This weekend I got to attend a song writing workshop taught by Mia Fieldes, one of the writers from Hillsong. She was very funny and brutally honest and had a lot of good wisdom about writing songs. It was my first time in a songwriting workshop that specifically addressed writing for the church and she really stressed the responsibility worship leaders have for putting truth into their songs. I took about six pages of notes because I’m nerdy like that. It was a super inspiring day and frankly a good kick in the pants.
Truthfully I was going to write about this yesterday for Music Monday, but I ran out of time. Rather than shelve it and wait for next week, I thought I would turn it into a thematic top ten post! Since quite a few of you are songwriters as well I didn’t think you’d mind. Here are the Top Ten Things I learned at the Songwriter’s Workshop.
Songwriting is sort of like going to the gym (great.). It requires consistency, discipline and putting in a little effort every day to see results. God gives us gifts of creativity, music and songwriting but he expects us to be good stewards of them. He expects us to invest them and work on them.
Like most creative types, songwriters often struggle with lack of structure. Schedule time for yourself to write, block it off as “working”. If you value it, you will make it a priority. Whatever you put your time and money into is where your heart is.
Make goals that are measurable, meaningful and attainable. A measurable goal could be: I am going to finish six songs this year and record really good demos of three of them. A meaningful goal could be, I’m going to write a song for my friend who is going through a really hard season or I’m going to be the pied piper who writes songs calling my friends back to Jesus.
If you don’t love church music, then why are you trying to write church music?
Songwriters and worship leaders in the church have a responsibility to put truth into their songs. People will walk in the door of a church and listen to three minutes of music, but they may not sit and pay attention for a forty five minute sermon. Make sure your songs are true but don’t get too bogged down in theology and heavy words. If the songs are not generating a response from the congregation, work on them harder. Our highest goal in worship should always be leading people to Christ.
A good song introduced badly is a bad song.
A good song with a bad title is a bad song.
Good songs always start with a theme and then find a new angle on that theme. Widely used themes (love, heartache, longing) are common because people can relate to them. Write songs about what you’re going through, write out of your own passion, write out of your own emotions but stick to your theme (no tangents!). Make sure the language you use matches your theme.
Good melodies feel good to sing. Make sure you write melodies that are familiar, with easy intervals that stay within the octave. The stressed syllables of your melody should match the stressed syllable of your words. Don’t break up your words! Don’t have big notes fall on words that don’t matter.
God is a giver of talents and an annointer of hearts. He doesn’t ask us to succeed in writing the next great worship song on our first try. But he does ask us to practice, work and to step out in faith.
This is my favorite Mia Fieldes song. If anyone knows where you can buy this album let me know, I can’t find it on iTunes.
6 Replies to “Tuesday Top Ten”
I LOVED this!! Thanks for sharing your notes.
No problem. I cleaned them up a little from my ACTUAL notes, which would have made no sense. Glad you likey.
Who normally sings that song? I feel like I’ve heard it before.
It’s off the Hillsong United album More than Life. She wrote it but I think some other girl sings it on the album.
Fabulous, wow! 🙂 can’t wait to sing the next Sarah Miller song at Westside!
Sarah, all of what you’ve said (or noted) also applies to artists. Daily studio time. Persevere. Not every piece will be a masterpiece, but it serves a purpose. Everything you produce should lead people to Jesus, but sometimes the person it leads is YOU. Write/draw/paint/sew what you know, and allow God to flow his creative power through you. You are made in his image, for his purpose, by his own design. So it follows that his creative personality would be expressed in his creative person (you). One of my favourite Bible passages is where Bezalel and Oholiab were given the task of creating all the beautiful furnishings and accessories for the OT tabernacle. The Bible tells us that they were filled with the Holy Spirit and were given all the skills of artisanship and teaching, so that their tasks would be fulfilled according to God’s plan. So I pray as an artist for God to fill me with his Spirit so that his plans would be fulfilled in the work that I am given to do. That his creativity would flow through me, so that I am doing his work, and witnessing in a world that needs his beauty. I loved your relating this to the parable of the talents too. Use it or lose it, in today’s language.
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