20 Things I’ve Learned From Listening to Great Songs and Songwriters (13-16)

The penultimate installation in this year-long series . . .

13. You can’t polish a turd

Yes, I know it sounds crude but it’s somewhat intentional.  In a world full of auto tune and production bells and whistles that outnumber the stars, there’s an increasing amount of songs whose composition rests less on melody and lyric and more on presentation.  They key to knowing if you have a great song is that it can stand by itself when everything else is stripped away.

14. Learn to prefer others when you co-write

The best songs always allow the best ideas to rise to the top.  When co-writing, hold your ideas loosely and be willing to hear (and be convinced) of another’s idea.  Some songs become great because the writers were willing to let the best ideas win.  Holding too strongly to your ideas may prevent it from being completed, or worse, reduce others affinity to write with you.

15. Employ prescription writing

Consider not only what God is currently doing in you, but doing in the lives of others.  Write in community, for community.  What needs, struggles, trials, and victories are being experienced in your church?  What is your Pastor preaching on?  How could your gift be used to serve your Pastor’s vision for a sermon series, special service, seasonal theme or campaign?  Work in tandem with your Pastor, ask for a preaching calendar and prescribe yourself the challenge of writing specifically for a prescribed text/theme.

16. Give yourself permission to write bad songs

Songwriting is a craft and the way you get better at it is by practicing it regularly.  If the purpose of songwriting is communion with God and community with others, every song has value.  Like most things, the more you do them, the better you become.  Often the journey to one great song may be dozens, or even hundreds of bad songs.  Sometimes the only way to the great songs is to write the bad ones first.  Every song written is honing you’re your skill and developing your craft.


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