Is Songwriting a Talent or a Skill?

June 11, 2019

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Shaun Letang, founder of Music Industry How-To. MIHT is a resource for musicians and music industry professionals.]

At times, you’ll be tempted to look over at your neighbor and wonder how it is that they’re able to write so many incredible songs.

“They must be naturally gifted”, you say. Meanwhile, you’ve put little to no effort into developing your own songwriting skills.

No matter how naturally gifted they might be, musicians who want to be good at their craft practice. And as such, they practice. They end their day by practicing some more.

You can’t compare yourself to someone like that, especially if you aren’t putting in the hours they are.

Songwriting Is A Learnable Skill

Songwriting is, in fact, a learnable skill. How can that be true?

Let’s break a song down into its core components. We have: 1.) lyrics and, 2.) music.

First, let’s talk about lyrics. Provocative metaphors and clever rhymes might not occur to you all the time. But if you’re willing to work at your writing, it’s possible to become a more effective writer.

After all, at some point you went to school to learn how to read and write, didn’t you? That should prove to you that it’s a skill you can in fact master.

One thing that aspiring songwriters often forget to do is read. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an article, a blog post or a book. Songwriters should be constantly exposing themselves to the written word.

What about music? Music is essentially mathematical. There’s a formula to how it all works. We know it as music theory.

Studying music theory will give you a deeper understanding of how scales, arpeggios and chords work. You’ll begin to identify intervals, chord progressions, relative minors and so much more.

With this tool set, you should be able to write just about anything. At the very least, you’ll deepen your understanding of music.

So, how can you say that songwriting is not a learnable skill? It’s just a matter of practice and study.

But I Want To Be Good Now!

We all want instant gratification. But that’s just not how music works. As with any worthwhile skill, it requires dedication and patience.

Michael Jackson’s sixth studio album, Thriller, became the best-selling album in the world, selling roughly 66 million copies.

Jackson and Producer Quincy Jones were said to have worked on 30 songs, eventually paring it down to the nine that were included on the album.

We’re talking about Jackson and Jones here – some of the most accomplished people in their own fields. And yet, they worked on three times the amount of material needed for the album just so they could choose from the best of the best.

Sometimes, great songs do come to you without much effort. But if you’re always waiting for inspiration to hit, you probably won’t write many songs.

I know that you wish you had it now. But it takes time.

In junior high and high school, instead of paying attention in class, I filled binders with pages and pages of lyrics.

And, it was all junk. But through that process of trial and error, I learned how to write a song. In due course, I learned how to write songs I’m proud of.

Final Thoughts

In summary, there may be those who are naturally gifted at writing songs. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t have to work at their craft.

And, fortunately, anyone can learn how to write a song and develop their skill. Some will learn quickly. Some will take longer. Your journey is your journey. So, have fun writing songs and never fear going through the numbers. You’ll write plenty of bad songs and that’s okay

Tags: featuring skill songwriting talent