Many people want a simple formula for writing a song. Though there are methods and routines that people might develop, an important thing to remember is that it is a form of art. If we try to form an equation for writing a good song, it might work for some, but it will definitely not work for all. That leaves us with our own journey of discovery for songwriting. Who we are and what we do impact how we will write songs. Others can only give us tips and ideas to help us along our own path.
I really like the tips that John Chisum gave in an article he wrote, “The Seven Secrets Pro Christians Songwriters Use” (http://worshiplife.com/2016/04/07/the-seven-secrets-pro-christian-songwriters-use-by-john-chisum/). I like that he presents concepts rather than steps.
I would like to present some of my own thoughts in response to the question, “How do you write a song?”
Understand why you are writing the song. What is the purpose? The purpose may call for different methods, different lyrics, and different melody. A contemporary Christian song is different than a corporate worship song. One of the major differences is that a worship song is meant to be sung by many, so it should be easy to learn, easy to sing, and should facilitate worship.
Be inspired. Ideas can come from anywhere, so always be alert. It takes discipline to catch an idea, remember it, and develop it. The most important thing is we need to take the idea to the Word of God allowing an idea to become true inspiration. If it doesn’t line up with the Word of God, it will only be an idea.
Stay on Topic. In the Philippines there is a wonderful dessert called “halo-halo” meaning “mix- mix.” The mix of many different dessert items combined to make one majestic dessert worked with halo-halo. It doesn’t work with song writing. Taking many cool sounding phrases, or currently relevant themes and putting them all in one song won’t make a majestic song.
Put you heart into it. Any song that I have written has a story behind it. It’s attached to a time in my life as I journeyed as a worshiper and a songwriter. Though song writing has form to it, form alone won’t help you to write a good song. In the end, it has to come from your heart. Lean to be vulnerable when you’re writing a song. Combine heart and form to make something great!
Just do it. Many people get stuck at the ‘how to’ stage. Worry about technique and where to start. It’s good to study technique and there are many good resources available. But at some point you have to stop studying and start doing. Break the ice! You may or may not like the first song you write, but getting started as a songwriter will be a victory in itself.
Blog by: Toby Huyssen