Each of us has a story inside. We all have a song or two waiting to come out and blossom with the right exposure of the elements. But why does it seem so hard for some to ripen this self expression and for others it just seems to fall off the tree? Song writing is one of the oldest forms of self expression that we have in our culture. When Adam sang, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, call her woman for she was made out of man,” it was probably a song. It certainly has all the elements of song.
Concise singable lyrics, rhythmic pattern, poetic meaning. It even has a few literary elements such as alliteration. It was certainly what we would call an inspired lyric coming out of the revelation of meeting the first woman.
Ok, so we know songs are old, we probably like them, we may have them stuck inside of our psyche, but why and how should we try to pull them out and make them into something that may just make us feel foolish afterwards?
Song writing is arguably one of the most satisfying emotional expressions that humans can partake in. It just might be a song that can sum up how you feel about a certain time, place and person better than anything else. This may be because the words of the song can be transformed by the music and the mood of the song to something greater than the two parts. To call back our example above when we start chanting “bone of my bone” something magical happens. (Try it if you are alone). If we add meaningful melody and accompaniment, the magic deepens. It’s not just a poetic statement anymore.
The melody demands a resolution and the rhythm gives it intensity and drive. Now you must listen to Adams revelation. There’s more urgency than ever. But let’s give it a pulse, a beat and we’ve sold the human race. We sold God too. He’s laughing. He’s singing along. “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, let’s call her woman, she was made out of man.”
Like most things the how is the hard boring part. Inspiration can work but it’s so fickle. First, I don’t think the initial subject of a song is that important. Choose any subject at all. My first song was the story of Jael and Sisera in the book of Judges. The verses were mostly just two chords, A and Ab. I know. It sounds horrible doesn’t it? It actually worked pretty well for a story about a woman stabbing a man through the head with a tent stake. So don’t stress on your subject, just pick anything. As a songwriter, your job is to allow listeners to see the subject differently.
If you have ideas about your song, go ahead and start. You can always come back to this article later. If you are stuck then, number one, take out a sheet of paper and start writing anything that comes into your head. It doesn’t even have to be about the subject of your song. Force yourself to write three pages and only then stop. After reading what you wrote, try and find only two or three short phrases that you like and bring them out and think about what they say. Pick out words in these phrases and think of multiple meanings for them. For instance if you liked the word “green,” does it mean “new”? Is it the color? Does it mean “eco-friendly”? Is it a worker not yet seasoned? There are even more meanings for “green.” Look them up. The idea of this exercise is to free your brain to think multiple ways and to recognize new ideas. It also helps to realize that your ideas might work better than you thought. They also might work in more than one way.
If you don’t like the idea of writing three pages, try this exercise. Try writing words on a sheet of paper but don’t connect them. Write different nouns and verbs that might be connected to your song all over that sheet of paper. Leave some space around them but don’t connect them. It might help to write some sideways, some upside down etc. Ok, when your sheet is filled, try connecting some words that you don’t think really go together and think about them. Find several combinations that interest you and study them to see if you can make up interesting phrases.
Above are only two exercises used to stimulate those new to songwriting. Once you try these you may need to keep writing your three pages every day, or you may have more song ideas than you can work on at the present. Everyone is different. Songs can be written in 5 minutes or 5 months. There is no right or wrong way to write a song. The most important thing is to keep it your song. That doesn’t mean it can’t be revised, but keep it true to your story. Writing and singing your story will help you see yourself in new ways and can be an excellent way to worship and pray and grow spiritually.
Dennis Hunt writes from Oregon.© 2017 - 2023 ASA. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.