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Confessions of a Songwriter

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How To Make A Living Writing Lyrics

I received another email question from a young lady who is a poet and a lyricist. A lyricist is someone who writes the words to songs. She does not sing or play an instrument, and wonders if she can make a career out of being strictly a lyricist. By the way, I want to congratulate her on knowing so early in life what it is she wants to do.

O.K., first off, I would advise her to follow all the same advice I outlined in the article How to Find a Music Publisher. Now, can someone make a career as strictly a lyricist? Yes. Here in Nashville I write with some people for whom writing lyrics comes much easier than writing music. Indeed, some of them have written #1 country songs. Obviously if you write lyrics only, you need to find someone who writes music that you can collaborate with. It may take time to find people whose music you think compliments your lyrics and someone who thinks your lyrics compliment their music. Be patient! If you truly commit to the process of finding these collaborators (as outlined in the above mentioned article), you'll find them. They are out there, believe me!

Also, I trust you know the difference between poems and songs -- and there is a big difference. A good lyricist must still understand the phrasing, meter, mood, etc., of music, even if they can't write it. The more they understand of what the melody writer has to contend with, the better a lyricist they will be. Also, consider this...it really ain't that hard to learn to play the guitar or piano!

Let me rephrase that. It ain't that hard to learn to play the guitar or piano enough to write songs. I have personally sat and listened to some of the most successful songwriters in Nashville play their hits -- and they only know a few chords! (And a lot of them can't sing, either, but they don't have to be able to! That's the great thing about songwriting!)

Anyway, you'd be surprised how much the world of melody would open up to you with just 4 or 5 chords. Maybe you should give it a try! You might surprise yourself! Good luck!

 
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Austin Smith is trekking down the songwriter's path in Nashville, Tennessee. Austin will be contributing regular articles to Cleverjoe's until he finally gets that elusive recording contract, at which point we hope he won't forget the little people.


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