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!

2 thoughts on “Songwriting chops I didn’t even know I had

  1. 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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