As you consider this list and weigh it against your own craftsmanship, I am hopeful your songwriting journey will be enriched and strengthened. May the Holy Spirit surround you as you endeavor to put a new song in the mouths of God’s people in the days ahead. Write to the glory of the Lord!
- The lyric is Biblically untrue and/or misinterpreted.
- Do your homework. If you’re not careful, it can be easy to allow personal opinion or misunderstanding of scripture to find its way into your song lyric.
- Be sure to study the Word carefully as you write. Cross reference your statements whenever possible. Biblical foundation will strengthen your song every
- It’s a good idea to find a theological sounding board with whom you can share your ideas/lyrics as they arise. Your pastor or worship leader can be a phenomenal resource.
- The lyric is hard to sing.
- When the language utilized in a lyric is clunky, verbose, or unnatural to speak/sing, people will not readily engage.
- Well-crafted songs are tremendous discipleship tools in the hands, hearts, minds, and mouths of God’s people. Be sure you’re not complicating your mission by drafting a lyric that is making it difficult for the listener/singer to process what you’re trying to convey.
- Poor prosody is utilized.
- The relationship between the melody and the lyric is crucial. It is a good idea to read a lyric aloud before writing a melody. Take note of natural rhythmic patterns, accented syllables, and the arc of pitch as you speak. Try to mimic natural speech with your melodic architecture. The phrases should roll off the tongue freely and easily.
- There isn’t a hook. Anywhere.
- Both lyric and melody provide a writer with an opportunity to create the moment that captivates a listener’s intrigue and heart. This contagious centric epiphany, or “hook,” should be obvious and served well by the balance of the song’s content. It’s a musical or theological “Aha!” moment that anchors the entire song.
REMEMBER: Fishing without a hook is a tremendous way to waste a lot of line without yielding any results. Be relentless in your pursuit of a great hook!
- A weak title will usually yield weak interest.
- Title is everything and is often what draws people to your song and will be what folks remember most about it. Choose a title sensibly. Selecting a title that is obscure or irrelevant to the hook can often complicate recalling a song from memory.
TIP: If there’s a winning payoff line or word in the lyric, it is likely a great candidate for the title.
- Brother, can you spare a rhyme?
- The ability to rhyme well is more of a problem for songwriters than one might imagine. Improper, loose, and lazy/convenient rhymes can destroy a song quickly. Once a pattern is established, don’t deviate from it.
- Buy a rhyming dictionary and thesaurus. Don’t settle for commonplace options. Meanwhile, don’t get so creative that the rhyme suddenly creates a disruptive distraction.
- You talk too much.
- It is not uncommon for a songwriter to have a lot to share on any given topic. It is possible to write so much that the central idea or stream of consciousness in a song becomes lost. The real art of songwriting involves pressing down on all sides of a thought/idea until it can be expressed as briefly, concisely, and powerfully as possible.
JUST FOR GRINS: Spend some time with some of the most enduring and popular songs of the past 50 years. You will discover that many of them are two minutes in length. There’s something to learn from these snapshots of musical history.
- Structure is lacking.
- A well-built home stands on a trustworthy frame. Songs are very much the same. The structure of a song should be clear, practical, and rigid. Meandering or reckless content is hard to follow, difficult to remember, and often challenging to perform.
- If your song is hymnic, utilize a few stanzas and a refrain.
- If your song is anthemic, write a couple of verses, a chorus, and a strong bridge.
- The reliability gained by these kinds of choices will serve the songwriter, arranger, and the performer equally well as the song endures.
- Verb tense changes.
- Throughout over 30 years working with songs and songwriters, this has been the most common error I’ve encountered. Verb tense should remain consistent throughout your song. Deviation from section to section can easily confuse the listener/singer and weakens your ability to communicate without room for uncertainty.
- The melody is boring.
- The number of melodic possibilities contained within the common twelve-tone scale is seemingly infinite. Meanwhile, a brilliant lyric is more often than not married to a melody that is equally uninspired and uninspiring. Don’t default to groove or pop trend as your “go to” bag of tricks. If you spend the time to beat up and work out a substantial lyric, put in the time to lace that lyric with a creative and enthralling melody.
1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples. (NIV)
Craig Adams, a recipient of multiple Dove Awards, has produced and/or participated in more than 3,500 recordings for artists, record labels, music publishers, tv/film, and radio over the past 35 years. In addition, his vast experience in music production, local church worship ministry, and musical direction for live events, along with his work at LifeWay Worship, gives him the talent, experience, and credibility to not only listen, but really hear, what each song is delivering.