So you’re wondering what to call a person who writes music? You’re in luck! Although sometimes there are different terms or names thrown around. Here’s a simple way to call a person who writes music:
- A person who only writes music (No lyrics): Composer
- A person who writes both music and lyrics: Songwriter
- A person who only writes lyrics (No music, not even melody): Lyricist
Which of the category above do you fall into? Maybe it’s clear, but sometimes it isn’t at first. But don’t worry, we will look at the process of writing a song from scratch to publishing so that you can have a better understanding of the different people involved!
- A person who writes songs is called a songwriter
- A person who writes lyrics is called a lyricist
- A person who writes melody is called a composer
- A person who produces music is called a producer
- A person who records music is called a recording engineer
- A person who does mixing is called a mixing engineer
- A person who masters the song is called a mastering engineer
A person who writes songs is called a songwriter
Songwriter is the general term we call people who writes songs. Usually they can write both lyrics and melody. If you ask them which they write first, they may even say they write both lyrics and melody together.
Songwriters generally work with modern-day songs. Some of the genres today include Pop, Rock, EDM, Folk, R&B, etc. If you’re referring to writers of classical pieces, we don’t usually call them songwriters, but composers. We will explain the role of composers more later on in this article.
A person who writes lyrics is called a lyricist
A lyricist’s job is to write down the words for a song. If you’re not sure what that means, think of one of your favorite songs and sing along. The words that you just sang are actually the lyrics! If you take away that, you’re left with a tune for you to hum.
Lyricists usually only writes lyrics, and they highly specialize in that area. However, when they have a melody idea, they may present it to the composer (will explain below), and so communication is very important in collaborations.
A person who writes melody is called a composer
The melody is the tune of the song. Without it, the song will be left with the backing track and words. A person who writes the melody is called the composer.
Sometimes in a song, depending on the genre, a composer isn’t needed. One example is rap. Rap may only consist of the lyrics, usually written by the rapper, and the beat.
For other music genres though, melody is what makes a song a song. Even if you forget the lyrics, you can recall a song by its melody.
We mentioned classical pieces briefly in this article, and we call the writers of those music composers. That’s because most of the pieces performed by instrumentalists do not involve vocalists, and hence no lyrics is involved. When no lyrics is involved, we call the writers of melody composers.
A person who produces music is called a producer
Even though a song is basically made up of the lyrics and melody, sometimes the music or beat can influence the songwriting decisions immensely. The music producer produces music.
With current technology, hits can be made in bedrooms with enough skill and experience, and so the role of music producer has evolved quite a lot. Traditionally, the beat or instrumental is created by the beatmaker or recorded live performed by session musicians. However, with enough knowledge, a single person can decide the direction and overall vision of the song, make the beat and complete a song. That’s why the line is blurred when we talk about a person who creates music, and we usually just use the term music producer.
A person who records music is called a recording engineer
Once we have the lyrics, melody and music done, it’s time to record it into the computer, so we can edit the song. A recording engineer oversees the music recording process. Here are some of the components that may need to be recorded:
- Lead Vocals
- Backing Vocals
With the rise of software and virtual instruments, even if you don’t know how to play some instruments, you’ll be able to add those instruments virtually in the computer without ever recording them. That’s why in today’s music industry, the recording process is much shorter than what it used to be. In the genre of EDM this is especially visible, as most of the instruments are electronically produced. After all, it is electronic dance music.
The main role of the recording engineer nowadays is to record great vocals. Of course, this depends on the genre, but from my experience working in the pop scene, this holds true. Once the vocal tracks are recorded, the recording engineer passes the files down to the next phase.
A person who does mixing is called a mixing engineer
Now we enter into the post-production phase of song production. Mixing a song mainly involves adjusting the gain and frequencies of each and every instrument. By changing the volume and shaping the sounds, each instrument can fit into the song better, and hence the overall song will sound more balanced. That means not only can we hear each instrument clearly, but the feelings of the song can also be conveyed much better.
The mixing engineer also adds certain effects to the instruments. Some effects include reverb, delay, and distortion. By adding these elements, the overall quality of sound can be greatly increased.
Imagine you’re standing in an empty room. If you speak, there will be echoes. If you add furniture, or if you move closer to a wall, the echo will change. The same principle applies to mixing. By adjusting reverb and delay, the audience will perceive each instrument to be at certain places around them, resulting in a much more natural and pleasing experience.
Distortion and saturation is generally avoided in the recording process, but that is referring to audio clipping in the digital domain. What that means is that the audio is recorded in a volume that’s too loud for the computer to handle, resulting in clipping, which is unpleasant to the ears. But the distortion or saturation mixing engineers add to the song is different. Analog distortion if used properly, is not only pleasing to the ears, but can also assert different moods.
A person who masters the song is called a mastering engineer
Mastering is the final step in music making. The mastering engineer’s job is to bring the whole song to release-ready standard. Some adjustments include bringing the overall volume louder, and small adjustments in the frequency domain.
This field is highly specialized. Although with enough experience a music producer can master their own songs, but more often than not the results would be much better when done by a professional mastering engineer.
With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), there are many pieces of software online that can master your music for a very low price. Many musicians swear by them, but that highly depends on the music genre and the result you’re looking for. If you’re interested, here’s some of the more famous AI mastering software: