Should Songwriters Formally Study Songwriting?

By | March 3, 2016

All songwriters have had the same thought at some point: “Would it be worth it to formally study songwriting?” The decision can be tough, because people succeed in the music industry both with and without a formal education. Sometimes it seems that schooling is just an obstacle that you could easily hop over. As American singer-songwriter Tom Waits puts it, “For a songwriter, you don’t really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes.” And this can certainly be true! Just one Bob Dylan song can teach you at least 10 different songwriting techniques when you analyze it.

But the key, of course, is knowing what to listen for and how to apply it to your own songwriting. So, on the other hand, enrolling in songwriting classes can be very rewarding for many reasons. Here are three of biggest benefits I’ve personally come across.

1. Expand your network of songwriters

Getting connected with other songwriters provides opportunity for collaborations, peer critique, and inspiration! People I’ve met in songwriting classes have become some of my favorite collaborators, co-workers, and friends. In addition, songwriting class gives you the opportunity to hear real, honest opinions on your music in a comfortable environment.

2. Get in the habit of a regular songwriting practice

How many times have you told yourself you would write for the afternoon, and then found yourself clicking the next episode on Netflix? Being in songwriting classes forces you to write instead of procrastinate. When you may not “feel” like writing, but you have to present a new song tomorrow for class, pretty soon you’ll learn techniques to spark inspiration.

3. Learn the common language of music

Taking formal classes for songwriting teaches you the common terms and phrases that are used in the industry. Being able to effectively communicate with collaborators puts you on a professional level. Also, being able to properly discuss your ideas with co-writers will save both time and frustration.

I wish I could give you a definitive answer on whether or not to pursue schooling, but sadly, there isn’t one! Both sides of the argument are strong. Personally, I am so glad to have studied songwriting. I now have a confidence with my craft that I don’t believe I could’ve garnered outside of the walls of a classroom. That being said, it all depends on your situation. Do you have some great opportunities ahead of you outside of school? Pursue them! Have you always dreamed of being a college kid? Go ahead! No matter which path you choose, success comes to those who pursue their passions wholeheartedly – in or outside of school.

Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!

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