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Writing Music for Your Congregation's Use
These are taken from a much longer list used by noted composer/arranger Jim Lucas in on-site seminars to enable those with the heart and the desire, to begin to write praise choruses for their own congregational and other worship use. It is not meant to be inclusive, but rather to “open the door” to creativity.
1 Write texts that are Biblically based. Don’t be ‘wishy-washy’ or unclear.
2 Use the Book of Psalms as a catalyst for lyrics.
3 Use relevant language, simple words and words that are quickly understood.
4 Express one thought per song or verse. Don’t attempt to incorporate the entire Bible in every song.
5 Express a single, simple thought in a variety of ways.
6 Use a rhyming scheme most often. It aids in learning and retention.
7 Stand still if you want God to inspire you. Being too busy may cause you to lose focus and block out potential moments of inspiration.
8 Keep a journal of inspirational thoughts. This is a ‘seed’ collection of ideas that could grow into a song.
About Melody and Harmony
9 Create melody lines that are simple, uncomplicated and quickly learned.
10 Keep skips and leaps to a minimum. Save them for places like the beginning of a bridge or ‘B’ section.
11 Use a fairly narrow melodic range. It’s best if the entire song uses no more than an octave range.
12 Let the melodic flow be representative of the text.
13 Consider adding alto, tenor, and/or bass to your melody line to supply a 2, 3, or 4-part vocal option. There may also be occasions when you can sing the chorus as a round, supplying yet a different kind of vocal supportive accompaniment.
14 Write in a variety of musical styles. If you do, it will keep your writing fresh and innovative.
15 Use inversions to help drive phrases forward. Remember, root position chords suggest finality, rest, or conclusion.
16 Build the song initially around the primary I, IV, and V chords, then modify and use inversions where appropriate. Be sensitive to the text as you make your chord choices.
17 Keep the text predominant. Don’t let the amount of supportive instrumentation cloud the thought you need to express. Better to use two instruments than seven if you can’t control volume, balance, or complexity.
18 Use metrical accents that best support and align with the text.
About Rhythm, Form, and Dynamics
19 Use long held notes on important or climactic words or at the end of a phrase.
20 Use four-line melodic harmonic phrases most often. It’s an easy ‘hook’ for the worshiper.
21 Try key changes. Begin in a low enough key so that the higher pitches in the song, placed in high keys, won’t strain the singers or sound too high.
22 Be flexible in using softs and loud within a single piece. Let the text be your guide.
About Inspiration and Resources
23 Make daily attempts at writing down song ideas; text and/or music. The more you work at this art, the more proficient you will become. Frequency breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds productivity.
24 Practice a lifestyle of worship. Expect the Lord to reveal Himself to you thorough the day.
25 Be willing to take risks and be creative in finding a writing style that expresses who you are. Don’t be a copycat, though there are some elements of good songwriting that are universal.
26 Be willing to collaborate. Your true gift may only be as a lyricist or composer but not both.
27 Don’t hurry the creative process. God’s timing is perfect. It may take a period of weeks or months in order to finish a song.
28 Be willing to change or modify any element that will make the song better.
29 Understand where your church is in its spiritual growth and maturity and write to fit those needs. For example, with what is your church currently dealing? Let the occurrence of such “day to day” events as deaths, hospitalizations, tragedies, victories, provide inspirational source material.
30 Be a song of praise with your life. True worship is contagious.