Let's pool our knowledge here on WTR and share our top tips for writing worship songs.

You can list as many as you want and once we've had lots of suggestions i'll compile the best ones and publish them on the WTR blog.

Thanks!

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I've now published some of these in a blog called: 46 Worship Songwriting Tips

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Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

I always wanted to write songs, but never knew technically/musically what the process looked like. (Did the lyrics have to be in iambic pentameter???) But as I was learning basic chords on the piano, I also "happened" to be starting to dig into the Word with the pure intent of wanting to live it out and let Him change my life - and that's when song lyrics started to come to me. With my Bible open before me and my heart really listening for God's voice.

So for those of you who are at Square One like I was, listen for God's voice to speak to your life ... From there, you can go two routes: start with lyrics or with a melody and/or chord progression.

In the beginning, I started with lyrics. I'd get some truths scribbled down and pick one of the lines to try singing out ... to whatever tune came to me. I know that sounds cheesy, but that's what I did! And it even worked! Then I would build the melody around that line and figure out chords later. (unfortunately, I usually found these melodies pretty hard to play on an instrument other than my own vocal chords, so buyer beware)

Now, I still start with lyrics - though it might be just a few random lines and an overall theme - then I play some chord progressions on the piano (for instance, C G Am F, repeated) until I come up with one that seems to fit the lyrics both melodically and rhythmically. Then I fill in the additional lyrics as needed.

For those of you who are strong instrumentalists and can come up with great riffs and rhythms and progressions, you might want to start there and then sing out scripture as you play. This is what Charlie Hall does with his band. He brings lyrics, they bring riffs and instrumentals - and they mesh them together.

I just want to add a definition for "prophetic" song writing, since it's been mentioned. The catchphrase can scare non-pentecostals, but a lot of times it just means you're worshiping (usually to a song already written) and playing some chord progressions and you just start to do ad-lib/freeflow worship with new lyrics on the spot. Sometimes you might alter the existing progression I imagine, but sometimes not.
Avoid using words that end in "t" followed by the word "you". Always comes out to sound like "____ chew" at some point.
There are 2 things that if I'm not doing, I'm not really writing.

1. Do it regularly. Not just do it a lot, but sit down at the same time every day and open your notebook. When creativity becomes part of your routine you can take a new idea further with less effort.

2. Re-write. Everything. You should assume that your first draft is rough and needs to be refined. I once had someone tell me that I was ruining a 'gift from God' when I re-wrote lyrics. I responded that not re-writing is throwing away another gift. Anyone can come up with a rough idea, but taking that germ of a song and refining it into a finished and complete piece of music is another gifting altogether. That's what we call songwriting.
Your second point - very good. I think there are some very rare songs that come out well the first time, but that's not common at all.  Most successful song writers will tell you that it's hard work.
Just to let you know... I've now published some of these in a blog called: 46 Worship Songwriting Tips
Hi Phil thank you for sending this. I'm thinking if we can do a worship seminar together. Needs are vast. Most of the churches in fact ALL music team of praise and worship team in India doesn't have certain knowlege or idea of how to lead and do praise and worship. You may think, pray and act. You are welcome.

In Christ's Mission,
Phil
Would invite you to check out this list of 45 tips for skillful worship songwriting:

http://goo.gl/i5bxh
Love the website!  Thanks for the tips.
Glad you like it, hope you visit again :)

Don't try to write a Top 10 song...

 

1) Be your harshest critic. Face up to the fact that a certain song or phrase is just plain dumb. Kick it. Punish it. Beat it up and throw it around. Turn it upside down. For gosh sake, don't settle unless it's actually decent. But don't throw it away because you decide you don't like it. It could become the greatest song ever written with a little work.

 

2) Collaborate. Who are your favorite song writers? How many of them are completely solo? Realize that the best songs of all time across all genres are usually collaborations. Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics and sent them to Elton John. Robert Hunter wrote lyrics and shared them with Jerry Garcia.

 

3) Cliches and overused phrases make bad songs, avoid them. Even if one of those phrases comes to mind, change it up a little. Sometimes country songs are built entirely on cliches, as if the genre allows it. Do you remember any songs like that? Do you like them? Probably not. Good songs are the ones that have fresh lyrics with surprising and pleasant twists in them.

 

4) Record which song(s) inspired the one you're writing now. I'm always inspired by other music - every song I listen to makes my mind go wild with ideas. When this happens, and I start to write down words and ideas, I'll put a one-liner in like, "came to me while listening to so-and-so's song x"  This makes it easy to get back into the inspirational mode that started the whole thing. It also makes it easier for your song to actually sound like a song...

 

5) Don't listen to anyone who tells you that your lyric is "from God". I'm sure He's there in the background inspiring you, but it's your song. Why? Because if it's "from God", it doesn't need refining or editing. I can't tell you how many poorly written songs were presented as "from God". David wrote scripture, you and I are writing songs. When you're done, thank God for the song. (Nice paradox, eh?)

 

6) Model your songs after others. Good songwriting can't/won't happen in a vacuum. Every good song has lineage. It's up to you and I to take that inherited style and change it a little bit. This make for fresh songs that actually sound like songs. (And note that the original doesn't have to be "great".)

...Be your harshest critic, but only do that after you've brainstormed.  You shouldn't analyze your ideas until you've put a whole lot of them down.  If you bring your editor's mind to the brainstorming session, you will analyze everything out of the song and end up with nothing.

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