The following is a reprint from The 5 Steps to Get Your Songs Heard – A Congregational Songwriting Plan. Are you ready to take your songs to the next level? Please visit https://getyoursongsheard.com
Co-writing songs is an exercise in the art of diplomacy. Sure, the definitions are all over the map, and the actual practices can vary. I mean, you might just agree with someone that you’ll write the verses and they’ll write the choruses. No rules.
But writing songs for specific genres WILL have rules or guidelines. Specifically, writing worship songs for congregations require all the writers to most definitely be on the same page. The following principles talk about co-writing in this atmosphere.
There are no other hard-and-fast rules about co-writing. Only preference and prudence remain. Our reason for co-writing in the local theology model is to create the best congregational worship songs possible.
But don’t shy away from another writer you may wish to write with in a different genre. Just know that going forward, I’ll outline a great way for you and me to co-write with Kingdom songs in mind.
No matter who, relate with your writers in a manner that honors the King.
It’s smart to keep a few ground rules in mind to bolster a creative relationship:
8 Ground Rules for Kingdom Co-Writing
- Have a conversation or an email exchange in advance with your co-writers about any song-type or style expectations. For example: Is it a singable, congregational-style song or other? Specify the type. Is it a song for a special occasion such as a communion, Easter or Christmas, or call to worship?
- Decide if you will bring ideas to the table, or if you will brainstorm ideas at your first meeting.
- Have the discussion about what success looks like. Who is the target audience? What are the expectations for the song?
- Unless it’s already inked in the co-writing contract, talk about publishing administration for the song. Is the goal of the song to—someday—record and release it? Have you designated any one of you to have power of attorney so their publisher can have authority to do so?
Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
- You might be great at melodies but challenged when it comes to writing lyrics. Know going into your collaboration what is needed to bolster the other for success. Get to know the other songwriters before to determine their strengths and weaknesses for a better match in the writing room.
Be on Time
- Show your commitment to success by always being on time for appointments and with communication.
- Be prompt and consistent with all things
Find a Way to Say Yes
- “No” should not be used carelessly or callously. As a matter of fact, it’s good to say “no” when establishing boundaries. You will find that during writing sessions, saying “yes” is more constructive than saying “no”. Make your “no” known in your co-writing agreement or in your initial conversations. In the session, temper your reactions with things like, “I’d rather …” or “Can we concentrate on …”
- Allow your time together co-writing to be fruitful toward the common goal of producing a memorable song. Find a way to agree—or at least be gracious—and let it be known you will consider any possibility from your co-writers.
- You can let your individual assessments of your writing sessions determine the constructive conversations for your next session.
- Let the better part of your valor be discretion. We’re all broken people trying to get our point across. Some of us do that with more grace than others.
- Allow people to fail and to say the wrong things. Give them a chance to come around to great mutual conclusions.
- Some of you will have more writing experience than others. You’ll often find another writer can do a certain thing better than you, or they know more than you. Listen to the stories from each other. Encourage each other to succeed, no matter how long you’ve been writing.
- Our most creative moments come when we know we have the freedom to fail. Encourage team creativity by fostering an environment of support and mutual respect.
- Show your co-writers that you intend to produce an awesome, co-written song, not a solo effort with their input. If you discover that your co-writer is a slower thinker than you, be gracious. Your team is set to succeed together.
- When hard times and disagreements come, remember your commitment to each other to see this project through to the end. If you decide to put it on the shelf for a time, so be it, but experience any failures and successes together.
Be the Co-writer Everyone Wants to Be With
- No one will show everyone they’re the perfect co-writer. Each of us will fall down at one of these points at some particular time. But the mark of experience and maturity is when a writer recognizes their mistakes in a co-writing relationship and makes amends.
- The Golden Rule 2.0 applies here pretty well, I think. ‘If you want others to want to be with you, you should want to be with them.’ Then show up.
If you strive to pay attention to these points, writers will call on you again and again to help produce winning songs.
On a regular basis, once per week or once per month, place a co-writing date in your calendar. This is so you can be intentional with understanding the values and drawbacks, the plusses and minuses, of such a thing.
When you first agree to write with another writer, discuss if you’re going to bring ideas to the table, or whether you’re going to create from scratch. Be gracious and seek to serve the other writer by offering to write from any ideas they wish to bring.
The idea of co-writing is to create something new from the collective of your minds, not necessarily bringing together two halves to make a whole. In this way, you’ll see that how you create songs may not be the way that they do, and that this new process deserves new writing methods.
Co-writing Congregational Songs
Think about studying The Proverbs 27.17 Song Critique Method as one or more of your co-writers will approach critiquing in that manner. It’s good to all be on the same page!
One thing you might agree upon at the beginning is if you intend to use the Proverbs 27:17 Song Critique form to help you mold your song. If you’re a part of a songwriting community that uses that form, they’re going to use that on your song as they assess it, whether you do or not!!
So it actually might be advantageous to use the same song critique form. It will save you and your co-writer time if you do use it.
(the reason I say “it might be advantageous” is for one reason: that song critique form is a complete and thorough song assessment and feedback form. It’s customized for congregational songwriting.)
About Steve Cass
Steve Cass is a veteran songwriter and worship leader. He founded the label Solid Walnut Music and distributed their albums to Christian radio stations in over 15 countries. He is the Founder of the Arizona Worship Songwriters Association, and is married to Lisa with grown children David and Christy.