Songwriting chops I didn’t even know I had

The title of my new album coming out tomorrow is called “Dreams I Didn’t Even Know I Had,” and I bring this up (not only as a gentle reminder, but) because I just read a simple songwriting tip that I discovered I unconsciously use… so, the blog title.

Famed songwriter Ralph Murphy says – in talking about “accessibility” of a song that you are writing: “How easy is the song to sing? One-syllable words are your friends.”

It’s that simple.

So, I thought about my own songwriting and the tunes that have been a hit and miss. Two examples:

HitNew Life: “It’s the start of a new life… a new life for me.” (one syllable laden)
MissBy Your Grace: “I may lack certainty in many situations in this life…” (egads)

How about a Taylor Swift hit, “Shake it off?”

I stay out too late
Got nothing in my brain
That’s what people say, mmm-mmm
That’s what people say, mmm-mmm

I go on too many dates
But I can’t make them stay
At least that’s what people say, mmm-mmm
That’s what people say, mmm-mmm

Exclude “nothing” and “people” and we have nothing but one-syllable words… and the two syllables can act like one-syllable words in syncopation.

Say what you want about “trash music” or “commercial music,” etc. But, I don’t know a single songwriter who writes songs just because she wants to listen to them herself. We write songs for other people to hear and enjoy, too. And, as a Christian worship songwriter, this is even more important.

It is most certainly hard to find originality in one-syllable words… but maybe our goal shouldn’t be “originality” as much as “conveying an emotion and a message.” This goal is certainly where we should be going in our Christian songwriting.

Can you think of other lyrical examples of hits and failures… perhaps your own?

cover170x170 “Dreams I Didn’t Even Know I Had” is comprised of thirteen songs that deal with God, worship, sin, freedom, fatherhood, and love… styles vary from basic acoustic singer/songwriter to Depeche-mode-like 80s electronic. Check it out!
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2 Comments

  1. Kendra St John Kendra St John
    April 4, 2016    

    Remember the natural rhythm to the language. Don’t force it-it will sound trite. No cliches. They are boring. Write what you know and have experienced. These are the movers. I have to rethink using some of my songs as songs; simply because they were not heart felt. I know about the subject and tell a story, but I don’t seem to capture it as well as if I had actually ex[erienced it. These are just my thoughts.

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In May, 2005, Rob was a secular, Jewish, thirty-something, Los Angeles, personal injury attorney whose idea of getting up early on a Sunday was getting up for the third quarter of the first televised, NFL games.

Thirsting on the idea of playing in a band for the first time in a decade, Rob finally accepted his neighbor's request to get up at seven-in-the-morning on Sundays in order to participate.

Eleven months later, his world was turned upside down by Jesus. Instantly, he began leading songs on the worship team and, today, he now leads that same LIFEhouse worship team in which he was initially invited to join as a non-believer.

God is cool like that.