Originally posted back in 2010, this article is filled with insight about songwriting for worship! Reposted with permission. Originally published at DavidSantistevan.com.
I’m of the belief that the best way for you to become better at what you do is to seize it. Don’t wait for a mentor to approach you, seek out your mentors. As a worship songwriter, I always observe other writing styles – what melody works, what doesn’t, what lyrics are unique, which aren’t, etc.
In this post I just wanted to outline a few worship music songwriters that I admire and what I’ve learned from them. My desire is that you use the same curiosity with the music you like and apply what you learn from them. And also, study these guys. They’re the best.
I appreciate Matt for his masterful lyricism and unique melodies. Matt can take complex theological terms and use few words to express it. His writing is deep, yet accessible. All of his albums are great, but for starters, I’d recommend his live album Facedown and even his most recent We Shall Not Be Shaken .
- Lesson learned: immerse yourself in God’s Word and express its truth using as few words as possible.
I think the strength of Paul’s writing is in its accessibility. His songs are immediately singable to anyone and build masterfully in emotional strength. His songs are about one thing, easy to follow, make sense, and connect with what you want to say to God. My favorite album from Paul is A Greater Song.
- Lesson learned: think about the comman man/woman in your songwriting. Will this make sense to them, do they want to sing this, and is it singable for the average vocal range?
Reuben Morgan writes the best melodies of anyone I listen to. If you’re not familiar with Reuben, think Hillsong. He’s written incredible songs like Mighty to Save, My Redeemer Lives, Eagles Wings, and Stronger. People love his songs because they just make sense, they are also immediately engaging, and musically innovative. He writes very simple, anthemic melodies around big truths. I love his solo project Everyone, which sadly is out of print.
- Lesson learned: write melodies that ‘soar’. Don’t settle on the first melody that comes to you. Tweak it until it is singable, cool, unique, and emotional.
Brian thinks deep and expresses poetically. A lot of Brian’s songs introduced me to theological concepts that weren’t ‘on my radar’ but should be. Many young songwriters simply rehash the same phrases over and over. You can tell Brian seeks God and lives his songs as he writes them. Can’t say I have a favorite album here, but check out this live record to start.
- Lesson learned: Write out of your life. What is God speaking to you and your church? Think deeply about it and find fresh ways to express it.
WHAT SONGWRITERS/ARTISTS HAVE INSPIRED YOU?
David Santistevan is a Worship Pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA.