Posted by Craig Borlase on 29 January 2018

The Five Clip Songwriting Masterclass

 

Fancy learning from the greats? We’ve trawled Youtube so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Tip 1 from David Gray

“Start with the chords… then find the melody” (view from 1:10)

David Gray knows more than a thing or two about writing a great melody (just go and listen to Babylon or This Year’s Love if you need reminding). But he often starts with chords and lets the melody suggest itself. Or he decides to push against the obvious and break the melodic rules. Either way, the chords are the soil from which it all grows.

This’ll make sense if… you’re a Noel Robinson fan. You’ll know the power of a killer chord sequence.

Tip 2 from Ed Sheeran

“Write as much as possible.”

No surprises here, as Ed Sheeran’s utterly prolific. But all that writing’s not without purpose, and in other interviews he talks about songwriting being like a dirty tap. Sometimes you’ve got to let it run for a bit to clean the pipes out. So you’ve got to get the rubbish songs out of your system before the good stuff comes. Simple, huh?

This’ll disturb you if… you’re a perfectionist who’s just starting out. See this as a long, long journey ahead you.

Tip 3 from Neil Young

“Be sure to welcome failure.” (view from 00:19)

If you’re not familiar with the work of legendary songwriter Neil Young you need to listen to the album Harvest right now. Maybe once you’ve done that you’ll understand what he means when he talks about the importance of being able to write “without fear”.

This should matter to every creative person, especially for those of faith. Are we writing to boost our own ego? No. We do it for the audience of one. We create because He showed us how.

 

Tip 4 from Sting

“Sidestep your ego” (view from 5:32)

Reflecting on a years-long period of writer’s block, Sting wonders whether the best of our work comes when we learn to sidestep our own ego, stop telling our story and begin to tell someone else’s story… someone without a voice.

This’ll echo with the deepest truths of all… these songs we sing in worship are not meant to be the focus of our attention, and nor are the people doing the writing. These songs are part of a bigger chorus, an eternal song that tells the biggest story of them all.

 

Tip 5 from Gary Barlow

“Stop dissecting things” (view from 15:05)

Gary Barlow has done it all, whether writing solo or co-writing, and what he doesn’t know about songwriting probably isn’t worth knowing. What’s interesting to us is that in this interview he describes how he went back to solo writing after an extended period of collaborating. He talks about learning to follow his heart more than he ever used to.

This’ll throw a spanner in the works if you’ve got the impression that the only true way to write a worship song these days is to do it in partnership with someone else. There’s a lot to be said for collaboration, but it’s not the only way. Maybe it’s time to take a risk, go deep and rely on God alone.

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Whatever you take form this, remember that none of these tips are either foolproof or sacred. Songwriting’s an art rather than a science, an expression of what’s going on inside. For the worship writer, the real power isn’t in the melody or the chords. It’s in that mysterious interplay between our hearts and God’s Spirit. That where true worship begins.

 

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