How to Become a Singer Songwriter

How to Become a Singer Songwriter

There's something truly special about singer-songwriters - artists who write, perform and breathe life into their own deeply personal lyrics and melodies. From legendary troubadours like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell to modern hit-makers like Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, singer-songwriters have a powerful ability to connect with listeners through their authenticity and vulnerability. If your calling is music and your goal is to develop your own songs to share at music festivals and in your local scene, here are some key tips for becoming a singer-songwriter and launching a career in the music business.

Developing a Singing and Songwriting Career

1. Hone Your Instrumental Skills

While you don't have to be Jimi Hendrix, having a solid command of an instrument like guitar, piano or your voice itself is essential. Spend time practicing and training to develop your skills, knowing your instrument inside and out will allow your creative expression to flow more freely when writing your own music and developing your unique style.

2. Embrace Personal Storytelling

The most impactful singer-songwriter material tends to draw from real life experiences, observations and emotions, which are conveyed to fans through the art of storytelling and the use of imagery. In short, don't be afraid to open up and pour your heart out because that typically makes the best songs. If this doesn't come naturally to you, explore different personal writing techniques like stream-of-consciousness journaling to help access memories from a long time ago that you might have forgotten. Personally, when songwriting, the best approach for me was to sit early in the morning and explore anything that was bothering me while jotting down specific notes on how I want to express those feeling through specific emotional topics, such as a song about a break, or losing someone close or why my life is moving forward. For me, writing was a form of therapy, but there is no wrong or right way to write, you just need to find how you work best.

3. Study Song Structure

There's a craft to putting together an engaging, well-structured song and that process begins with the type of song you want to write. A successful song not only expresses the writers thoughts, but does so through the traits of the genre the song is written. Meaning, a blues song vs a country song have clear differences in how they sound, as do rock songs vs rap. However, truly well-written songs can be performed in a variety of genres and still sound great. With that in mind, take time to analyze popular songs and study elements like song form, chord progressions, melodic patterns, rhyme schemes, hooks and more. Having a strong understanding of what makes a great song timeless will elevate your own writing and help you potentially discover new sounds or take your writing in a whole new direction.

4. Establish Your Unique Identity

After you research your musical influences and analyze what you love about their writing and style, as we just mentioned, you then need to push yourself to develop a unique artistic identity. Meaning, experiment with mashing up different genres, tones and creative perspectives until you find your own indelible voice as a singer and songwriter. For the record, there's nothing wrong with developing your music in a similar style to your favorite artists, as long as you learn how to stand out as an artist. From a business perspective, determining how you'll stand out is part of the brand creation process, but you'll also need to figure this out from a music perspective. The best way to do that is by playing in front of others at small venues, so you can clearly see potential fans' reaction when you tell a specific story, wear a distinct item of clothing or have them clap the rhythm of a song while you sing along acappella. It's all trial and error until you find the elements that will make up your niche.

5. Play Live & Find Your Scene

Almost every popular musician begins by playing in their local music scene and performing live music. For singer songwriters, that journey begins with playing open mics, so get out and perform your songs live as much as possible. This will improve your abilities, build your confidence, grow your fanbase and allow you to connect with your local music community. Collaboration is key to your career growth, so don't just play your song at an open mic and go home, stick around and be sure to network with the other artists that perform. Why? Because as you work to grow your music career, you can use the help of other artists to grow your audience and build your professional network.

6. Record Your Songs

With today's technology, it's easier than ever to affordably record your material at home, but we recommend working with experience engineers for official releases and if you intend on pursuing sync licensing. If you are interested in sync licensing and / or pursuing a publishing deal, you'll want to put together a portfolio of recordings to help get your songs out there for consideration by publishers and music supervisors. Quality recordings are crucial for pitching yourself and of course when attracting new potential fans.

7. Marketing and Promotion

We're not going to dive too much into marketing and promotion because we have a bunch of articles on the subject. That said, you'll want to develop a social media presence for yourself and post your performances on platforms like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. Your goal when posting on social media shouldn't be to 'Get Discovered' by record labels, it should be to grow your songwriting career and build a connection with your audience, which is the purpose behind the marketing process. Record companies aren't going to take an active interest in you or your music until you find your audience and crack your unique recipe for success, which means learning how to be a self-employed musician.

8. Build Your Music Career

Many singer songwriters work solely on their craft, but if you want to turn that into a career, you need to learn to build a music business for yourself. That means, continually creating music and learning how to effectively sell it. As a singer songwriter, you should be consistently writing new material. Fill notebooks with lyrics, voice memos with new melodic ideas and just keep getting those songs out of your head. The more you create, the more you'll grow, develop your voice and improve your craft. Then switch gears and work on building your audience and income, but before you reach that point, you should develop a plan for success and lay the groundwork for a sustainable career.

That said, becoming a skilled, successful singer-songwriter requires passion, vulnerability, diligent work and a willingness to continually evolve. But few paths are as fulfilling as writing songs straight from your heart and soul and sharing them with audiences. So pursue you passion and don't be afraid to let your unique talents shine.

And finally, if you're serious about making music your profession, then I strongly encourage you to learn how to build a sustainable music career for yourself because it takes more than talent and great songs to be successful.

Suggested Articles:

How to Build a Fanbase as a Musician Your Musician Career Plan

How to Launch a Music Career