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Difference Between Songwriter & Composer

Songwriting and composing are very similar occupations, though songwriters often work with individuals, while composers tend to work with larger groups. Find out the similarities and differences between these very musical careers.

Comparing Songwriters to Composers

Both songwriters and composers arrange music so that it has a pleasing sound and is satisfying for listeners. On one hand, songwriters often write music for individual singers or bands, while on the other hand, composers arrange music for large groups of musicians like orchestras. Read below for an evaluation of the ways these two music-centered careers are the same and how they are different.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Songwriter No degree required $25.14 per hour (for all musicians and singers) 3% (for all musicians and singers)
Composer Master's degree $50,110 (for all music directors and composers) 3% (for all music directors and composers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Songwriters vs. Composers

Songwriters and composers create and manipulate music for musicians in order to produce a musical score that delights audiences. The difference is that songwriters often put lyrics to music for themselves or other individual singers, sometimes using computer software to practice recording. They spend their time penning songs by themselves or with other musicians, then performing the songs - or seeing them performed - on stages or in recording studios. Composers, while they do work with song lyrics, tend to also work with musicians on a larger scale, such as orchestras, often in schools or religious organizations. Both songwriters and composers may end up finding jobs in big entertainment cities like New York or Nashville, and they spend much of their time traveling to music performances.

Songwriter

Songwriters usually focus their attention on music that is popular in the present day, assisting recording artists by supplying them with lyrics. Many songwriters are also musicians, so they may write music for their own individual performances. To practice putting together arrangements of sound, songwriters will use computer programs that allow them to record their ideas so they can hear them played back and make adjustments as needed. They might also use synthesizers to enhance their sounds. Songwriters should have excellent interpersonal abilities, superb creativity and strong project management skills.

Job responsibilities of a Songwriter include:

  • Coordinating rehearsals
  • Traveling to music performances
  • Booking time in recording studios
  • Looking over musical compositions to absorb the details
  • Experimenting with different notes and sounds

Composer

Composers usually receive extensive training in music theory or composition before beginning their careers as arrangers of music. Their training makes them marketable to employers looking for composers to implement music in their programs, such as at schools or in the film industry. Composers often work from home and may submit recordings of their work to people they want to work for, like recording or film studios. Composers, like songwriters, may work with musicians to help them get their music recorded.

Job responsibilities of a Composer include:

  • Transforming existing music into a new composition
  • Writing music for orchestras to perform
  • Studying many different styles of music
  • Meeting with potential clients
  • Practicing pieces they have composed to make them sound better

Related Careers

Someone interested in working as a songwriter might also consider working as a poet, since both careers involve taking words and arranging them in a lyrical manner. People who like the idea of what a composer does might also be interested in what a film director does, since both involve combining different creative elements into a whole.


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