Let Me Help You Improve Your Worship Song

I’ve had an idea rumbling around in the back of my head for a while. I’ve written my fair share of worship songs. I’ve sat in on countless worship song evaluations with my dad, Bob Kauflin, Steve Cook, etc. I’ve had my songs scrutinized by a lot of people at one time. I’ve led worship for a long time. Generally speaking, I know what makes a good worship song and what doesn’t.

On top of that, I am constantly trying to think of new ways to provide money for my family. What if I blended the two together?

My guess is that many of you have worship songs that you’ve written, but you have no idea if they’re any good. You don’t know what to do with them. You think they can improve, but you’re not sure how. That’s where I come in. I really think I can help you with those worship songs you’ve got laying around. I really can help you make use of all those songs you’ve written but never used.

For $2o, you can submit a worship song to me. I’ll carefully listen to it several times, pore over the lyrics, then give you a detailed analysis of how I think the song can improve, both musically and lyrically. I’ll help you get your song ready for Sunday morning worship.

How does this process work? Simply go to the song submissions page, put in your name, email, and any comments, then attach the lyrics of the song as well as an MP3 recording. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just you and your piano or guitar is fine. I’ll listen to the song, then give you a line by line analysis of it. With a little work we can take your song to the next level. We can get it ready for Sunday morning use.

Sound good? Let’s do it.

New Song Rough Sketch

photo

Sometimes people ask how I go about writing a song.

Do I just “get” whole songs spontaneously in the shower or while driving?  I wish it were that easy.  I usually begin with some kind of idea for the theme and then play numerous variations of melodies, chords, and rhythms and work and rework the lyrics.  Here’s a song in its early stages.  I wrote this – one verse and a chorus – to submit it to Bob Kauflin and Steve Cook for consideration for the upcoming album from Sovereign Grace called “The Gathering.”  I wrote only 1 verse and the chorus to get their opinion if it’s worth continuing to work on.  I’d like to hear your opinions as well.  It’s pretty rough.

If you would like to listen to this song  you can listen to it here.

Here are the lyrics:

SUCH GREAT THINGS

YOU HAVE STILLED THE WINDS
YOU HAVE CALMED THE WATERS
TO OUR TROUBLED HEARTS
YOU HAVE SPOKEN PEACE
YOU HAVE QUENCHED OUR THIRST
SATISFIED OUR HUNGER
YOU HAVE HEALED OUR WOUNDS
AND CURED OUR HEARTS’ DISEASE

SO WE WILL LIFT OUR VOICES AND SING YOU SONGS
WE WILL SHOUT FOR JOY, WE WILL WAKE THE DAWN
WE WILL GIVE YOU THANKS
FOR YOU HAVE DONE SUCH GREAT THINGS
SUCH GREAT THINGS

Mark Altrogge 6.28.11

Songwriting Tip: Do A Word Search

Sometimes when I want to write on a certain theme I do a word search using the ESV Online Study Bible.

Recently I was thinking about the phrase “sun of righteousness” in Malachi 4.2:

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings…

So I did a search for “sun,” printed the verses out, picked up my guitar and began singing through the Scriptures.  Eventually, some of them took shape into a song.

Here are the Scriptures I used followed by the song lyrics:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.  (Psalm 84:11)

The sun shall be no more your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon give you light;
but the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
Your sun shall no more go down,
nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your days of mourning shall be ended. (Isaiah 60:19-20)

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:23)

Sun of Righteousness

Ch:
O shine upon us Sun of Righteousness
For you have risen with healing in your wings
Heal us, revive us,
Breathe on us new life
For in your light we see light

1
Once in the darkness our Savior hung
Enduring God’s wrath in our place
You nailed all our sin to that cross of pain
And opened a fountain of grace
Oh Jesus, your name is our sun and shield
You’re worthy of all of our trust
We’ll arise and we’ll shine for our light has come
Your glory is shining on us

2
One day we won’t need the sun to shine
We won’t need the moon when it’s night
For you alone will be our glory
And our everlasting light
Our sun will no longer go down again
The days of our tears will be through
Our hope and our joy will not fade away
The day you make everything new

c Mark Altrogge 2010

Songwriting Tip: Ask A Question

Can’t think of how to start a song?  Ask a question.

Asking a question arrests the listener’s attention and demands that he or she answer or ponder.

Lots of secular songs do this, e.g Coldplay asks in “Fix You”:

When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

In “Who Can I Turn To?” Tony Bennett asks,

Who can I turn to when nobody needs me?
My heart wants to know and so I must go where destiny leads me…

Songwriters have been asking questions since David and the psalmists:

O Lord God of hosts,
who is mighty as you are, O Lord,
with your faithfulness all around you? (Ps 89.8)

Whom have I in heaven but you? (Ps 73.25)

So it’s no wonder Christian songwriters ask questions, like Matt Redman In “You Alone Can Rescue”

Who, oh Lord, could save themselves,
Their own soul could heal?

I use the question-asking technique from time to time, like in “We Sing Your Mercies”:

Should He who made the stars be hung up on a tree?
And should the hands that healed be driven through for me?
Should he who gave us bread be made to swallow gall?
Should he who gave us life and breath be slaughtered for us all?

Give it a try next time you have writer’s block.  Ask a question, like….Why can’t I think of anything to say?  Or Why am I torturing myself trying to write songs?  Or I wonder if another cup of coffee would help?…

photo by Pit’sLamp photography

Songwriting Tip: What Do You Listen To?

One of the hardest things for songwriters to do is to break out of the style of music they grew up on.

Obviously, I have a tough time breaking away from the influence of the Beatles and other bands from the 60’s and 70’s.  But one thing that helps me is listening to lots of different music.

I would encourage songwriters to listen to a wide range of stuff.

I listen to things like Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (jazz fused with bluegrass), Irish music (like Riverdance), soundtracks (like those by John Williams [get his Greatest Hits - you can't beat the soundtracks from Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark and others]), Broadway stuff (like Le Miserables).  Sometimes I listen to classical music and lately I’ve been listening to Ricky Skaggs new album, “Mosaic.”

I’m also grateful that my kids keep me posted on current music to listen to as well. I try to listen to bands like Coldplay, Death Cab for Cutie, Snow Patrol, etc. and analyze their songs – what makes their melodies so good?  What kind of rhythms do they use?  What kinds of chord progressions do they use?

In this glorious day and age of technology, you can listen to all kinds of stuff for free on sites like Pandora and Grooveshark.

Just as writers must read a lot, songwriters must listen to lots of music.  The more you listen to, the more of a “reservoir” you’ll have to draw upon.

photo by jordanfischer