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Topic: Songwriters vs Composers

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  1. #1

    Songwriters vs Composers

    I once heard it said that a songwriter is not a composer. I believe the implication was that composition was more "high art" and songwriting was for the layman. I've recently started wondering about this as I've found a desire to write songs for my church.

    So, what do you think? Is a songwriter a sort of second-class citizen in comparrison to a composer?
    C. Foster Payne
    Amateur Composer/Orchestrator
    http://FosterPayne.com/default.aspx

  2. #2
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Songwriters vs Composers

    You have got to be kidding, right? It all boils down to one specific item that determines the social status of either. Which one makes the most for the work!
    Come on, where did you here that sort of discrimination? Let's see, a composer ... song writer ... composer ... song composer ... writer ... writer composer song writer ... hmm, beats the H E double hockey sticks (LL) of me!

    "So, what do you think? Is a songwriter a sort of second-class citizen in comparison to a composer?" No! Go ahead and write your songs for church and don't even give in to carp like that! Geezzzzzzzzz!
    Styxx

  3. #3

    Re: Songwriters vs Composers

    Whether it's "songwriting" or "composing", the end result is a piece of music. I wouldn't get hung up on what people call the process. If you're going to care about what people say, focus on having them all stand up and applaud after they've heard your music!
    Christopher Duncan
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer
    www.PracticalUSA.com


  4. #4
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    Re: Songwriters vs Composers

    You know, Gershwin was a songwriter. Certainly a second-class citizen in the music world – I recently heard the BSO do his Piano Concerto, certainly the work of a songwriter, not a real composer . And that J S Bach guy - he wrote a lot of church songs; he must be a second-class citizen also. Oh, what about Schubert?

    I know that’s not exactly what you mean, there is a lot of difference between the art songs of Schubert and the pop songs of Sir Paul. Still, a lot of serious composers wrote songs and some songwriters wrote serious concert music.

    Follow your heart, not what you feel others might think. If you want to write church songs, write them. To tell you the truth, I don’t see a lot of negatives to it. It is possible your concert music will be discovered through your songs or you may find your nitch writing songs and only occasionally write concert music for your own enjoyment. Whatever – it’s your life and you must live it for yourself.
    Trent P. McDonald

  5. #5

    Re: Songwriters vs Composers

    Quote Originally Posted by FossMan
    I once heard it said that a songwriter is not a composer. I believe the implication was that composition was more "high art" and songwriting was for the layman. I've recently started wondering about this as I've found a desire to write songs for my church.

    So, what do you think? Is a songwriter a sort of second-class citizen in comparrison to a composer?
    I can't see a songwriter as being "second-class" compared to a composer. But if I and everyone else did, would you not want to write songs anymore?
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  6. #6

    Re: Songwriters vs Composers

    I wouldn't call folks like Schubert just songwriters although he and many other "composers" wrote a lot of songs. Were the Beatles "Composers" or just songwriters?

    The term composer brings along the baggage of sophistication. But when the ship hits the fan, not only do you have a lot of dead sailors scattered all around, but also you come to the realization that creativity, no matter what you call it, is personal and very subjective.

    Genius wares many different kinds of clothing, but when naked if it stands the test of time, and if it is accepted as musical truth, it is deserving of wearing a princes robes. As Styxx says go on and write your music. You may just find it blessed and dressed in silk.

    Karl

  7. #7
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Songwriters vs Composers

    Composer = creator, originator, musician, author, songwriter … wait, did it say “writer”? Hmm, seems to me they are one in the same according to my Harvard Dictionary and New College Edition The American Heritage Dictionary and hey, the PC gives the same definitions and similarities! Well what do you know, no distinction or separation! So, write away!
    Styxx

  8. #8

    Re: Songwriters vs Composers

    I think there is a difference between a song writer and a composer. I don't think one out ranks the other on the career ladder, not by any stretch, and I don't think that demonstrating one skill means one can't do both.

    They are, at least semantically, different gigs, that's all. I consider myself to be a decent composer, but I can't write a song no matter how hard I try.

    What's the distinction?

    I'm not sure, because I think a songwriter can be either the composer or the lyricist, or both, it's more about the use of the composition I think. I write stuff that is used as underscores, incidentals, maybe even themes or jingles. I get compliments on the hooks I write... sometimes<G>, and sometimes, I even hear people whistling them as they leave the theatre, the highest compliment.

    But they are not songs. At least not in any form that I'd recognize.

    I have tremendous respect for (jealousy of?) people who can write a song!

    Definately not second class anything!!!

  9. #9
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    Re: Songwriters vs Composers

    Years ago, there was a man who used to stand on a box at Hyde Park Corner and, very solemnly, recite the words of pop song lyrics. The amazing thing was how often those words, with the music left out, really were quite strong contemporary verse. Still applies today.

  10. #10
    Moderator/Developer Brian2112's Avatar
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    Re: Songwriters vs Composers

    They are two entirely different animals – but not necessarily mutually exclusive. The term “songwriting” usually implies a form and structure that is labeled for its parts (i.e. AABA, ABACAB). There are other variations such as “Verse, Chorus” or “refrain” or even “through-written”. “Songs” usually vigorously adhere to such forms or variations of them. Also, a fully trained songwriter is usually a lyricist as well. Most song forms keep lyrics in mind – even if there are none. I was a songwriting major at Berklee.

    A composition, on the other hand, has many more variables. For example, I used to “compose” my drum parts to fit into songs so that they would compliment them tastefully. I “compose” small piano pieces that do not adhere to what is normally considered “song form”.

    Traditional composition usually has very rigorous form and structure as well (motive development over 4 movements for example- or Piano Sonatas with 3 sections).

    There are many songwriters who cannot compose “traditional music” very well and vice versa. The ultimate is the ability to do both (as in Gershwin’s case), and even Beethoven (the glorious 9th has lyrics after all).

    The strength of songwriting is that a good songwriter can make a memorable, singable melody. If that is used as a melodic motif stretched out over a traditional form…then you have an excellent composer.

    It’s bit more complicated than that but I’m tired.

    …2112
    "So what if some parts of life are a crap shoot? Get out there and shoot the crap." -- Neil Peart
    Hint:1.6180339887498948482 Φ

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