Become a Song Writer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Aug 24, 2018

Learn how to become a song writer. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in song writing.

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  • 0:01 Song Writer Career Info
  • 0:57 Learn to Play an Instrument
  • 1:41 Complete Degree Program
  • 2:26 Make Industry Contacts
  • 2:48 Join Professional…

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Song Writer Career Info

Degree Level Bachelor's degree (for classical songwriters)
Degree Fields Music composition, music theory
Experience Experience playing the guitar, piano, or other instrument can be beneficial
Key Skills Musical talent, creativity, and discipline; strong communication skills; knowledge of music composition software; ability to use mixers and synthesizers
Salary $49,820 (2015 median for composers and music directors)
$24.20 per hour (2015 median for singers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine

Song writers, or composers, create original music and lyrics performed by singers, musical groups and bands. Many composers create music for a particular genre, such as country, rock or jazz. Some may write music for theater productions or produce jingles for commercials. Competition for jobs in this field can be strong, and work may not be available on a full-time basis.

Song writers should have musical talent, creativity, strong communication skills, discipline, knowledge of music composition software and the ability to use mixers and synthesizers. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that music directors and composers earned a median annual wage of $49,820, while musicians and singers earned a median pay of $24.20 per hour.

Learn to Play an Instrument

Before learning to write music and enrolling in a bachelor's degree program, song writers often learn to play an instrument at an early age. Whether it's the guitar, piano or other instrument, learning to play music can help individuals develop an ear for pitch and give them an understanding of melody and harmony. Some may choose to enroll in private lessons, while others begin playing in a school band or orchestra.

While not exactly the same as composing music, writing poetry can give students an idea of how to express their thoughts and feelings through words. Poetry classes may be offered in high school and can help students develop skills in poetic rhythm and lyric creation.

Complete a Degree Program

Individuals interested in developing their compositional skills can enroll in a bachelor's degree program in musical composition or theory. These programs teach students how to identify and analyze compositional formats and techniques. Courses may cover areas involving keyboarding, music history and analysis, music theory, aural skills, orchestration and composition. These programs may also offer opportunities for students to create original compositions and have them performed.

To apply to a music composition program, students generally need to provide a sample of original recorded music. This requires experience composing music prior to enrollment.

Make Industry Contacts

It's important for song writers to have their work heard by producers and agents. While writers can send their work to record agencies, they can also find musicians to perform their work. Some writers may even choose to use their musical talents to perform their own music in clubs and other venues. They may also enter into song writing competitions to gain notoriety.

Join Professional Organizations

Song writers can become members of professional organizations, such as the Songwriters Guild of America. This organization is designed to protect the rights of song writers and help them improve their skills. Members have the opportunity to attend seminars, workshops and network with other industry professionals.

Again, while there are no technical requirements for professional song writers, many choose to begin learning how to play an instrument early before completing a degree program in music composition or a similar field and then either playing their own music or finding a musician who can attract the attention of industry professionals.

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