You Can’t Teach Songwriting: Fact or Fiction? A Pro Songwriter’s Perspective…

by Marty Dodson
May 26, 2024

A Songwriting Degree…

Several years ago, I attended my son’s freshman orientation at Belmont University. He was headed into the Music Business program. During the parent’s session, one mother raised her hand and asked (In all seriousness) “So, if my daughter gets a songwriting degree from Belmont, she is pretty much guaranteed a slot on Music Row, right?” The Dean of the School of Music stood in stunned silence for a moment. Then, he said “No, getting a degree in songwriting doesn’t mean you are a great songwriter any more than a degree in art says that you are a great artist.” The woman then commented under her breath, “$120,000 is a lot to pay with no guarantees”. I just sat quietly and watched it all unfold. I’m afraid she may have been disappointed with the outcome of her daughter’s degree no matter what she wound up majoring in. A piece of paper doesn’t “guarantee” you anything.

There are a lot of misconceptions in regard to teaching songwriting…

What I took from the whole experience was that there are a lot of misconceptions in regard to teaching songwriting and whether or not it is even possible to teach someone how to write. Clay and I get the occasional e-mail saying “You know that songwriting can’t be taught! Why do you offer classes and take people’s money when you can’t teach songwriting? People either have it or they don’t!” The answer to that question is this – both Clay and I learned songwriting from some master craftsmen. MANY of the songs that I see posted in SongTown are better than the songs I was writing when I started. WAY better. I improved because someone who had “been there and done that” took the time to teach me where I was going wrong and how to make my songs better.

You Can't Teach Songwriting: Fact or Fiction? A Pro Songwriter's Perspective... SongTown

Songwriting Mentors…

I had a mentor that taught me everything (ok, most everything) he knew. I listened and learned. And, I’ve now had 10 #1 songs and over 125 songs recorded. Songwriting is not some magic thing that only the few who have been sprinkled with “hit dust” can do. Can someone with NO musical ability write hit songs? Probably not. Can someone with some musical ability learn how to write better and better keep working until they eventually get some songs recorded? Yes they can. I did it. Clay did it. SongTown members are starting to do it. If I played you my early songs you would be astounded at how bad they were.

Emily Hodges, Carly & Martina Spiro, and Erin Kinsey from SongTown were all writing better songs at age 14 than I was writing in my 20’s. I was teachable and I worked hard. I have only average musical ability. So, when they tell me that songwriting can’t be taught, I just laugh and share my story. You can’t argue with the facts.

Write on! ~MD

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing


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