For this article a short brief about songwriting, what it is, when you can start with it and the process of various forms of writing.
A question I get often asked as a teacher is: “How long should I have been playing the guitar for before I can make a start with writing my own songs?” The question is simple to answer: You can start when you are able to put a musical structure together, this can be either a chordstructure or a melodic structure. A song is a musical structure which makes a statement. It can can be long or short: Three chords could form a song, sometimes two chords or even one chord may create the same song.
Writing songs is more about creativity rather than being a very skilled musician. The more you do it the better you will get at it. No need to know a whole lot of rules or conventions, just work with what you know.
Most people will start off with what they can do at the moment, once they get really interested in writing they want to learn more about theory and some general songwriting rules. Listening to music does help a lot, as the listening forms part of your learning process. The better you are at playing your instrument, the better you will be as a songwriter, although this is not always the case.
Different forms of Songwriting:
~Writing and Performing on Your Own
Guitarplayers who write and play on their own, the early Bob Dylan during the early 1960s fitted this bill.
Writing and playing on your own does have its advantages: You can play whatever you want, no need to explain to other musicians what goes on in your song, you can also make them as unconventional as you want: Play 8 bars for first verse, second verse does contain 10.5 bars. Not saying you should work like this, but you could as noone will really be bothered about this as long as the song sounds good.
Changes are, people who start out on their own will, at some point, hook up with other musicians, and during the process they will have picked up some music theory and their writing and playing will have improved over time.
Some songwriters will never develop any desire to play with a band and prefer to do it all on their own.
To write and play on your own and to keep an audience interested you do need to be very good, logical, since you are the only person who needs to produce all the sounds and singing. How long will an audience stay interested in listening to just one person? Try it and see how it goes.
~ Writing for a Band
This is a different kind of songwriting, although you could approach it in a similar way as writing on your own: Write traditional songs with strong lyrics and melodies and fit a bandarrangement around this song instead of just your own guitarplaying.
Apart from traditional songwriting a band will offer the writing guitarist other opportunities: There are more musicians to hold the chordstructure together, and not all players need to play the same chords. No need to write strong melodies (athough it does help if you can) you could also use sounds and effects to get a musical statement accross. As a guitarplayer who also sings, you may not need to play guitar all the time, just sing and play a few odd notes (or chords) here and there since the rest of the band does carry the song (hopefully)
The songwriter who decides to work with the bandformat may need to know how to lead the band. If there is no bandleader as such the band may all work together on the songwriting, within the band there may be some musicians who provide the lyrics, others may take up the role of singing while the rest of the band performs the given music.
As a songwriter you may want to work on your own: Get the songs together first, demo them for yourself on a simple recording device, then try to form a band who will help with the perfomance of the demoed songs.
There are songwriters who will decide on using a different band for each new writing project, all depending on how the writer would like to work.
Get Some Inspiration First:
After you have read the above you may get into the mood for some songwriting. Why not check out first what some of your favourite artists have done? Did they start out with a band straight away or was it first strumming guitars on their own? Often it does get you into the mood to read about how other musicians have travelled the path you may want to walk on youself.