20 Things I’ve Learned From Listening to Great Songs and Songwriters (5-6)

5. Great songs are about ONE thing

Without exception, the most enduring songs are those that are centered around ONE theme.  The theme is usually universal, meaning it’s something that a wide range of people can relate to or have experienced.  When writing, make sure you have a clear idea of what your theme is.  The BIG IDEA is typically articulated in the lyric that matches your musical hook, which is normally part of your chorus.  Every other lyric should be in support of that ONE theme.  The purpose of most songs is to hit home one idea.  Bring every line into submission to ONE theme, your song will be better for it.

6. Fight for the best ideas, especially the best lyric

 Great songs rarely need an explanation.  By that, I mean their clarity beckons the listener to sing as part of their appeal.  Writing a great lyric can be tough, but it’s worth wrestling and scrutinizing your lyric so the best idea(s) win.  The best lyrics are often the product of rewrites.  Stand clear from tired phrases, cliché’s, and esoteric vernacular.  Don’t try to hard.  Sometimes the temptation is let a rhyming pattern dictate a lyric.  Remember that just because it ‘works’ doesn’t mean it’s good.  Write how we speak and write with transparency.  Consider writing in the present.  There’s something about present tense that activates faith in the hearts of hearers.

Travis Doucette is Pastor of Worship and Leadership Development at Harvest Bible Chapel Naples, a church plant from Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, IL.  For more information, teaching and music resources please visit harvestnaples.org.

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