There is no set formula to writing great songs. In fact, formula is often the enemy to invention. Having said that, I want to look briefly at three key elements that often make up a great song.
The centerpiece of a song is almost always the chorus—the hook that people want to hear again and again. It is crucial that a chorus has a powerful melody, matched with a well-crafted lyric. For a congregational worship song the chorus has to be singable and memorable. Most of the demos I listen to weaken at the chorus—affecting the full impact of the song. A lackluster chorus can often leave the listener feeling frustrated.
Most songs start with a verse. Here the story unfolds and the theme is established.
I often use the verse to fill the mind with truth and descriptions of who God is. With “Here I Am to Worship,” the verse starts by describing the character and nature of God. The chorus then allows the heart to explode in praise as we respond to this truth.
A bridge can be a great addition to a song. Used well it can take a song up a gear. A great example of a song that does this is “How Great Is Our God.” The chorus leads brilliantly into “Name above all names …”
Finally, as you analyze your song, it is important to ask yourself, “Are the different sections of the song in the right place?” With “Here I Am to Worship,” initially the bridge (“I’ll never know …”) came before each chorus— playing through the song though it felt labored. In the end I moved the bridge to the end of the song.
With each song make sure each section is as strong as it can be. Ensure the song keeps its focus thematically. Do the verse, chorus and bridge complement each other lyrically? With a great song there will be no weak link. Each section will go to enhance the overall impact a song can have.