A well-written song, like a good story, communicates a single message. It has a theme, a main idea, a focus. What’s the point of your song? What are you trying to say? Can you sum it up in a line, a word or two? (If so, you may have discovered your title and your hook!)

The shotgun approach may work well for duck hunting, but is not recommended for songwriting. If you’re looking for a hit, the targeted approach has a better chance of scoring a bulls-eye.

I believe composers of praise and worship songs are particularly prone to this error. We worship a God who is vast and unfathomable, but that doesn’t mean our songs should be. Nor should we try to include His incalculable characteristics in a single two-minute praise tune. Better to choose one attribute and elaborate on that.

An example of a song that does this well is Indescribable by Chris Tomlin. The verses recount the wonders of God in nature and build to the title/hook in the chorus—indescribable, which leads to the conclusion, “You are amazing, God” (a great subtitle).

Not every song hits the mark when it comes to focusing on a single point. Here is an example of a song that is “all over the place” in terms of its message.

As Children
by Jeremy Riddle
We ask come Holy Spirit
Come in Your power
Come inhabit our praise
Come now and reign in our lives
Come Holy Spirit
Come like the wind
Come be Lord of our hearts
Come fill Your church once again

Although these are all valid requests, they are very disconnected and undeveloped. They don’t even rhyme. Notice too, that the title appears nowhere in the chorus (it’s actually the first line of the verse). We’ll discuss hooks and their placement in a future entry.

So here’s your first assignment:  Take a fresh look at some of your favorite songs. Do they communicate a single thought or are they lyrically schizophrenic? Make notes of what they do well and where they could be improved. Remember, it is easier to be objective when looking at someone else’s work than it is your own. Next, take a look at your original songs. Do they clearly communicate a single idea? Is that idea your title? Will the listener “get the point”?

Be sure to post your comments and assignments below so we can help point one another in the right direction.