Sometimes it's a tune.
Sometimes it's a lyric.
Personally, my lyrics come from devotions, notes from sermons I've heard (2 of my favorite songs I've written in the past couple of years both came from a series of talks given 2 years consecutively at winter youth retreats in Covington, GA!), and journaling. Occasionally an idea from one of those will jump out to me and lend itself to 'poetic' expression, so I might jot down a verse in my journal or something, and that's helpful.
But it's not chicken or the egg, for me - it's chicken AND the egg.
While I'm doing that on one hand, I'm also continually making record of interesting melodies & chord progressions. Any time a melody pops into my head that catching my attention, I'll call myself and leave it as a message on my cell phone, so I can go back & create a chord progression to support it. Anytime I stumble upon a chord progression that really strikes me as creative, I open a Word document on my computer entitled 'Chord Progressions' and document it, sometimes also opening Garage Band and making a quick audio file so I won't forget the phrasing & etc.
When I'm in songwriting mode, I pull together those 3 resources (journal notes, cell phone recordings, and chord progression doc) and see where themes, sounds, and progressions intersect... from there, viola - songs!
That's my personal approach these days.
Now, there was a time in my life when I had a great deal of free-time, and under those circumstances songwriting wasn't nearly as much work... at one (between '93 & '03) time I was at times writing upwards of 10 or so songs a week, and at least a quarter of those were keepers that I at least worked up with a band, passed along to other artists to consider using, or recorded demos of, but these days I need to be much more intentional about my writing, so the above method works well for me now, as I'm writing about 1 finished song per month, on average.
Hope that helps!
Last edited by SaintLewis; 06-18-2008 at 12:00 PM.
I will normally write the lyrics first. Like Shannon they usually come from time with the Lord, a sermon, something I've read, or sometimes just from reflecting on the Lord. I'll write somethings down, not paying too much attention the syllable-to-line ratio or rhyme scene and what have you. I'll basically try to get the idea of where I'm going, then I'll either try to fit it into a chord progression I'd been working on or if that doesn't work write one. My biggest problem is that I don't want to settle for the easy/obvious lyrics or melody. So much of Christian music, especially worship, is one decent line followed by a cliche. When you hear the first line you know what the second will be. Same with so many melodies. So much of worship music today is predictable and derivative. The biggest thing that stops me from finishing a song is that I don't want to settle for the easy and uncreative.
Can I get a little more talent in the monitors?
I'm with Russ - sometimes it's a melody, other times it's a lyric ... I've had melodies for years at a time, then found the lyrics to match. I've had lyrics for years, and had a melody come along that fit.
For me it's usually both/and...
My pattern of late has been to start writing a lyric - as I do, I start strumming a chord progression or humming a melody...that gets the ball rolling, or egg as it were
I've done it both ways in the past, and occasionally lyrics and music seem to come to me simultaneously. But most of the time I write the lyrics first -- in fact, sometimes my lyrics are done months before the music. But this is because I usually compose lyrics "hymn style," with a set meter. For instance, maybe "long meter," where every line is 8 syllables long (like in the Getty's "In Christ Alone," or the classic Watts hymn "When I Survey the Wond'rous Cross."
The scripture inspires me and the lyrics are birthed out of it and the melody flows like rivers of living water right out of me...I have carried around a digital recorder (tape recorder prior to that) with me for years and record them and then take them to the keyboard. I usually get the chorus (lyrics and melody) in entirety first and then I get melody for the verses and then I write them. Some of my songs are still choruses "waiting to grow up"...
good question. My husband is SO much a lyricist. He can sit and write lyrics all day long but his melodies are pretty banal and uninteresting. I want to put melodies to his lyrics but he prefers them as they are.
"He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God:
many shall see it,and fear. and shall trust in the Lord"
For me its both...it's also maddening when only one comes and takes weeks/months to get the other...and when you don't have too many people to collaborate with, makes it a bit more challenging!
However it's a joy to wait it out, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite and rewrite to finally finish it, praise the Lord!
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