be copied or performed publicly by permission of the authors. The legal power to grant these permissions may be bought, sold or otherwise transferred. This is governed by copyright law. Songwriting and publishing royaltiescan be a substantial source of income, particularly if a song becomes a hit record.
Songwriters in the popular music genre often also work as
record producers, commonly using the professional title Producer-songwriter.
The old apprenticeship approach to learning how to write songs is being supplemented by some universities. It is possible to learn how to write songs. For instance,
Bangor Universityhas a degree course, English with Songwriting, which teaches the composition of songs by showing how the metaphorical and rhythmical structures of language are combined with music, in history, theory, and practice. A knowledge of modern music technology and business skills are necessary to make a career in songwriting.
* Rimler, Walter "Not Fade Away" Pierian Press (
1984) ISBN 0-87650-159-5
*Waterman, J. Douglas, Ed. "Song: The World's Best Songwriters on Creating the Music That Moves Us" Writer's Digest (
2007) ISBN 1-58297-424-1
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