WRITING FOR WORSHIP, PART 1

On July 26, I'm speaking at a conference called the Songwriter's LAB. One of the sessions will focus on "writing for congregational worship" and thought I'd share an abbreviated version of those talks here on the blog!

IT'S GOTTA' BE SINGABLE
We all know that songs need to be "singable." We're leading worship - of course, we want people to sing along! But because every congregation is different, there are very few hard and fast rules on how to make songs singable. However, there are some principles that can guide you.

1. KEYS - Guess what? It's not about keys. It's about melody. You need to have at least a rough idea of what sort of melodic range you're people can sing. This varies from church to church based on your congregation's age, gender makeup and musical preferences. Once you know what notes fall out of range for your people, you'll write song songs that they can easily sing.

2. PHRASING - This is the secret sauce of congregational worship writing. And it's where we see the impact of a "performance culture" on our songwriting. Meaning that when you write a song, you write it and sing it in the way that feels best in your mouth. Maybe you put a little vocal run on the end of the chorus or stretch a two-syllable word into three or put a rest before a line in the third verse. All of those things are cool, but make it really hard for a couple hundred people to join. To write for congregational worship, you have to phrase things simply. The more people you have trying to sing, the simpler it needs to be.

3. SYLLABLES - This will help your phrasing immensely. You may not end up keeping this pattern, but when writing for worship, go for a consistent syllable count in your verses. Not only does this challenge you as a lyricist, but it also helps phrasing. As the song progresses, you might bend the rules a bit, but it's a great exercise - at least for starting songs.

Do you write songs for congregational worship? What sort of guidelines do you use?

[If you'd like to attend the conference, head over to songwriterslab.org to register.]