Thursday, May 29, 2008


Psalm 40:3 “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.”

I did a Christian songwriting seminar @ Inspire ’08 that went really well. I joined songwriter Don Kock (In Christ Alone, Mercy Came Running and Basics of Life and other massive, Dove award winning songs) to talk about ways to think as a song writer. I thought you might like to see the talking points from this seminar. It’s basically a few ways to think as you improve your songwriting. Enjoy and write big!

Think Biblically
• The Bible is our foundation for truth in the Christian faith. It is the measure of every belief we have. Make sure it is the measure of every word you choose to write in a song.
• There is no better standard for content in writing Christian songs. If you can’t back it up with the Bible, it is not worth saying. This is the highest ethic in Christian songwriting.
• Knowing the Bible and being able to synthesize what it says into song is the first place to start for every worship writer.
Think Melodically
• Melody is king of music.
• Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Happy Birthday, Jesus Loves Me… All the hits are based on amazing melody.
• Your song has to have a good melody or it will not really work. Great lyric is important, but great melody is what makes your song stick with people…it’s what makes songs last.

Think Critically
• Always be willing to criticize, edit and remodel your work.
• The best songs are not written, they are re-written. Toss your work out to your peers or competitors. Not your grandma who loves everything you do, but someone who is well acquainted with Proverbs 27:6…”faithful are the wounds of a friend”
• Don’t fall in love with your original idea…let it breathe and see where you might land on the second or third try!

Think Creatively
• Be original when you write. Pay respect to your influences without ripping them off. I have written enough mediocre Steven Curtis Chapman tributes to know.
• Originality will distinguish your songs from the rest.

Think Consistently
• Collect everything that could be used in a song. Sayings, articles, thoughts, melodies
• Always keep something with you to record your collection. Note pads, voice recorder, leave your self a voicemail…what ever it takes, but always be ready to trap the music.
• Listen to people pray. I have written more songs from listening to old people pray than any other source. Listen to old people pray…remember what they say.
• Raise your sense of awareness when it comes to gathering information. Listen with your ears on every time you can. Most people talk in “song hooks” and say things that make great songs without even knowing it…be ready for that.
• Don’t wait for Inspiration…train it to show up when you want it. Waiting for inspiration is like waiting for the perfect church…if it does emerge, it won’t last long, so you have to be the one to make it great. Train your inspiration/ muse by putting it to work on a daily basis. Write, Write, Write…do not wait. Write. Read “On Writing” by Stephen King
Think Collectively
• Invite others into your experience. Community is always stronger than solo. Your songs have double the power to get heard because, they are backed by a team and not a one-man band. Two heads are better than one.
• Co-write as much as you can to improve your end result.
Think Responsibly
• You are charged with putting words about God and the Christian experience into people’s mouths. Songs are uniquely capable of sticking with people, so make sure what you say holds water. Make sure what you put in people’s mouths is nutritious and delicious.
• Exhaust yourself to make your music and your lyrics represent the clearest truth. Do not settle for the easy way out.

Think Globally
• Write things that people everywhere would want to say. Global themes are common to everyone, so write something that connects on numerous levels. Personally and globally…
Think Poetically
• Use imagery and word pictures with your lyrics…”the leaves were so green” BAD “the leaves looked like emerald drops” BETTER
• Think about rhyme as much as you can. Never write something so that you force it to rhyme and the expense of making clear sense or being conversational.
• Avoid Yoda Speak to fit a rhyme in. “You always have been good, me you understood”. BAD This is not how people talk…write conversations. “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, it’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus” BETTER
• Avoid passive voice: form of "to be" + past participle = passive voice. “Why was the road crossed by the chicken?” BAD Use the most direct and conversational word orders that you can…it promotes clarity and drives home you point better

Think Courageously
• Say something that breaks a bond when you write.
• Don’t waste words on something that has already been said or more importantly don’t waste your time adding to the pantheon of things that have been poorly said. Songs that have substance always have an element of risk to them and they always last.
• Don’t be afraid to call people to action, challenge thought, encourage passion, ignite courage
• Be proud of your songs. If God gave them to you, it’s either because he did not want them anymore (ha) or he wanted you to use it to bless someone else. Be gracious about it, but play your songs for people…music is for people and not for private personal consumption. If you have been given the gift to make it, never keep it to yourself and never be ashamed of it. Treat your songs like you treat your kids. Show them off every chance you get in public, but in private, do the disciplined, consistent work it takes to get them ready to leave the house and not embarrass you.

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