Education and Training Requirements

High School

You should take courses in music that involve singing, playing instruments, and studying the history of music. Theater and speech classes will help you to understand the nature of performing, and involve you in writing dramatic pieces. You should study poetry in an English class, and try your hand at composing poetry in different forms. Language skills can also be honed in foreign-language classes and by working on student literary magazines. An understanding of how people act and think can influence you as a lyricist, so take courses in psychology and sociology.

Postsecondary Training

There are no real requirements for entering the field of songwriting. All songwriters, however, will benefit from musical training, including musical theory and musical notation. Learning to play one or more instruments, such as the piano or guitar, will be especially helpful in writing songs. Not all songwriters need to be able to sing, but it can be helpful.

Songwriting is an extremely competitive field. Despite a lack of formal educational requirements, prospective songwriters are encouraged to continue their education through high school and preferably towards a college degree. Much of the musical training a songwriter needs, however, can also be learned informally. In general, you should have a background in music theory, and in arrangement and orchestration for multiple instruments. You should be able to read music, and be able to write it in the proper musical notation. You should have a good sense of the sounds each type of musical instrument produces, alone and in combination. Understanding harmony is important, as well as a proficiency in or understanding of a variety of styles of music. Studies in music history will also help develop this understanding.

On the technical side, you should understand the various features, capabilities, and requirements of modern recording techniques. You should be familiar with MIDI and computer technology, as these play important roles in composing, playing, and recording music today.

There are several organizations that help lyricists, songwriters, and composers. The Songwriters Guild of America ( offers weekly song evaluation workshops in select cities. The Nashville Songwriters Association International ( offers workshops, seminars, and other services, as well as giving annual awards to songwriters. These, and other organizations, offer songwriting workshops and other training seminars.

Other Education or Training

The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers provides workshops that cover topics such as songwriting, film scoring, and musical theatre scoring. The American Composers Forum offers workshops and other learning opportunities. Past workshop topics included writing music for film and copyright law. The Society of Composers & Lyricists offers seminars and other continuing education opportunities on music technology, industry trends, and other topics. The Songwriters Guild of America provides songwriting workshops in a variety of cities, and the Nashville Songwriters Association International offers workskops and other educational opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for songwriters.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Practice writing songs in a variety of genres—such as rock, rap, jazz, and country. This will help you gain experience working with different styles and musical approaches. 

Many elements of songwriting cannot really be learned but are a matter of inborn talent. A creative imagination and the ability to invent melodies and combine melodies into a song are essential parts of a songwriting career. As you become more familiar with your own talents, and with songwriting, you'll learn to develop and enhance your creative skills.