11.11.2008

Songwriting::::ACCESSIBILITY

These posts on songwriting are not written from a professional point of view. These are just my thoughts as I experience new aspects of the craft. The best part of these posts will be your input.

ac·ces'si·bil'i·ty: easy to approach, reach, enter, speak with, or use.

I'm the kind of person that loves change and variety. I get bored with things quickly, especially when it comes to my music. The invention of the ipod is a gift from the heavens. I can take a lot of music on a trip without lugging around the big CD carriers. When it comes to worship music, you definitely hear a lot of the same out there. There are definitely amazing songs still coming out for sure, but there is still a little blandness that seems to seep onto the radio every now and again. And with my discontentment with "more of the same", I tend to use the ipod more.

With all that being said, when it comes to writing songs for the church, what is important? Lyrical content is what brings meaning to a song. The lyrics speak the message of the song clearly. I heard Tim Hughes at a conference one time. He reminded us to write songs that make sense. Look carefully at your lyrics, and make sure they are truth. I put my songs in front of several people that I trust, and ask for an honest proof and critique. When it comes to the music, there's only so many chord progressions available. The melody line is where we can find some distinction. The melody line, for me, is the most important part of the music. This is where we can create a unique piece of art. The melody line is also a definer for the accessibility of a worship tune.

When I first started writing worship songs, I definitely wasn't thinking about accessibility. I would try my hardest to write a really cool, unique and sometimes challenging melody. The problem is that worship songs are primarily written as hymns for the local church to lift up in praise. The crowds that we lead are not ruled by trained vocalists, so naturally, we need to think about them as we write. Mark Roach said something to me that I haven't forgot. He said that he has to force himself to write a little boring sometimes. At first, it sounds like you have to limit your skill level, when writing worship tunes, but it's actually more of a challenge. To write a song that is simple and accessible, yet something that still has it's own personality and distinction is a real challenge. To me, Chris Tomlin and Paul Baloche are great examples. Writing worship songs well, is a quite a beast, because you're writing them for others to sing, not just yourself. It's also an amazing motive. Writing worship songs, when done well, can truly be a selfless art, especially if you're keeping the accessibility of your people as a top priority.

There is certainly a balance to seek, though. Primarily, we want to make our worship services as accessible as possible, but there's also something to be said about stretching our crowd and helping them grow.

How do you find that balance as a worship leader? What songs are good stretchers, yet still accessible?

4 comments:

Paul J. said...

Of the last three that I've written, two of them have been a bit more challenging in the melody department. And I've gotten positive comments from folks in the congregation. Granted, the ones that hate it probably won't come tell me...

David said...

Well put, Gary. When I write a song, I don't write down the melody for a while, and I don't record it right away. And I don't worry about forgetting it. If I forget it, it was a forgettable melody.

Then, I try to spend time actually teaching it to the congregation. Instead of just saying, "Here's a new song," and going for it, I teach it to the congregation in the same way I teach it to the worship team.

Tommy said...

just let the heart show.

Luke Mundy said...

Great post. I share your passion for melody... too often I'll have people show me great lyrics or a great theme, but there's no melody to back it up. Lyrics without melody are prose! Good, but different. God gave us melody to convey emotion, so we ought to make good use of it.

Anyway, regarding accessibility, I think you've got to be tuned into your congregation's comfort level. I used to introduce all kinds of crazy songs when I lead for my college group--most of those probably wouldn't fly in our adult service.