So you want to be a songwriter like Taylor Swift?
Well first, let's take a look at how Ms. Swift made it big...
Taylor knew what she wanted to do at a very early age. She attempted her first song at the age of 5! When she was 14, her parents moved the family to Nashville from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania for her to take a stab at becoming a singer-songwriter. By the time she was 16 she released her first album.
She has gone on to sell multi-platinum records and won many awards including GRAMMYs and she even enjoys a modeling career as if being a top selling country crossover artist wasn't enough..
How did she do it?
Well, it wasn't easy, but it's not rocket science either. Here, you will find some basic points to start you out on your songwriting journey.
1. Study Time: Listen and Learn
The first step to becoming a songwriter is being able to listen and analyze a song. If you want to be a successful writer, listen to the music of a musician that inspires you. Learn to pick out all the instruments in the arrangement. Learn the song form. Learn the lyrics.
What parts of the songs stand out that make each song a hit? What do the hit songs have in common?
If you went to school to become a great painter, you would first be taught how to paint like the great artists that came before you. Likewise, you need to learn how the great songwriters that came before you built their songs.
2. Creative Writing: Write What You Know
Like many songwriters, Taylor began writing poetry and short stories at a young age. Eventually, she put some melodies to some of her poems, which is a great way to start songwriting. She writes most of her songs based on personal experiences. She calls each of her albums a diary.
You too have events in your life worthy as subject matter for songs! Don’t be afraid to use your experiences as inspiration! Even small events in your life can make great songs. How did you feel at a new school or a new home after a move? What dreams do you have? Write about those things.
Also, reading books and short stories helps one to become a better writer. Some songwriters like to pick story lines from books. Fiction will help with your creativity, but also reading about song structure and style techniques like metaphor and rhyme scheme will help too.
Don’t be afraid to put what you know and have learned into words right away. Nothing makes a great songwriter more than writing lots of songs.
3. Pick up an Instrument: More Than Words
You can be an awesome lyricist but learning to play an instrument like guitar or piano can help you rise to another level. Taylor didn't really get to songwriting until after a computer repairman taught her a few guitar chords.
She then put her writing skills to work with the few chord progressions and strumming patterns she knew and applied them to write her first songs.
Start with an inexpensive instrument and learn the basic chords, scales and simple songs. Before long, you will be applying that to your own songs.
4. Keep Learning: Practice Makes Perfect
So you've learned to play a few songs and you started writing on your own. Or maybe you're struggling a bit. The key is to keep working hard to get better. Nothing happens overnight.
You've got to practice your craft routinely like Taylor did, and continues to do, to improve. She often mentions that she's continually writing even while embarking on major headlining tours.
Practicing just thirty minutes a day is enough to makes steady improvement. It also wouldn't hurt to start taking lessons. Even big stars like Taylor have had help improving.
Taking lessons will speed up your progress like you wouldn’t believe. Lessons also allow you to learn the proper way to play instrument so you will play them well. You will also learn about music theory, which is essential in songwriting.
Voice lessons will develop your singing skills and even help you find your voice as a writer.
While Taylor didn't go to college, if you really want to become a professional songwriter, college study of a subject like English, music or music business will help you perfect you skills and gain the experience you need to make it in the industry.
At The Original Music School, we offer classes in songwriting, music production and more.
At the end of the day, there can be only one Taylor Swift but there is plenty room in the music industry for talented songwriters. Take notes from what Taylor has done right to become a songwriter: study the greats, write from experience, learn an instrument, continue to practice and take classes.