This is a continuation of my 3-day series on notes taken from Brenton Brown’s workshop on worship song writing at CMS in Buffalo, NY.
It Feels Like Preparing a One Point Sermon
Songs are short. They use 100 words to make a point.
What’s the main point of your song, and the reasons (sub clauses) for the main point? How tightly argued are the successful songs you know/write? The reasons behind them?
How well a song is received is determined by how strong and concise an argument it makes.
To lead people in prayer you need to give them a clear prayer.
Find out what’s not being said doctrinally around you. Because you’re actually responsible for teaching them doctrine in your songs. And even more severely:
People remember your songs long after they remember your sermons.
Ask your teaching pastor where your church is lacking. Writing worship songs shapes the way people think about the Lord – it’s a teaching role.
The first gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was to communicate with people in their own languages. Likewise, how are you pursuing trustworthy communication?
Writing a worship song is composed of three core elements:
1.) Have something worth saying.
2.) Say it in a way people will understand.
3.) Say it persuasively.
Don’t waste one word.
As you come out of a verse, just before you sing the chorus to a song you’re writing, say, “And that’s why I want to say…” Then you’ll have your chorus.
The song Here I Am to Worship has 11 sub-clauses to support the reason to worship right now.
Repetition also serves as a type of sub-clause.
Example: let my life revolve around you, be my focus, be the center, be the most important thing in my life. All saying the same thing, just different ways of saying it.
The Koran is not allowed to be translated; meanwhile Pentecost opened up Biblical (and dangerous but potentially powerful) re-interpretations.
David Wilcox (folk music writer) tries to fill 3 legal pads with a single theme of thought.
Storytelling worship songs are difficult to write, and not popular in pop music (almost exclusively in country, however). But they’re extremely effective. To work in worship, they must encompass a universal theme (Example: I Coming Back To The Heart of Worship: first the music faded, then You searched deeper, now I’m coming back, etc).
Universal themes are essential. During a particular songwriting competition we held back in England, we had one great entry that had a bogus ending: “God you’re amazing / Your power is awesome in the place / You heal your people / And my cousin Dave.”
How to chose your topic? Yes, some songs flow Pentecostally and just “happen” to us; but others we must labor over. Start to think about your songs as you would a sermon: it makes it easier. Like Alister McGrath said about writing sermones, at a certain point in writing a song you’re going to have to study.
Lastly, try lowering your goals as a writer. For example, yes, everyone wants to write a collection of songs in a week that are worthy of recording on a CD; but how about just vowing to write one good song a year – one song you’re really proud of and that stands on it’s own. Now that’s a solid goal.