Worship Songwriting Part 3 - Composition & Audience

I have two thoughts when it comes to adding composition to lyric: "Who is the audience"? and "Does the composition compliment the lyric"?

"Who is the audience"?
The first key to composing worship music is knowing your "audience" or congregation. What is palatable? What is not? What is the median style and preferred taste of the worshippers? What is the median style and preferred taste of the leaders and musicians? If you are unsure of the answers to these questions then you need to go on a fact finding mission. Or you can write songs and try them out repeatedly and see what the results are. But bear in mind that a fact finding mission can save you time and credibility.
All you need to do is simply ask people if they prefer the Beatles or The Rolling Stones. If its the Stones then their a bunch of idiots and you can write whatever music you like. If they answer the Beatles, well then you are in a good class of people. After congratulating them on answering correctly ask them what CDs are they currently listening to. Ask people what radio stations they have dialed in, do they read PASTE or do they not care at all about music?

Once you know your audience and you have the idea for your song follow these steps:
1 - Forget about the congregation's style preferences. After all you are the worship star...I mean, you are the songwriter. Seriously though, take a minute and forget about what everyone else likes and make sure that before you serve a dish to someone that it is something you would eat. Write a song you would listen to.
2 - Now compare your new song to what you know to be true about your congregation's style preference. Is there a big difference? Is there no difference at all?
3 - Fix it. Fix the song so that it will be palatable. BUT please do not dumb it down to the lowest common denominator. When we do this as writers we lose the tension that is essential in leading worship. We need to find ways to remain in the tension of being accessible and challenging at the same time.
4 - Get honest feedback from people you respect and listen to it. We see the result of the contrary when we watch American Idol auditions. It would seem that no one gives most of the would-be contestants honest feedback. That, or they simply ignore the what people are telling them. Either way the results are the same.
5 - Be willing to kill a song or re-write it. If you love it and your peers love it, but its just not working in your congregation...kill it and start over.

"Does the composition compliment the lyric"?
Andy Park's "In The Secret" does not truly match up lyrically and musically. I think he actually pointed that out to my good friend Billy Somerville.

I once saw an interview with Winton Marsales and in it he said his father would tell him to stand in the corner and play one note until he could play it through every emotion. I really like that idea and try to incorporate that into my writing and playing. Too often we try to make up for lack of emotion in music with more pedals or software and while those tools can be helpful they can never replace the simplicity of a note payed with passion. Listen to B.B King for example. He never plays anything complicated...no delay, no reverb, no overdriven amp...just simple notes played with passion. Its as if his notes cost $1,000 each and he spends them wisely. Try to take the same approach to your writing and playing. Strum a G until you can strum it and pick it and pluck it through every human emotion. Let the listener feel what your lyrics say.


Christina DeAnn said…
oh is that all? hahahahaah

i'm glad God has you doing what you do and not me.

i'm just sayin'

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