To get this started:
1. Become very familiar with Scripture - overall content, themes, specific verses and sections
2. Let the Holy Spirit work through daily devotions, etc to drive new song ideas
3. Consider the purpose of the song - solo, one-time, long-term worship, etc - and then ensure it is "singable" in that context
4. One I liked from a Stuart Townend class: write co-operatively with your pastor since (s)he may be stronger Biblically, and probably knows the church's current needs and vision better - get ideas, phrases, even whole lyrics from them.
Here's a few that I have come across over the years.
1. Write write and write... Write as much as you can. The more you write the greater you will hone your skills and become a better writer. I heard Matt Redman once say that he will write anywhere from 30-40 songs in preparation for a project. Out of those 30-40 songs only 10-15 will make it on the final project.
2. I once heard Rich Mullins say that he never tried to write hits he only tried to write songs for the people around him. Consider your motivations... What is it you want to accomplish in writing songs?
3. Here is one I have been hearing a lot lately... Avoid overused words and phrases. Delve deep into the truths of God and let that truth well up into the content of your songs. Particularly I heard Bob Kaulfin address this recently on his website or his book Worship Matters... I can't remember which. I also read an article that was linked here to WTR but I can't remember who's page it was that I saw the link.
My experience is while worshiping the Lord He has always given me songs. A couple of them were dead on scriptures only to find that out afterwards. Prophetic worship works too especially if you record your worship sessions you can go back and take from that. All in all be lead by the Holy Spirit. Ask the Father what He would like to be blessed with.
Be Concise lyrically... remove redundant words... less is more! Example:
"Fill this place
with the praise
Of the God
Of all grace
Lift Him High
The Ancient of Days
Oh ye saints
Lift your voice
Lift your heads
God is here
Fill this place
Notice that each line except the last line in each stanza has only 3 syllables- this song is easy for the congregation to pick up and learn. Blessings! David Baroni
"Fill This Place With Praise" David Baroni/ Bo Cooper/ Integrity's Praise! Music/ Sunday Shoes Music
A couple of weeks ago at our house/cell group we had a 15 min session where we split into pairs and asked each pair to write down how they felt about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and then to put what they had written into a song format as best they could. The result was very encouraging for everyone. Two members, (not known for there creativity!) wrote just 4 lines which the following day I put to music and recorded to a cd. (it can be heard on my page, title is 'Lost for Words') . The outcome is that the whole group have been encouraged, God is glorified and I have a number of potential new worship song lines to work with. So my top ten tip is allow your house/cell group to become contributors to the worship team in a similar way. The Lord bless you all in your service to glorify our Lord, worship him and draw others into His presence.
Finish what you've started. That's one of the best songwriting tips I've heard and put into practice with great effectiveness. How many half-baked songs do you have right now? Put them back in the oven. Tonight. Then start a new one tomorrow. The last thing a potential song needs is for you to sit on it. Finishing a song is like Nike. Just Do It. In the words of Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) - "You climb a mountain because it's there. You write a song because it's not."
worship, keep it real, walk humbly with God. Don't try to write a song to write a song or to try to copy what is popular. Just let yourself express experience and reality as it has been pressed out of you and allow the truth of God's word as it has been walked out in you be communicated in spirit and in truth. There's nothing worse than writing something from a place of..."this is how I think it should be written...this is what I think I should say...this is what they will want me say ".
Let it be honest.....the reality of your life's expression and worship to God. Remove the 3rd person from your mind. Let it just be you and God. No imaginary critic waiting to judge you on how well you did. If it goes platinum...to God be the glory! If it is just written for Him alone, then what an honor!
Another thing...if the song "brings it" don't change it because the scholars or the pharisees or the "writers in the know" tell you to. I had a song that a musician covered once and his producer didn't like the rhyme scheme on one phrase so he changed it and altered the meaning of the phrase. I didn't care. They can do what they want. But do you realize you are corrupting the essence of what the song is about and what was coming through the writer in the song's conception? There is no intelligentsia who holds the final word when it comes to worship songs. Just like there is no voice lifted up with sincerity that is too bad for God to hear!
this is my favorite, about your point with being humble with God. Its hard for me to even think about writing something if im trying to make it sound perfect like another artist. Honestly i have never written a song, but i have tried, but im unsuccessful b/c i always try to make it sound like someone else's work.
Points to consider are:
1. What thought, message or theme are you trying to convey?
2. Do the verses support the theme?
3. Does the chorus hook you on the theme?
4. Does it cause the worshipper to be drawn in
5. Is it easily repeatable. Is it singable the first time a person hears it or do they keep asking how does this or that section go?
For this reason you should use chord patterns and melodies that repeat mostly changing only to give new emphasis or dynamics.
We used to write most songs using poetry that rhymed every line or every other line. Not so any more. Some worship songs today rhyme very little or only on the "hook" part of the song.
1. decide if the song is TO God (refers to God as "you"), ABOUT God (refers to God as "He" or "God"), or GOD SPEAKING (refers to God as "I") and be consistent throughout the song. I know that a lot of very popular worship songs break this "rule" but I think they'd be better songs if they didn't. And if the song isn't working one way, try re-casting it... maybe a song lyric about God would actually work better written TO God.
2. Assuming that "worship songs" are meant to be sung by a congregation (of untrained singers), keep the range of the melody reasonable and put your recording in a key that is singable (see several other threads here for details).
3. I'm not sure just how to explain this, but while Christian songs can be "preachy" and tell the listener what to do, "worship" songs should not. Larry Norman's "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus" is a good Christian song, but that's kinda not a statement that the congregation as a whole would make in a worship setting.
4. One of my tricks when I'm writing a worship song is that I don't give it an official "title" until I'm done working through it and revising it and making it work right. If I'm working on a song and I call it "You Lift Me Up," and then as I'm working through the song I realize that it's really not a song about God lifting me up... once I've given the song a title, it's very hard to change the title words in the song.
5. Speaking of titles... a title like "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord" has already been used a zillion times, and when I was picking new music for our band, if I already had a song called "Hosanna," I wasn't going to add another different one... so if your new song wants a very used name, think about calling it something else...
6. If you have just written your very first worship song ever, it's probably not nearly as good as you think it is... make a recording of it so you know how it goes and then move on and write the next one (like somebody else said, "write, write, write!").
7. This is sort of a pet peeve with me in terms of how people make hymns (and Christmas carols) "contemporary" - for the congregation who is singing the song, the words should move along at a moderate pace - and if you're double timing the guitar part U2 style to make the song more exciting, you're probably also singing it even slower than you would otherwise. Assuming you have a recording setup, record the guitar/piano part and then force yourself to just sing along with the song and try to sense whether it feels like you're holding out every word forever... for a congregational worship song, the CONGREGATION need to feel like the song is moving at a good singing pace...
8. When you think the song is done, make a recording of it - even just a rough guitar/voice demo - and then pack it away for two or three weeks - then get it out and see how you like it after hearing it with "fresh ears."
9. Related to somebody else's comment about writing 30-40 songs and then using the best 10 on a project... one trick I do is to put all the songs on my mp3 player, listen to them in random order while I'm out walking the dogs in the morning for an hour or so... and then paying attention to which ones I'm singing to myself later that day.
10. Pay attention to the TIMELINE of the song, although with worship songs, most of them are mostly in the current moment.. but pay attention to which things the singer is saying happened in the past, which things are happening as he/she is singing, and which things will (hopefully or not) happen in the future. And think about whether that timeline could be shifted. For example, the other day I did one of my songs that starts out with a lot of "In my weakness, you made me strong" past-tense stuff and it occurred to me while I was practicing that it might work better in the present - "In my weakness, you MAKE me strong." Be aware of the timeline and consider how you can make it work for you.
Whew, that's ten. Hope the site is still up when I hit "Add Reply" :-)