As an avid student of the craft of songwriting, I am on a constant quest for insight on how to write better songs. I often ask other songwriters about their methods. Since I believe in the principle of sowing and reaping, I shared at last month’s Florida Christian Songwriters meeting (Jan. 2012) the process I used to write the song I sang at the meeting, “You Love Me”(and gave a shout out to MasterWriter for their great program). I also recognize that God has made each of us unique, and what works for me, may not work for everyone. In fact, I have used many different processes in writing my own songs. Bottom line: there is no ONE RIGHT WAY to write a song.

That being said, if we take songwriting out of the realm of the mysterious, something we do only when inspiration strikes and continue only as long as inspiration lasts, and put it into the realm of the practical, considering it an activity we can do at any time whether inspiration is present or not, we find there are some helpful guidelines for writing a song. In his book, Song Writing – A Complete Guide to the Craft songwriter and songwriting instructor Stephen Citron offers a six step process.

Step one is to create the title idea. In other words, determine what your song is about and narrow down that concept into a catchy title. (See my post – “What’s the Point”) Next, set the title to music. Try to capture the essence of the title in the music. A great example is “Maria” from West Side Story. Notice the emotion and sense of longing created with just three notes. (For you theory buffs, it is an augmented 4th followed by a minor 2nd. The tritone begs to be resolved.) If you missed the fact that you’ve just written your hook, you should read my post, “Hook ‘em, Danno”. Next, complete the lyrics for the first section then set it to music. Now create a second set of lyrics that matches the first with regards to line length, rhythmic stress and rhyme scheme and which further communicates the concept of the song. Examine your song to see if it needs a contrasting section like a bridge. If so, write the lyrics then set them to music. Continue this process until you complete the song.

I would add a seventh step – pray! Since as Christian songwriters we write every song to the glory of God, we should pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as we acknowledge our dependence on God throughout the process. Remember we have nothing that we have not received (I Cor. 4:7), and every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17).

But don’t wait for inspiration to come before you write. That’s like waiting to be inspired to read your Bible or pray or worship God. If we step out in obedience and start to write a new song, we can trust God to faithfully guide us every step of the way.