Being a singer-songwriter means learning three crafts: songwriting, singing, and playing an instrument. I’ve noticed a difference in songwriters’ strengths and weaknesses depending on their background:
1. the musician
2. the writer
3. the singer
I’m generalizing, of course, but here are my observations about the strengths and weakness of the three types:
1. The musician got his or her start playing other people’s songs in bands. The typical example is a male guitar player. When he begins trying to write songs, his strengths are his knowledge of music, and of course his instrument. He can easily come up with ideas for chord progressions, rhythms, etc. His weakness is with singing, unless he’s always been singer and guitar player. And he’s almost certainly going to find lyric writing difficult, since he probably never did any creative writing; he probably never read, much less, wrote poetry. (I’m in this category).
2. The writer wrote a lot of poetry, and has kept a journal for a long time. I’m going to stereotype this person as a female. She decided she wanted to put her writings to music, so she acquired a guitar somehow, but didn’t take lessons. She noodled around and came up with her own chords, which can be interesting. But due to her lack of music knowledge, the songs tend to sound the same. Being creative, she may also come up with good melodies, but she’s not a trained singer, so she doesn’t sing very loud. More likely, she copies her favorite singer rather than develop her own style. Her strength is her lyrics. She knows how to write about the senses, with imagery, and metaphor.
3. The singer’s strength, naturally, is her singing. I’m going to make my example for this category a woman also. Her weaknesses, obviously, are her musicianship and writing. She’s learned to play guitar at a basic level, so she plays simple first position chords. And her lyrics are simple and direct. But, damn, can she sing.
Our three songwriters should feel no shame about their weaknesses; we’re all beginners at some time. They should only be ashamed if they’re not willing to recognize, and work on, their weaknesses.
1. The musician needs to read poetry, and then try to write poetry. He needs to start a journal and write every day. He needs to learn how to write in a creative way; to “show me don’t tell me”. And he probably needs to take singing lessons, and practice.
2. The writer needs to take guitar (or piano) lessons. She should learn to play a bunch of cover songs by some of her favorite artists. She’ll learn composing skills from learning the cover songs. And she probably could use singing lessons also.
3. The singer should take guitar (or piano) lessons, and read and start writing poetry, and start a journal.
So what do y’all think? These stereotypes are based on real people I’ve known. Maybe I’m over-generalizing based on just a few people?