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A songwriter is someone who writes the lyrics, as well as the musical composition or melody to songs. One who writes only lyrics is a lyricist, while one who writes only music is a composer.

History and background of songwriters

Singers may perform the songs they write themselves, or they may write for somebody else to perform. Being a songwriter requires a lot of time, patience and discipline. In my experience in songwriting I found it easier to be in a quiet place sitting by a window gazing upon the sky, grass, and birds. These things help enable me to think deep inside myself to be able to write things from my heart that make sense. Sometimes I write from my personal experiences with life, such as relationships, friendships, death, love, and emotions. People are prone to listen and relate to things that attract their attention. People who sing their own songs are nowadays typically called singer-songwriters, although the tradition of doing this dates back hundreds of years. Less recently, the troubadours of the Middle Ages sang their own works, as did the German Minnesingers. In the contemporary era, the songwriting competition (ex. International Songwriting Competition) has 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 Schubert often 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.

Many modern rock and roll bands have one or two songwriters, usually members of the band.

Many songwriters also serve as their own music publisher, while others have outside publishers. Songs in pop music are often written by staff writers; songwriters directly employed by music publishers. Country music also uses staff writers, but many country artists are singer-songwriters in their own right.

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 royalties can be a substantial source of income, particularly if a song becomes a hit record.

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 Universitymarker has 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. For several years, Bath Spa Universitymarker has been host to the UK Songwriting Festival, a week long annual summer school that offers intensive tuition, seminars and master classes on the art of songwriting. A knowledge of modern music technology and business skills are necessary to make a career in songwriting, and music colleges such as the British Institute of Modern Music offer songwriting diplomas and degrees with music business modules.


  • 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
  • Make it, Break it Awards (MIBI); the songwriting opportunity for young talent aged 14-19 years young MIBI Website

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