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.