Video

Songwriting Tip of the Week with Matt Redman

Award winning songwriter, Matt Redman shares a one-minute quick tip on writing melody for the congregation…

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Matt Redman has been a full-time worship leader and songwriter since he was 20 years old and his journey has taken him all over the world.  He is known for modern day classic church songs  like ‘The Heart of Worship’, ‘You Never Let Go’ and ‘Blessed Be Your Name’.  His more recent compositions include the Grammy-nominated ‘Our God’, and the double-Grammy winning ’10,000 Reasons’.  Matt is also the author of several books, including The Unquenchable WorshipperFacedownMirrorball,Blessed Be Your Name (co-authored with Beth Redman) and Indescribable (co-authored with Louie Giglio).  Visit Matt’s website at www.mattredman.com

This video is from Premier Christian Radio of London.  You can find them on the web at http://www.premier.org.uk
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Build A Bridge

Lennon and McCartney called the bridge section of a song, “the middle eight”.  Although there is no rule as to the length and location of your bridge, typically a bridge will be about eight bars and will be located near the middle or last third of your song, usually immediately following the second chorus.  (Personally, I prefer a shorter bridge, if well written.  Some of the best bridges I’ve heard are only a couple of lines.)  But what is the purpose of a bridge?

In short, the bridge is an optional transitional section. Unlike your verses, pre-choruses, and choruses, your bridge should only occur once in any given song, and should be musically and lyrically different from the rest of your song.  A bridge prepares your listener for the return of the original material section.

In classical music the bridge is often a musical passage from one portion of an extended work into another, or serves to smooth what might otherwise be an abrupt modulation.  In popular music however, the bridge lyric is as important as the bridge music.

Lyrically, the bridge is typically used to pause and reflect on the earlier portions of your song, to sum up the main idea in broad terms, or to prepare your listener for the climax.  It can sometimes be an “ah-ha” moment, adding words to expand upon the main theme or helping to finally clarify the previous words or phrases in your song, that may have intentionally had a double meaning.

Back to Lennon and McCartney … some say they wrote the book on great bridges.  They would often supply each other with bridges for their songs.  The brilliant idea of shifting from one writer to the other for the bridge, only added to the desired contrast that the bridge section was to bring.  Take for example Lennon’s addition of the “life is very short” bridge to the otherwise hopeful song, “We Can Work It Out”.

Another thing to consider when writing your bridge is that, by the end of the second chorus of your song, the listener has often had a lot of information to process.  A well-crafted bridge will often be used to change the pace of your song, both lyrically and musically, becoming a short respite or oasis from the intensity of the rest of the composition.  You’ll note this use of the bridge if you study a variety of popular songs of today.

Adding a bridge to every song is not necessary, but this section can be an important element of your song, when used properly.

Check out our Lyric Writing category for help as you develop that next great bridge!

Don’t Lock Yourself In

The vocal melody is one of the TWO most important parts of any song (lyric being the other).  Lyric and melody make a  song.  You’ll rarely hear someone walking down the street humming chord changes, or whistling a guitar riff (unless maybe they’re a musician).  The general population is attracted to the primary vocal melody, and if they don’t like it, then they don’t like your song.  If they can’t remember it, then they won’t sing your song.

Songs can generally be grouped into a couple of categories – songs written around a melody and songs written around chord changes or riffs.  As a music publisher, I’ve seen the majority of songwriters in my genre begin with chord changes rather than with a melody.  In contrast however, most of today’s successful pop writers, start with a melody.  Both processes can work.  However, if the vocal melody is one of the most important parts of your song, be extremely careful not to make it an afterthought.

Building your song around a chord progression can be severely limiting.  Amateur writers often use only the chords they know best … the ones their hands automatically go to when they pick up the guitar or sit at the piano.  They hang out and jam on some chord changes until they get something they really like.  Then they try to impose melody on top of the progression.

We can get very creative with the way we string our favorite chords together, and how long we stay on each chord, leading to hundreds of chord progressions for new songs.  However, laying down the progression first, boxes us in when it comes to creating melody.   It locks us in with regard to both the rhythm and the notes we can use in our melody.  And we may also limit ourselves with the way our phrasing and our pattern of repetition can work.

Try starting with a melody.  Work on building it without your instrument, if necessary.  Develop something enjoyable, beautiful and singable.   Then let the melody determine the rhythm and the mood and the chords that will support it.   This change of process sounds simple enough, but is extremely liberating for most writers.  When there are no more walls, no more limits, no more boxes, they find that their melodies truly begin to soar.  Their songs become more singable, more memorable and more enjoyable.

Writing Songs for Church Congregation

Aside from the obvious, how is a worship song different from say, an artist song?  Well for starters, it needs to be easy to learn – simple, repetitive and predictable.  Not so predictable that it’s boring, but predictable enough that it’s easy to learn on the first go-round so the worship service doesn’t become an exercise of learning, or even frustration.  And not so simple that lyrically it says nothing of value.  Not such an easy task. At first glance, simple, repetitive and predictable might sound anti-creative to the songwriter. But it actually takes great skill to craft a good song with these qualities.

Mark Twain once said, “My books are water.  Those of the great geniuses are wine.  Everybody drinks water.” When you’re writing congregational songs, you’re writing songs to be sung together by the general population, many of whom do not have sophisticated musical training. Don’t let the cultivated tastes of your trained musicianship get in the way of creating a song that the average person can appreciate and sing.