Songwriting is a skill that can be taught and learned. For many, composing music and writing songs is some kind of mystical activity that only gifted or highly talented people do. But that is wrong! With the help of these best songwriting books, you can learn anything you want to know.

Songwriting books for songwriters to read

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This year is going to be your year. You want to master the skill of songwriting. But where do you start and what are the best songwriting books?

There are many books out there on songwriting and it’s easy to get lost during your search. And spoiler alert: many of them are cr*p. They are shallow and manage to indulge you in long stories that teach you nothing. So to save you some time I have listed all the books that I find of good value. No fluff, no endless self-promotion. All hands-on songwriting techniques and tips. Also, to organise your lyrics and music it’s worth having a songwriting journal/notebook.

Don’t feel like reading? Here is the list of book recommendations. They are ordered by the categories above. The best books on songwriting are:

Top Picks

Great Songwriting Techniques
Best Book For Songwriting Techniques

Great Songwriting Techniques

Writing Better Lyrics
Best Book For Lyric Writing Techniques

Writing Better Lyrics

Harmony and Voice Leading
Best Book On Classical Harmony and Counterpoint

Harmony and Voice Leading

Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio
Best Mixing and Music Production

Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio

The Creative Act: A Way of Being
Best Book For Creativity & Inspiration

The Creative Act: A Way of Being

Learning songwriting is something that comes with a lot of practice. So I encourage you to do all the exercises you find in these best books on songwriting. And most important of all apply the music theory and these songwriting techniques to your songs. I guarantee that when you write music it will take you to endless creative spaces with amazing results.

Music Theory and Songwriting Books

Here are the best songwriting books for melody writing, creating chord progressions and musical form.

1. Great Songwriting Techniques by Jack Perricone

This is hands down the best book a songwriter could read. The first time I picked up this book I was amazed by how clearly everything was explained. Practically any topic ranging from writing melodies to amazing chord progressions is covered. Jack Perricone has delivered a masterpiece and if you only buy one book from this list, then let it be this one because it is one of the best books on songwriting.

Some of the topics that you can expect to learn more about are:

  • Melody
  • Harmony
  • Rhythm
  • Lyric Writing and Placement
  • Tone Texture
  • Loop-based Harmonic Patterns
  • Form

You can also check out my full book review and video if you want to learn more.

Best Book For Songwriting Techniques
Great Songwriting Techniques

2. Chord Progressions For Songwriters by Richard Scott

If you want to dive into chord progressions. Then here you go! Chord Progressions For Songwriters by Richard Scott is an amazing resource. There is enough to explore for an entire songwriting career. Even though the music examples are a bit outdated, the chord progressions are very much the real deal. And I should not forget to mention that you will find chord progressions that will inspire you greatly. All in all this songwriting book is a creativity bomb.

Every chapter is a unified lesson about a chord progression any songwriter should know. The lessons range from the basic I-V progressions, circle progressions, Blues, Flamenco Folk and Jazz to name a few. An amazing detail is the sections about chord substitution and variations.

3. The Songwriter’s Workshop: Harmony by Jimmy Kachulis

Harmony is by far the favourite topic of many songwriters. And this is rightfully so. For many songs, the harmonic backbone is what gives the unique spice and colour to the melody and lyrics. Jimmy Kachulis manages to dig deep in a very intuitive way. Popular chord progressions and essential techniques are what you can expect to learn. This book is rightfully on the list of best songwriting books. It’s a must-read.

You will learn the fundamental harmonic techniques that are behind the hit songs of our time. The easy-to-understand exercises help you put what you learned right into action. Topics that for example are covered are chord colours and chord embellishments.

4. Melody in Songwriting: Tools and Techniques for Writing Hit Songs by Jack Perricone

Have you read the first book on my list “Great Songwriting Techniques”? Then you already know what quality to expect. This book is the forerunner and is often referenced in his later book. Writing melodies can be very difficult to grasp. This does not only count for songwriters but for many composers and producers as well. Melody writing is just a darn difficult topic to teach. But this book does a very good job.

What you can expect to learn from this book is fundamental techniques that you can use when writing melodies. These tools and techniques will give you the knowledge and power to create interesting melodies. Also, you will learn how rhyme and melodic rhythm influence each other, what makes harmony progress and other relationships between melody and harmony.

5. Harmony and Voice Leading by Edward Aldwell, Carl Schachter, Allen Cadwallader

The mother of all harmony books if you ask me. I used this book extensively during my years at the faculty. And I still reference it frequently. The book “Harmony and Voice Leading” is more for classical music-oriented people but don’t let that discourage you. This is a book that will last you a lifetime.

I used this book during my classical music studies but these harmonic techniques I use daily in my music. The voice leading techniques and all the different chord progression techniques can be used in any style. So as a songwriter, you should definitely consider this book. Just be aware that you need to be able to write music notation.

Best Book On Classical Harmony and Counterpoint
Harmony and Voice Leading

6. Everything in its Right Place: Analyzing Radiohead by Brad Osborn Ph.

Does anybody like Radiohead? Even if you don’t it is worth the effort of analyzing their music. Because it is jam-packed with techniques and tricks that you can use for your music. Brad Osborn Ph. does a very good job at clearly explaining what makes their music so unique and bold. Not only an interesting read but a music theory book in itself. I have learned a great deal from reading this book. My favourite section was about musical form. Very interesting!

YouTube Tutorials

If you want to learn more creative songwriting techniques and hear them in action then check out my video tutorial playlist called: Songwriting Tips & Music Theory for Composing Music. Or check out all the educational music videos and articles on this site.

Lyric Writing

Here are the best songwriting books for lyric writing.

7. Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

I have to be honest with you. Writing lyrics was my least favourite thing about writing music and songwriting in general until I got a hold of this book. In one word… Wow. Pat Pattison does an amazing job of creating this lyric-writing journey where every page is interesting, engaging, and educational. This should be on top of everybody’s best books on songwriting list. You will not regret reading this book. It is highly recommended.

This book opened my eyes. It taught me how to write lyrics and I actually enjoy it. I feel that my lyrics became so much more interesting and personal. And most important of all I feel in control. Writing Better Lyrics teaches you how to be and stay creative. Once again, I recommend this book.

Best Book For Lyric Writing Techniques
Writing Better Lyrics

8. Songwriting Without Boundaries: Lyric Writing Exercises for Finding Your Voice by Pat Pattison

I am not being sponsored in any way but I just find that with these two lyric writing books, you don’t need anything else as a songwriter. Songwriting Without Boundaries is a book that focuses on really mastering important lyric writing techniques. The book is full of inspiring exercises and it complements “Writing Better Lyrics” perfectly.

Music Production and Audio Engineering

To successfully pitch your song to artists and labels, as a songwriter you need to be able to record your musical ideas. And also to produce and mix them to a certain extent. Because if you don’t then there are plenty of other people who do possess these skills.

9. Recording Secrets for the Small Studio by Mike Senior

Being able to record your songs as well as possible is an essential skill for a songwriter. Because if your recording or demo sucks nobody will listen to it. Nobody wants to acknowledge it, but it is the truth. That’s why you need to at least have some basic audio engineering knowledge.

Luckily Mike Senior who also writes articles for the famous Sound on Sound, has made a comprehensive guide. Especially for all the musicians, songwriters, composers, and producers who make music at home or in a small studio. Each chapter also has elaborate online materials that you can listen to and read. It’s an amazing self-study package. This book is highly recommended.

10. Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio by Mike Senior

Again a book by Mike Senior? Well, because it’s a complete bang for your buck and a no-brainer! Remember when I said that you need some basic knowledge about recording music? Well, you also need to know a little bit about how to mix your music properly. You don’t have to create a perfectly polished mix, but you do need to know how to use reverb. And I mean in a controlled way…

This book is as complete as it gets when it comes to learning how to mix. This is the ultimate resource for students who are just starting to learn how to mix music. But it also has enough interesting tips and tricks for the more seasoned mixing student. If that’s not enough, each chapter has very elaborate online videos and sound materials.

I have learned so much from this book. I think it’s the easiest one to understand and it’s very beginner friendly. And between you and me I still go back to some chapters every now and then.

Best Mixing and Music Production
Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio

Inspiration and Productivity

You might think: ‘What are these books doing on a books on songwriting list?’ Well, because we all need inspiration and we all need to get things done. Today’s day there are so many distractions in our lives that it can be difficult to stay productive. Also, it can be easy to lose your physical or mental health while battling with the ongoing pressure of social media.

11. Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg, Steve Magness

The title says it all. This book by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness is highly inspirational, motivational, and educational. Once I started reading it, I could not stop. It has so many nuggets of wisdom in it. But the most important lesson you can learn from this book is how to get the best out of yourself and your work healthily and sustainably.

Making music demands all your mental power and sometimes even physical power. You need to know how to balance how much you spend and how much you rest. Don’t underestimate how taxing writing and performing music is. I mean, yes it’s fun and rewarding, but it’s still work!

12. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Essentialism by Greg McKeown is one of those books that makes sense from the beginning. Nowadays we just want to do everything at the same time. Multitasking is hip and buzzing. But does that work? Learn how to do more by doing less. No nonsense!

Bonus Books

Listen To This by Alex Ross

I am a big fan of Alex Ross’s writing. His book ‘The Rest Is Noise‘ is a gem for any composer wanting to learn and read more about music and music history. When you read it you will have a listening list of new music that will keep you busy for multiple years. His book ‘Listen To This’ is a little bit less organised, but the crossover to multiple musical styles is interesting and educational. After reading Listen To This, you will have an elaborate listening list of interesting music from different styles. It comes highly recommended for anybody wanting to expand their musical horizon!

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin

I think any artist should read this book. Actually… Everybody should read this book! It’s full of great tips to lead a creative and happy life. Especially as a songwriter you need to stay open to creative songwriting ideas. And also you need to be able to generate many different songs. Luckily this book is such a well of inspiration and wisdom. I was pleasantly surprised when I read it. I opened my eyes and it taught me to direct my attention in a more creativity-focused way.

If you want to avoid creative burnout or writer’s block, then I advise this book by Rick Rubin. This should be on any songwriter’s bookshelf. No questions asked. That’s why it’s on my best songwriting books list!

Best Book For Creativity & Inspiration
The Creative Act: A Way of Being
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Why Read Books About Songwriting?

Reading some of these best books on songwriting can help you in many ways. It can improve your writing skills by learning new tools and techniques for writing solid melodies, harmonies, and lyrics. You can also polish and market your songs more effectively by learning how to record, edit and mix your music. Also, you can develop a good mindset and imagination by reading inspiring stories and insights from other experienced songwriters and finding out what songwriting strategies they use. 

What music skills do you need as a songwriter?

A songwriter needs to learn many different skills to be successful in the music industry. Here’s what I think some of the most important skills are:

  • Musical talent: This includes the ability to sing or play one or more instruments, as well as compose original melodies and harmonies.
  • Creativity: The ability to generate new and original ideas for songs, as well as experiment with different genres, styles, and techniques is very important.
  • Musical score writing & reading: This is the ability to write music in a standard notation. This will not only be useful to you when reading music but your music can then also be read and performed by other musicians.
  • Lyricism: The ability to write words that express feelings and thoughts through song, as well as rhyme, use great imagery, and create word hooks that never let you go.
  • Communication: This is the ability to convey your musical vision clearly and effectively to others, such as co-writers, producers, engineers, and artists. Also, you need to be able to work and network with many people in the musical field.
  • Technical skills: This is the ability to use software and equipment to record, edit, mix, and produce your songs, as well as understand the basics of music theory, song structure, and copyright law.

Do you need help with improving any of these music skills? Contact me for online songwriting classes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Songwriting

I would say that Great Songwriting Techniques and The Songwriter’s Workshop: Harmony should be the first books that you start with. They are very in-depth and are easier to read and digest than some of the other books on this list.

If there was only one book that you could read about lyric writing techniques then Writing Better Lyrics should be the one. It takes you from beginner level to advanced in a structured way. It is an amazing read. This one has to be on your bookshelf.

I always find this to be a difficult topic because people seem to idolize kids with insane talent. I mean don’t get me wrong talent at a young age is a blessing. But that should not mean that you should feel discouraged if you start songwriting at a later age. It’s all about your creativity and what you want to achieve. There are plenty of examples of composers, musicians, and songwriters who started or became famous after their 30’s or 40’s.

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