Writer’s Room: Can Songwriting Be Taught?

Odie Blackmon instructs a songwriting class at Middle Tennessee State University. MTSU Creative and Visual Services. Photo by Andy Heidt

The question of whether songwriting can be taught is valid. My answer is: “yes … and no.” After all, songwriting is a mystical process and every writer has their own unique way of navigating the waters. Songwriting is a craft, though, with tried and true tools that can be passed on.

I think teaching songwriting is akin to a journeyman carpenter training an apprentice, or a former pro football player passing on his knowledge through coaching. There are formulas and truths that work. At what level they work is up to each student’s natural given talent, work ethic, luck, and life experiences.

Maybe the question is really, what are the different ways that songwriting can be taught. Let’s look at some different paths an aspiring songwriter might take:

1)  Learning songs when you first start playing — The very first thing most people do when they start learning an instrument is to learn their favorite songs. When I bought my first guitar, I began learning chords so that I could sing along. I was already learning basic chord structure, rhythm, song forms, and melody. So, in the beginning, most of us are teaching ourselves songwriting by learning our favorite songs.

2)  Playing in bands — The next step is to start a band. Of course, you’re not only learning performance skills, you’re learning more... Sign In to Keep Reading

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