Introduction Singer/songwriters are musicians whowrite, compose and sing their own musicalmaterial including lyrics and melodies. Asopposed to contemporary popular musicsingers, the term singer/songwriter describes adistinct form of artistry, closely associated withthe folk-acoustic tradition. Singer/songwriters often perform the entirecomposition or song themselves, typically usinga guitar or piano; both the compositions and thearrangements are written primarily as solos, withthe material angled toward topical issues;sometimes political, sometimesintrospective, sensitive, romantic, andconfessional.
Origins The concept of a singer/songwriter can be tracedto ancient bardic tradition, which has existed invarious forms throughout the world. (BardicPoetry refers to the writings of poets trained inthe Bardic Schools of Ireland and the Gaelicparts of Scotland.) Poems would be performed as a chant orsong, sometimes accompanied by a harp orother similar instruments. After the invention ofprinting, songs would be written and performedby ballad sellers. Usually these would beversions of existing tunes and lyrics, which wereconstantly evolving. This developed into thesinger/songwriting traditions of folk culture.
History: Folk and Blues The term "singer/songwriter" in NorthAmerica can be traced back to singers whodeveloped works in the blues and folk musicstyle. The tradition of writing topical songs (songsregarding specific issues of the day, such asLead Bellys "Jim Crow Blues“) wasestablished by this group of musicians.Singers would attend rallies for labourunions, and so wrote many songs concerningthe life of the working classes, and socialprotest; as did other folksingers while bluessingers wrote songs about their personal lifeexperiences.
History: Folk and Blues During the period from the 1940sthrough the 1960s, sparked by theAmerican folk music revival, youngperformers inspired by traditional folkmusic and groups like the AlmanacSingers and The Weavers beganwriting and performing their ownoriginal material and creating theirown musical arrangements.
History: Folk, Blues andCountry The first popular recognition of thesinger/songwriter North America and GreatBritain occurred in the 1960s and early 1970swhen a series of blues, folk and country-influenced musicians rose to popularity. In contrast to the storytelling approach ofmost prior country and folk music, theseperformers typically wrote songs from ahighly personal (often first-person),introspective point of view. The adjectives"confessional" and "sensitive" were oftenused to describe this early singer/songwriterstyle.
History: Country In the country music field,singer/songwriters emerged from the1940s through the 1960s, often writingcompelling songs about love,relationships and other subjects.
History: Rock Additionally in the 1930s through the1950s several jazz and bluessinger/songwriters emerged as well as inthe rock n roll genre from whichemerged influential singer-songwriters. While the members of rock bands of theera were not technicallysinger/songwriters as solo acts, manywere singer/songwriters who createdsongs with other band members.
History: Pop and RockBy the mid-1970s and early 1980s, theoriginal wave of singer/songwritershad largely been absorbed into a moregeneral pop or soft rock format, butsome new artists in thesinger/songwriter tradition toemerge, and in other cases rock andeven punk rock artists transitioned tocareers as solo singer/songwriters.
Examples: Bob Dylan Bob Dylan is an Americanmusician, singer/songwriter, musicproducer, artist, and writer. Active from 1961 –present. His most famous song at thistime, "Blowin in the Wind", partially derived itsmelody from the traditional slave song "No MoreAuction Block", while its lyrics questioned thesocial and political status quo.
Examples: Tracy Chapman Tracy Chapman is an American singer/songwriter.Chapman is widely regarded as a politically andsocially active musician. During college, Chapmanbegan busking in Harvard Square and playingguitar in various clubs and coffeehouses beforeshe got her first record deal in 1986.
Examples: Barbra Streisand Barbra Streisand is an Americansinger/songwriter, author, actress, writer, film producer, and director. As the 1970sended, Streisand was named the mostsuccessful female singer in the U.S. - onlyElvis Presley and The Beatles had soldmore albums.
Examples: Sheryl Crow Sheryl Crow is an Americanmusician, singer/songwriter, recordproducer, actress and political activist. Her musicincorporates elements of rock, folk, hiphop, country, and pop. Active from 1986. She has sold more than 17 million albums in theUS and over 50 million albums worldwide.
Independence Recording on the professional-gradesystems became affordable forindividuals in the late 1990s. Thiscreated opportunities for people toindependently record and sell theirmusic. Such singer/songwriters areknown as "indies" because they releasetheir records on independent, often self-owned record labels, or no label at all.Additionally the Internet has provided ameans for indies to get their music heard
Key Instruments: AcousticGuitar The acoustic guitar is widely used withsinger/songwriters as it gives a simple buteffective sound and allows the artist tocompose the whole song themselves.Ed Sheeran Gabrielle Aplin
Key Instruments: Piano The piano is also used because of thesolo aspect of it and its compellingsound.Emeli SandeElton John
Technology: Loop pedal The loop pedal is a piece of equipment onstage with the singer. It is used to recordlive sounds and play them back on a loopoverlapping each other so there is no needfor a backing track. It is rarely used but ismost popular with artists of thesinger/songwriter genre.
Album CoversThe album coversare usually verysimplistic, with notmuch more thanthe artist’s face.
Style Singer/songwriters usually wearsimple, casual clothes in music videosand on stage as to not distract fromthe brilliance of the song.Ben Howard Jake Bugg