5 Suggestions for Worship Songwriting

1-5-songwriting-tips

By Paul Baloche

Many of the most prolific worship songwriters are worship leaders. But you don’t have to be a lead worshiper to write good worship songs, you just need to be a worshiper. The best worship songs usually are not crafted for commercial purposes. Some of them, or at least the beginning “nuggets,” come when you’re not even trying to write a song. Many of the best are born in church. Here are five suggestions for kickstarting your worship songwriting.

1. Be Open to the Spirit
The presence of the Holy Spirit is like oil, lubricating our spirits, causing music to flow. Maybe something in the worship—a word, a phrase, a line—sparks off something in you, and you continue singing your own worship phrases in your heart, spinning off into your own melody. When that happens, write it down! Write it down! Write it down! No, you won’t remember it, so use the back of the bulletin or your smartphone or the trusty notepad that you always carry for such occasions. Later, you can take your inspired idea out and worship with it until more of it falls into place. Or sometimes the sermon sparks an idea. You think, “We need a song that says that. Even the title would make a good hook!” It’s rare that you get more than about 15% of a song that way, but you may have enough for a great start. Thank the Lord for the nugget, save it and put it away for later.

2. Write It Down
Always have your antennae up. A large part of a songwriter’s job is to find and retrieve inspiration. Notice the way words are put together, how they sound, how they will sing. Capture little phrases that will become hooks. You hear a good one and say to yourself, “Hey. That could make a good song.” Then be a doodler; remember, write it down. Get the heart, the human emotion from the nugget; that’s what makes the song work. Listen to what the people of God are saying when they pray or praise. It shows you what they need and how they feel. Try to incorporate these into your songs. Go ahead and open your eyes and jot down what somebody is praying. If you feel odd about doing that, be at peace. Somebody wrote down what Moses prayed and Hannah prophesied. 

3. Keep a Record of your Journey
Songwriting is a way of journaling your journey. King David wrote out of his life experiences, even his bad ones: when he fled from Absalom, his son (Psalm 3); when the Lord delivered him from the hand of Saul (Psalm 18); when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech (Psalm 34 ); when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had sinned with Bathsheba (Psalm 51). (Also, check out Psalms 7, 30, 56, 57, 142.) See songwriting as another way to journal and record the story of your life. Each song you write represents another part of your life.

4. Write With Scriptures
Often your songs may spring out of the Word of God as you meditate on it in your quiet times. A passage touches something deep in you and begins to set itself to music. Here’s a good exercise to try. Shut yourself in a quiet place where no one can hear you. It’s very important that you not feel self-conscious. If you don’t have a place of solitude, just find the most private place you can and sing under your breath, or at whatever level you feel comfortable. Open your Bible to a psalm and begin to sing it aloud, improvising in real time. Read slightly ahead, making up the melody as you go. Maybe it’s a psalm where the psalmist pours out his heart to the Lord. Feel all the emotions and express them spontaneously with the words. At times you’ll find yourself singing ringing high tones on words of high praise, at other times almost whispering anguished cries of the psalmist’s heart, possibly in minor modes. What this sounds like will differ from person to person, depending on one’s musical background. It probably won’t have any form but will be more like “stream of consciousness,” or like a recitative from an opera or oratorio. Don’t worry about that—it’s because there is probably no metrical form in the passage you’re singing. If you’re a good improvising instrumentalist, you may want to accompany yourself with appropriate chords. Even if you tape this for your own amazement, don’t consider it a song. No one else is likely to sing it. It’s very private. You may however, as a byproduct, come up with a line or two worth developing into a real song. Whether or not you do, you will be practicing valuable lessons of engaging with the Word and setting emotions to music.

5. Sing Your Prayers
If you’re one of those who are immersed in music and find yourself singing much of the time, try singing your prayers to the Lord, as well. King David did. A good time to do this is when you’re driving in your car, alone. You’ll find your music taking on the feeling of the burdens or praises of your heart. It can intensify your prayer life. Caution: Do not attempt to accompany yourself on your guitar while driving.

Your assignment this month is to start writing.  Write now, right now!  

 

Paul Baloche is a regular columnist for Worship Leader magazine. Paul’s songs include, “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” “Hosanna,” “Your Name,” “Today Is the Day,” and “Above All,” among many others. He’s also an author, teacher, worship pastor, and recording artist. Find out more here. And find out about his new Christmas album releasing this October here.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

    14 comments on “5 Suggestions for Worship Songwriting

    1. This is spot on! And YOU are a gold nugget! My first worship mentor taught me about singing in the Psalms to help those who aren’t as comfortable singing to the Lord in the spirit. Love this ~ love you! God bless!

    2. If I fall to the floor of the deep blue sea, I know You won’t forget me, Lord, or loose track of me. If I’m scattered to the wind, as dusty as can be, I know that You can gather, and breathe new life in me.
      Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! Love for us so deep and wide, and higher than the skies! Deeper than the deep blue sea, stronger than the tide; nothing can separate us from the love of Christ!
      If I take to the wings of the morning light, and try to soar among the stars that twinkle in the night, there Your hand would meet me, there Your hand would guide, there Your hand would hold me close to Jesus’ side.
      Earthly kings, heavenly principalities, are powerless to overcome the love You have for me. My selfish ways, my sin and pride, the death I’m bound to die, are overcome by the love You have for us in Christ!

      Well, you said, “Write now, right now!”

      Actually, I wrote these ideas down (and later developed them into a song) some time ago on my drive home from a stressful day at work. Even though I was exhausted and discouraged at the time, God’s promises found throughout Scripture to love and deliver us came to my mind. The tips you mention in this article are excellent – I’m glad I had paper and pencil with me at the time!

      Anthony Ticknor
      Hilliard, Ohio

      • Beautiful lyrics brother. Keep writing!

        I used to be able to write beautiful lyrics, but as of lately have been to technical and not Spirit lead :(

        Will pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit to write songs that touch the heart of God and edify the Body!

    3. These suggestions are awesome! I recently wrote one of my songs after a workout; I had been meditating on Psalm 17 and the Holy Spirit inspired me to sing these words that stuck like glue:

      Bend down and listen as I pray
      You, who has tested my thoughts
      Examined my heart
      You, who has found me righteous
      Here in Your sight
      Show me Your unfailing love
      Rescue me with Your power and might

      Yes, hear me from heaven
      Lord I need You now
      Oh,I need You Know
      Yes, hear me from heaven
      Forgive my sin
      Hide me in the shadow of Your Wings…

      Be blessed and keep writing!
      Natalia

    4. Here is a song I wrote that can be sung to the Doxology.

      Praise God the Father, God the Son
      And God the Spirit: Three in One.
      Praise to this Holy Trinity
      for our salvation, full and free.

      For God so loved the world that He,
      Though wretched sinners we may be,
      Sent His dear Son to Calvary’s tree
      To pay for us sin’s penalty.

      God sent His Spirit to this earth
      To offer all a second birth,
      That comes to all who Christ receive;
      And He indwells all who believe.

      Is God the Spirit telling you
      That your belief in Christ is true?
      If not, dear one, then why delay.
      Believe on Christ the Lord today.

    5. Helpful suggestions for getting STARTED on songs. And that may be all you intended here. But in light of what I’ve seen Christian songwriters put out there for the world to use, I think it is vital to make clear that many songs — likely MOST of them — will take a good deal of prayerful WORK and often much TIME revisiting, tinkering, playing with ideas, word choices and combinations etc., to satisfactorily finish.

      There seems to be an unspoken assumption in some circles that, if the Spirit is involved, you won’t need to go back and fine-tune the lyrics. I have no idea where that comes from (not Scripture!) In fact, I find the very effort to improve and clarify the words I’ve written is good for me (for the time meditating and praying over it, reviewing a LOT of Scripture that celebrates or expresses what I’m trying to express or respond to, and the chance for the truth I’m wrestling with to work its way deeper into my heart), and makes it much more helpful to others who sing and hear the piece.

      And, one other thing, find OTHERS who are good at critiquing your work — who are biblically and theologically astute, who are competent wordsmiths, perhaps better than you, and some who are think a bit differently and so may see things you might not — to help you fix lines that are weak, clunky, unclear, etc. (and, I think, especially to see weaknesses you are unaware of, perhaps because you are too close to “your baby”).

    6. wow amazing you would say these words now. A lot of people has been telling me to write songs. And in my spirit I want to and I try to but just not confident enough I guess on the way way it sounds. I have lots of bits and nuggets.I think it is a good idea to write it down. I always here good things and write down on little peices of paper but I think a journal would be better. Cuz little peieces of paper are like all over and scattered. Being a working mom of 4 kids, gets a little hectic. But I will focus more. Please pray for me and to let the Holy Spirit move in me like never before cuz I’m ready! Lord open up the flood gates of heaven and use me for your glory! Glory halleluiah! Love you Lord!
      Kris

    7. Awesome POEms an writings GUYS AN GALS…

      PRAISE GOD ALWAYS WITH WHAT HE GIVES YOU

      my own poem>>

      “We Are Like A Book”

      We are like a book
      A beginning called birth..
      An end Called death..
      In the middle we make the story to unfold..
      Those we meet become the Characters..
      Between us an them make the book
      It has a Author
      God is His name
      HE thought us an wrote it into being
      With the words spoken from His breath
      His Son came to Help us with the Words
      THat we can Go an tell..
      Through Him we can make it to a dream called heaven
      An a NEw book to live when we meet that realm
      An when your name is written by the author
      You are logged into the library log
      Called the Book of Life

      Thanks Lord for Life..
      Patsy M.Powell
      cpyrghtd’2013

    8. I found this article very helpful. When I feel inspired I usually sing and record the song so I don’t forget it and it enables me to work and develop it later when I have the time.

    9. and always claim the word of the Lord : My heart is stirred by a noble theme as i recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of the skillful writter and you are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever….psalm 45 1-2

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>