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Songwriting Mechanics

Songwriters come in all shapes and sizes—young, old, from all walks of life. It is a God given gift, designed to be given back to Him for His glory, but many recipients choose to use this precious gift for themselves and thus write worldly music. But for those of you who want to use it for its intended purpose, here are some tips that may be of help.

1) Inspiration: Every song begins with an idea, a thought. A good one is very hard to come by. I have found that some of my best ideas have come from very simple things. In fact, the more simple the thought, the better it will relate to the listener. If the subject concerns something from everyday life or a familiar scripture, the listener feels instantly connected to the song. Look at the greatest of titles: “Amazing Grace,”“ How Great Thou Art,” “There Is A Fountain.” These titles (ideas) are simple, familiar, and to the point.

2) Development: Developing the song from the idea should have the same simple flow, always with familiar language and clean, understandable lines. Economy is one of the most important issues in developing a song. You are writing approximately twelve lines that deal only with that one idea, and saying it in the least words is the goal. Every line should be totally clear and never veer from the main theme. The title must be used at least
twice in the song—always, at least once in the chorus.

3) First Verse: Writing a song is telling a story about the title. The opening line of the first verse must set the stage for the entire song. It’s like building a house and the first line is the foundation. Example:“ Oh, Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made.”

1) The song is directed, spoken, as a prayer to the Lord.
2) It establishes the thought: “The awesome wonder of you, Lord, and here are my feelings about you.”
3) The most important word in this opening line is “consider.” It opens the way for the singer to tell the Lord what they have considered in thinking of Him.
4) The last line in the first verse should set up and lead into the chorus.

Chorus: It must either open or close with the title. It should be the most simple 4 lines of the song and not Biblical truth that’s difficult to understand. Write these 4 lines as though you were talking to a young Christian with basic knowledge and limited experience. Writing in this manner will keep you grounded in the thought and theme of the song.

Second Verse: Think of it as the last chapter of the story. Pull the theme of the song together in one final statement. The last line of this verse needs finality either in the subject of the song, or using the title once
again to put an explanation mark on the entire work.

Tag: Write a tag only when it enhances what has already been said. A tag must have thrilling content to be of any value.

Length: Two verses and a chorus are usually enough, and sometimes three verses are necessary to complete the story properly. If you write more than three verses, you will probably be the only one who will ever sing the song. More than 4 lines in a verse and 4 in a chorus are unusual. If you find it necessary to write more make sure they that it doesn’t lengthen the song to the point of becoming an epic. Very long songs are impossible to pitch to today’s artists.

Poetry: “Poetic License” is almost always unacceptable, meaning, if you can’t come up with a word to make a good rhyme, you may need to change the word with which you are trying to rhyme. Good rhyming structure is 1st& 2nd rhyming and 3rd & 4th rhyming, or 1st and 3rd and/or 2nd & 4th lines. It’s also perfectly acceptable to rhyme only the 2nd & 4th lines, but the 4th or last line must be rhymed.

Sometimes, in rare instances, all 4 lines are rhymed. There are many good helps available for this: Rhyming books, Thesaurus, and internet.

Avoid:

1) Using songwriting to state a pet peeve, or to make a point based on personal opinion. A song is not a podium to air grievances.

2) Inverted sentences are bad songwriting. Novice songwriters do this often because they will not take time and effort to say it a different way.

Example: “I will go to the Throne of grace.” Inverted: “To the throne of grace, I will go.” All songwriters invert at times, but it becomes a bad habit. About the only style that uses inversions is majestic, old English hymns, otherwise lyrics should be written in conversationally style.

Melody: There is nothing here about melody, but I will say a couple of things. There are only 7 notes to write fresh and exciting melody for every song. Just be sure the melody fits the song and the lyrics in each verse
contains the same number of syllables so the melody notes can be sung with each syllable in every verse. You don’t have to have a music degree to write good melody, but it does have to perfectly fit the lyrics in both
phrasing and content.

Craftmanship: Most novice writers are under the false impression that however the lyrics and melody first appear in their mind is the way God gave them and, thus, must not be altered. However, ask any seasoned writer and they will tell you that very, very, rarely will a song come instantly complete and perfect.

If God has given you a talent for songwriting He expects you to work at it, treating it as an art, a craft, your work for Him. You must remain open minded, ever learning and improving.