I thought it would be good to share tips we might have about where to start with writing worship songs? Is it best to start with a melody and chords or to write lyrics first?

Should a song be given to you by God or can we force/craft songs as and when we so wish?

What do you do when you run out of ideas or generally feel a bit dry - stop for a while or press in and continue?

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Well whenever I want to write a song, IT NEVER HAPPENS!!!!!! songs are just about always inspired by something that I'm going through, something i see, read, or hear. I usually start with the lyrics before i even pick up my guitar. I find that when I have music first, i try to write for the music, instead of writing first and making the music for the words.

I think that we can force songs if we really wanna express something to God. I wouldn't even say force I just think that God lets us go through "writer's block" periods so that we can search deep within ourselves, and search more for Him in order to bring out what we want to express.

Also, always, and i emphasize ALWAYS, have pen and paper with you because I've made the mistake many times of not having pen and paper when I get an amazing thought or idea and i regret it later on because, for me anyway, I write best right after the idea comes.


Before I learned the habit of carrying paper, I once had to engrave a melody with my car keys on the back of a checkbook (I'd already lost it once, and it was not going to escape this time!).  Songs have come when I have been leading a free-worship time, or when dull and depressed, or when studying the Bible for some other purpose; but almost never when sitting down neatly in front of a piano with intent to write.  Those times, however, are valuable -- they are the preparation of the fertile ground for creating music -- just as a farmer does not see his crop while planting, and indeed he does not know the day when the first sprouts, or the first fruit, appear.

Occasionally, words and music happily appear together; but much more often, the lyrical text comes first.  Note that the Bible is text, which has inspired innumerable songs.

A text may have a hundred possible melodies, but it yields for you that melody which is characteristic of your own thoughts on the text.  A good melody flows freely out of the text.

Conversely, a chord progression may host a thousand texts, but a chord progression is generic -- it can be about anything.  The same even for a melody.  Notice in your hymnbook, a well-known melody may be given a new text.  "Faith of Our Fathers" becomes "Faith of Our Mothers", jam-packed with "consecration" and "providential" and various other lengthy words, trying to describe (rightly) the mother's task as important as the martyr's, but drowns the sentiment in syllables. 

A chord progression or a melody as the source for a new song may make demands on the text you do not wish to comply with; whereas, beginning with the text, a melody may roam a freer range.


That said, I'm reminded that at least three different songs are listed in the titles of Psalms in the Bible (cf. Ps. 56, "to the tune of 'A Dove on Distant Oaks.'")  The title of that song suggests the content of David's text -- meditating on the time the Philistines had seized him; but we may also note that the Shepherd of Israel was quite happy here to use a secular pop song for inspiration.

yes  yoyu are  right   see i cant  read  notes  so  think you  for  the tip

keep  up the  work  get back to me

Songs usually come faster than even silled note-writers can keep up with them.  There are lots of little recording devices -- some phones even have them -- that will handle something the length of a song, with good quality.  Recording will capture all the nuance of expression, as well, and serve as a memory aid for when your work is codified for use as with a group (or you can simply play it for them).


Recording hint:  When recording, consider following the example of Duke Ellington. He had the tape roll continuously during the entire recording session, without stopping or cutting anything.  That way, the musicians were free to create without trying to please a machine (re-recording is a great way to ruin a song, and ruin your day).

For me, I believe that God has chosen us for specific roles in the body of Christ, and who we are (individually) plays a large part in that; God has made us suitable for what he wants us to do.

So when that translates to songwriting, if you are the sort who can capture the flow and come up with great stuff out of nowhere, then that's how it's gonna be for you. If you are the calculated sort (like me) then you'll craft songs as and when you wish.

Let's remember that systematic work can be inspired by God: the Gospel of Luke is a great example. It's the result of Luke's systematic and thorough investigation into the life of our Lord. And it's inspired. :)

For me, I spend loads of time on the book of Psalms ("What's new, JJ?") and I try to write songs from there. I'll looking for a melody-lyric rift (or hook) that can ring inside the listener's skull for the rest of the week. Hard to come by, but those you get are worth their weight in gold.

I do have one song in which the 2nd verse came a year after the 1st verse and chorus... Slow, I know. But the 1st verse and chorus already are really good. That song could have stood on it's own without the 2nd verse. Of course, when the 2nd verse came I didn't look the gift horse in the mouth, I just grabbed it and ran! :)
I'm not sure there are many folks who do the flow thing and even those who have find it rare. I remember Elton John saying that "Yellow Brick Road" came easily as he read Bernie's lyrics. He also said that was the last time any musical ideas came easily. Most writers find it difficult. Except Bob Dylan.

Your experience above is much like mine, especially how parts come together slowly. I also try Psalms often, but it's not always there. I find it hard to strike the balance between "direct biblical" lyrics and "creative biblical" lyrics.

I know this is a silly and profane example, but Billy Gibbons described how they came up with "Jesus Just Left Chicago". They used to listen to this blues station from Chicago late at night when the AM waves travel a long way. They thought it was heavenly music and wherever they were - New Orleans, Mississipi etc., they would tune in. Then they associated "Jesus" with "heavenly" and that's how the idea came to be. Like I said, silly and profane, but a great example of associating life experiences into a song.
Read Paul Baloche's book "God Songs". Great stuff.
I agree with Kevin on this.
That book reads well but you can use it like a handbook for songwriting.
Its all about writing and selecting songs for worship.

Regarding writing songs. I like a story that Jason Upton tells about having to write the final song for a cd. He had to finish it. But it was his turn to watch the kids while his wife was out. The problem was, his kids kept "bothering" him and "interrupting" him. He just couldnt get anywhere. So he said fine I'll give you guys some attention. And he goes in to change his daughter. And Jason says, "all of the sudden God starts dropping revelation after revalation". He says its like God was saying if you will be faithful to your responsibilities as a father and a husband, that God will take care of the rest. Now thats not to say you should start wiping babies rears and you will have inspiration. But that when you take your eyes off the task at hand and focus on the priorities you need to, thats when God can really move in you.
Gosh darn it! My kids haven't been in diapers for years. lol Seriously though, great insight!
I am now doing the "crafting" approach...my first two songs we've used in church just came out of the pipe pretty on target--those started with the melody and just a few words, which i dropped into my melody and added to. Then after hanging out with a songwriter's group, i decided to do the words first--pray about it, invite God into the process, and write the words by themselves. I intentionally set out to write a blues song about the longing to be in God's presence. Overall it was a very different experience! But good. I would say it took me about two months and 7-8 big revisions to write the song. Once i felt focused in what I was saying, I put the words to music. It was definitely "crafted." But I don't think it was any less from God. I prayed over the song at all stages and felt like God brought me people to listen to it and gave me new directions as i worked on it. It's been well received in church. So...I've done it both ways! But i am now trying the "words first" method.
My husband & I usually write together, or at least help each other during the process. I will usually start with lyrics. My husband usually starts with chord progressions on his guitar, which then goes into a melody & then lyrics. I think in that respect, everyone works differenly. You take what God gives you in the order He gives it.

I usually only work on something when the inspiration has hit. Otherwise, I sit there and struggle with trying to force something out. Of couse, I've never been in the position where I've had to get a particular song done.


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