Guest blogging for us today is one of LifeWay Worship’s favorite (and funniest) songwriters, Dave Clark. With 25 of his songs having reached No. 1 on Christian Music Charts and an ASCAP Living Legend Award to his name, we believe Dave knows a thing (or two) about songwriting.
My name is Dave Clark, and I’m a songwriter… with a Pastor’s heart. Down through the years, I have been blessed to write songs for many of Christian music’s top artists including, Phillips, Craig and Dean, 4HIM, Larnelle Harris and CeCe Winans. For many of those years, I have also served as publisher of a large publishing company, and in that time, I have seen many trends come and go and just as many writers pursue those trends. It is from this perspective I offer the following thoughts (along with the added bonus of a little sarcasm).
While there seems to be no shortage of advice available from blogs, web sites and seminars on how to write a great worship song, there seems to be a void of information on how not to write one. So here goes my best advice on How NOT to Write a Worship Song.
1. Make sure the focus is on you and how you interact with God. Before you begin, make sure you are spending an inordinate amount of time determining what kind of mood you have been in lately. Get in touch with your feelings regarding whether or not life is treating you fair and how you think God feels about it.
2. A spontaneous worship experience is always a sufficient substitute for craft. If you can put three chords and a melody line to what you felt in the moment, don’t let it get bogged down with the craft of songwriting. After all, if the moment was real to begin with, that is enough.
3. Don’t limit yourself to merely a few octaves. Since worship is ultimately about giving God your best, by all means, include every note you can sing in every worship song you write. Pay no mind whatsoever to the fact that many who may attempt to sing your song will not have near the vocal range you do.
4. It’s worship music so it doesn’t have to be original. Always try to seek out familiar rhymes and chord progressions that have been tried and tested before (i.e. praise and raise, voice and rejoice, etc…) The progression of C to A to F has also been found above reproach through the years. The point is to stay in the safe zones lyrically and musically so that no one can find anything wrong with your song.
5. Consistency is overrated. Because the rules for worship writing are looser that ordinary songwriting, don’t let your writing be hindered by the simple matter of consistency. It is okay to jump randomly from a vertical to horizontal lyric or from first person to third person.
6. If God wrote it, who are you to re-write it? Be careful not to fall into that familiar trap of experienced songwriters who feel like they can take the original song and continue to improve on it with more work. If God gave it to you to begin with, it is best to leave well enough alone.
Is there any other advice you would add?
Dave Clark, an award-winning songwriter, is a Michigan-native that lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife of more than 30 years, Cindi, and his three amazing children, Allison, Anna and Sam. Along with having 25 No. 1 songs (on Christian Music Charts) to his name, Dave recently graduated from Nazarene Bible College with a Bachelors Degree in Ministry. In 2013, he was ordained as an Elder in the Church of the Nazarene. In addition to writing words, his hobbies include editing video, playing any instrument with strings and standing in line for whatever Apple sells. You can read more about Dave on his web site: DaveClarkWrites.com. You can also find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter at @DaveClarkWrites.