April 9, 2021
When it comes to worship, it could be really easy to overly spiritualize the songwriting process but like most things in the kingdom, spiritual things are actually very practical. Keeping this in mind, here are my top 10 practical songwriting tips that will be sure to help you along your songwriting journey.
1. JUST START
Getting started is often the hardest part of the songwriting process. Developing your song’s main melody or central chorus is usually the best place to begin writing your next tune. Once you’ve got your hook or key chord progression, you can build the rest of your song around it. Even though starting with melody and/or a chorus is usually helpful to start, there’s no rule when it comes to writing a new song. It’s down to the songwriter, the song, and the original inspiration to determine your starting point.
2. LYRICS MATTER
If you like it or not, songwriters set the theological tone for culture so lyrics are arguably the most important part of our songs. Lyric writing can often be the most frustrating and difficult aspect of the songwriting process, especially for amateur songwriters lacking in experience or knowledge of the Bible.
Having a clear idea of what your song will be about is a good start. You could write down exactly what truth or concept you want to get across in your lyrics, then play about with the rhythm, structure, and cadence of your words to fit them around your melody. Obviously, singing through scriptures about your topic helps tremendously and is a great way to fit biblical language into your tune. A solid lyrical hook for your chorus is particularly important, while the verses and bridge can be built around your central theme.
3. RECORD ANY SPUR OF THE MOMENT INSPIRATION
There’s nothing worse as a songwriter than coming up with an amazing melody or riff, only to completely forget what is was an hour later! Forgetting your ideas can be really frustrating, so it’s important to make a note of your idea while it’s fresh in your mind, even if it’s just recorded quickly on your phone or scribbled on a scrap of paper. You’ll be glad of the reminder later when you return to continue working on the song.
4. WRITE FROM YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE
As obvious as it may sound, some of history’s greatest songs are about personal experiences, with artists drawing on real-life events and traumas to spark their creativity. King David was excellent at this. Whether you’ve been through hard times or great times, you can draw from your life experiences. Put those feelings and the revelation you got from that season into a song!
5. COLLABORATE WITH OTHERS
If you’re suffering from writer’s block (everyone does at some point!), then collaborating with others can offer a great way to break new ground and get a fresh perspective on your tune. Show them what you’ve got so far, discuss any new ideas they might suggest, and see what comes out of it. Getting an outside perspective on your track from a fellow collaborator can help to bring the best out of your music.
6. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Keeping your song as simple as possible at first is an excellent way to accelerate the songwriting process and work out the structure of your song. Many complex worship anthems started as a few chords strummed on an acoustic guitar. Once you’ve got the basis of the song in its simplest form, you can go about adding additional elements afterward. Don’t make things harder for yourself by overcomplicating everything right from the beginning.
7. TAKE BREAKS
Writing a song from scratch can sometimes be frustrating and mentally tiring work, especially if the ideas aren’t flowing as easily as you’d like. Often a 15-minute break can help get the creativity flowing and stop your mind from becoming too clouded to see the ideas and inspiration you’re searching for. Whether it’s written in two hours or two months, the final product is all that’s important, no matter how long it takes.
8. DON’T OVERTHINK IT
As musicians, singers, songwriters, etc we are often our own worst critics. If you judge your own songs too harshly you’ll never get anything done, so it’s important to keep an open mind, and while it’s great to take your time and carefully consider each facet of a new song, it’s often easier to get things done when you let the songwriting process flow, stop worrying and just get on with it. Overthinking can be your worst enemy. Get the basis of your song down, and you can always go back and change things afterward.
9. ASK FOR FEEDBACK
Find someone you trust to give honest feedback and ask them to critique it for you. You might find they have some fantastic insight into how it could be improved. Don’t just play it for someone who might be afraid to hurt your feelings – you want honest opinions.
10. DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL
Failing is one of the biggest ways to learn. Especially if you stay teachable and don’t give up. If you feel like you’re failing and struggling to write the song you know is in you – just keep going. There’s no secret formula for successful songwriting, other than consistent, hard work.
Like anything else in life, the more you do something, the better you will get at it so keep writing and watch what God does through your efforts!