(This is the 2nd part in a 3 part post on songwriting from Aaron Ivey. See the first post here.)
In part 1, we set out our goals. We need to write songs that bring glory to God by being Christ-centered and gospel-focused. Many of you are thinking, “Yes… great… but don’t we have enough songs? Hasn’t everyone already written the good worship songs?”
“Writers often feel that everything that could be said on any subject has been said before – and better – by other writers. However, the art of writing is largely the art of REVISIONING, in one’s own time and style, the subjects that have always concerned humanity. What keeps the writer sharpening their pencils is a hope that one’s own way with the subject, one’s own experiences, will stand out.” – Francis Mayes
We must be Revisioners. Being keenly aware of what’s around us, and translating that or revisioning it.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)
Your experiences with God are much different than mine. We have the same God, we share the same gospel but we have different stories. Your experiences with grace and mercy and redemption are much different than mine. Your experiences with justice, serving the poor, caring for the sick are much different than mine. We must resist the temptation to not write just because it’s already been written about. “Someone’s already written about grace.” This is true, but how God has shown you grace is much different than how he’s tangibly showing me grace. So write it!
So how do we do it? Real songs come from real experience. We can all sniff out songs that are written from a place of “catchiness or pop hook” and not something that comes from someone’s actual life. It’s that obvious. Honesty is essential.
The hymn How Great Thou Art was written by primarily by Stuart Hine, an English missionary who was visiting Russia’s rugged Carpathian Moutnains. The first verse was composed when he was caught in a thunderstorm in a Carpathian village. The 2nd as he heard birds singing near the Romanian border, and the third as he witnessed the Carpathian mountain dwellers coming to Christ.
Think about the Psalms. The Psalms come from real events. A non-Christian example would be the Star-Spangled Banner.
As we begin to think about some practical how-tos, I want you to consider these questions:
Finally, take some time right now to write a 4-8 line poem or song about the story that you are currently living. It doesn’t have to rhythm. Just write it.