I recently have been asked to talk about songwriting on a few different occasions. I’m definitely not an authority on it but I have picked up a lot of things along the way from great songwriters and some things myself. So here’s a list.
1. Jared Anderson quote “Filter was goes in, don’t filter what comes out”
This was life changing for me. Stop worrying about what it sounds like or if it fits your bubble just write it.
2. Be prolific. Prolific means to produce a lot. My goal is to write a song a day, I don’t always meet that, but that’s my goal. You may never use the song but just write something. You are exercising that muscle, and who knows maybe 5 or 10 songs out of those 300 turn out to be something special.
3. Great tool for practicing writing is to turn on instrumental jazz music and write lyrics behind it. It’s funny and cheesy but it really stretches your vocabulary
4. Find new ways to say things. I know this seems simple but I hear so many worship songs that are just cliche after cliche. God is infinite in His creativity, He can help you reveal His mysteries in a new way. It doesn’t have to be a complex wording either, but just said in a new way.
5. Write and record everything down. You never know when a piece of a song or a melody could fit another song you’re working on later on down the road. I’ve had this happen several times. I love the iphone, it make recording your songs easy.
6. Focus on finishing a song. Use whatever filler words you need to, then go back and start hashing out words and melodies. It gives you a structure to work in. This is from John Steinbeck who wrote Of Mice and Men “Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.Try to just finish the song and then go back and make reviews and change words”
7. Try different instruments and keys. Sometimes a different instrument will totally change the way a song feels. Fast songs are so hard to write, sometimes I’ll just lay a beat down on the computer and play to that, or use a metronome at a faster bpm and play off of that.
8. Listen to other music and styles. Listen to the way they put chords, lyrics, and melodies together. There is a proven formula for good songs, it’s worked over centuries. No need to reinvent the wheel. Listen to the top 40 songs of any genre, you’ll notice a pattern they follow.
9. My personal style of writing is to just write what comes out. Usually starts with a phrase. Generally I won’t know what the song will be about till near then end. Everyone has their method. Learn what your’s is. Some people like to take a theme and tackle it, others like a story and expound upon that. You might use all the different method but you will gravitate towards a certain routine. Go with it.
10. Create an atmosphere to write in. For me fluorescent lighting staring at a computer screen doesn’t inspire me. A dark room with just me and a piano is always a good combination.
11. Many people write only when their inspired or stop writing when the inspiration leaves. Both will get you unfinished songs and probably not good ones. Those songs that just flood out are awesome but they are not the norm. You have to flesh out good songs. I’ll write the idea and then spend days if not weeks finishing a song or idea. I keep working on it, tweaking, and singing it over and over till something good comes out. It’s hard work but it pays off in the end.
Last night me and some friends got together and recorded a song/music video. It was an old song but a song I just haven’t been able to let go of. You have something in your life like that? Some creation that you just know was meant for something more, different than the other stuff that comes out of your brain. I always felt the song captured was a passion song. It’s more than a song, but a heart cry. Just last week CFNI did their 39th worship album and the last song of the night was a song I wrote years ago called Oh the blood. It’s just a new take on the old hymn. I always felt it was song that was going to be used but it never felt like the right time. I submitted to my friend Gabe Allred and he helped me finish the second verse and the song just came alive. It was the last song of the night, everyone was handed red bracelets and waved them in the air singing Oh The Blood of Jesus. Powerful on two levels. It was just awesome to see the body of Christ declaring what the work on Calvery accomplished, and then to hear 2 thousand people singing as one something God deposited in me. So humbling. I’m learning a valuable lesson, that God honors faith. Step into it. For me it was songwriting. I just went for it, not worry about those said I wasn’t good enough. James 2:14 said faith without works is dead. Because you get a word from God doesn’t mean things just happen. You have to put your faith and works together to see God honor His word. Well all the kids are sleeping, it’s time for a nap.
Sitting in Panera Bread and how embarrassing I forgot my wallet. Thank you to Sandra for being such a blessing and letting me go ahead and get my bowl of oatmeal. I just finished Martin Smith’s book called Delirious?, go read it if you can, it totally changed my perspective on things. I feel like I can climb a mountain or scale a wall, taking the words from the psalms. The last few years have been an amazing ride for me, nothing external really, but all internal. Beginning to see myself as God does. It makes me think of Gideon, who was threshing wheat in a winepress and an angel came and said the Lord is with you, mighty warrior. Gideon replied pardon me but I’m the least in my family. He had a destiny and it was time he moved in it. You should read about him a few chapters later, full of faith and confidence in the Lord. I feel like that’s the journey I’m on. I find myself saying things in my heart about impacting my community for Christ, being a light, singing God songs over people. I’ve always felt like the least in my spiritual family, not the best voice or abilities. But isn’t that a dependence on me, not God. It’s God who equips us and trains our hands for battle. There’s no logic to it all, it’s supernatural. We place our trust, hope, and confidence in Him, and He turns our nothing into beauty for His purposes. I’m alive because He’s alive, Amen. I’m not sure where all this leads me, but exciting and terrifying to step out in faith. I never saw myself playing shows, but all of a sudden I feel that I’m supposed to. Singing songs that don’t seem to fit the venue I’m playing in, singing my God songs as Martin Smith calls them. Leading worship has taught me that people’s outward expression is not always and indication of what’s happening on the inside. So it is with playing outside the four walls of the church, God may be doing something I will never know about, but it’s making an impact, placing a seed. A seed is all the Holy Spirit needs, that’s a whole other discussion. I say to you, God is with you Mighty Warrior, don’t lose heart but walk in the destiny He has for you. Don’t try to figure out what it looks like just take the first step.