Song Writing::::FEEDBACK

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.

Have you ever had someone criticize you? Has anyone ever gave you a truth about yourself that hurt? How did you handle it? Did you get defensive or did you listen?

Everyone needs a Simon Cowell in their life. We need somebody that will tell us the truth. I have people in my life that will be straight with me, but not that many. It's like when you have some food on the corner of your mouth, or your fly is unzipped...you need someone to let you know.

The same applies to song writing. Once you start writing songs for the church, songs that people will listen to and sing every week, its important that you put a lot of care into the quality of your writing. Getting feed back is one of the quickest ways to get an honest look at a song. Think about it. Since you wrote the song, you are immediately biased in some way or ways. If you don't get people's opinion, you may never know how good or bad a song really is.

When I started leading worship in church, I found out really quick that the worship leader is one of the most critiqued positions in the church. If you asked certain people how they liked the music, you would sometimes hear some harsh things. "It's too loud!", "We need more hymns!", "The mix was bad!" It's a tough thing to hear all of that, because you are the one that gets the credit and the blame. One day, a man came up to me after a service, who I knew didn't like anything I was doing. That particular morning, I introduced a song that I had written, and quite frankly, I really enjoyed singing it and worshiping with it. I remember really getting lost in worship during that song. Anyway, the man asked me if I had written the new song. I said yes, and he said he could tell. I then asked how he could tell, and he said something that has stuck with me ever since that day. He said, "I could tell, because you were really into it as you were singing it, but can I tell you something? Don't forget about us." At that moment, God spoke to me through that man's words. God taught me, right then, that as a worship leader, I am to never forget the crowd. The worship service was not about me worshiping. I can do that on my own. It's about leading all of us in worship. When I am connecting to God, I still need to stay connected to the crowd that God has put in front of me.

The only reason that I learned that lesson was because I simply listened to some feedback. My song writing process always culminates with feedback. I write a song. A day later, if I still like the song, I'll record a demo. Then I give those demos to several people in whose opinion I trust. I've gotten some great feed back that have improved my songs and song writing. I've changed lyrics, melody lines, titles, etc. All because someone was honest with me. Technology has brought this to a whole new level. I have made friends with song writers all over the country, and I can easily email them a song and get a great critique. I've had people even change the way I feel about a song. Sometimes, I'll realize how bad a song is, and sometimes someone will point out a great song that I thought was mediocre at best.

I saw Al Pacino interviewed one day, and he was asked what the most important part of acting was. Without hesitating, he said, "Listening." He said, "If you don't listen, then you won't know how to react." To hone our skills as writers, we have to be willing to listen to some honest feedback. Don't deflect criticism. Listen to it and absorb it. It hurts, but its worth it, and our songs will be better for it.

How do you get feed back?


Anonymous said...

well said Gary...great reminder, great wisdom.

Anonymous said...

I don't think losing yourself in a song is necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it's one of those "you can't please 100% of the people 100% of the time" things. When I see you really get into a song it often makes my own worship experience all that more amazing - it's a good example of the close relationship we should all seek to have with our Father. Keep up the great service. We are truly blessed to have you as worship leader.