Innovate-2008

12Mar08

This past Monday and Tuesday (March 4-5) I went to a music conference at the Rock Church entitled “Innovate.”  It was the very first music conference they had put out, and it was a big success.  I had the privilege of going with my friend Rebekka. We had fun, learned some new things, and made friends. The first class I went to was a master clinic—“Secrets to writing great worship material.”  Pastor Myles Young taught this class, and it was a really good one.  He brought up some things about song writing that I had never thought of.  Here are some ideas he gave that I took notes on during the class:

Remember the 5 W’s when writing a song–Who, What, When, Where Why.  Is the song to God, or about God?  Or is it to the congregation? 

Make sure you have your tenses straight. 

One thing he pointed out was what I just wrote above.  Tenses.  An example he used was a song with the words “All I wanna do is praise ye the Lord.”  I guess people really don’t think sometimes when they write songs!  Praise ye the Lord–that’s telling people to praise the Lord!  And the way it starts off?  All I wanna do….is praise ye the Lord? What?!  That makes me laugh!  But it’s easy to do without thinking about it, even if it’s not so obvious as “All I wanna do is praise ye the Lord.” 

Another one which is not so obvious, is the song “I Am Blessed.”  It’s really slow, and doesn’t sound very happy.  He went on to say when he hears people sounding sad and singing slow “I  ammmm bleeessseed,” it makes him want to sing “I’mmmm deeepresssed.”  lol  SO–remember to have your tenses straight, and think about what message you are conveying when you write a song.  Write words that go with the music.

Write songs how YOU write them.  Don’t be trapped into someone elses style of writing songs.  Different things work for different people.  Write for yourself–everyone is unique. 

Don’t write like a beginner!  (Don’t write just to write)  Don’t keep repeating the same thing over and over, but don’t ramble when you write.  Remember–some repetition is good, but not a lot. 

The Rule of Repetition:  3 is plenty

Don’t repeat a line of words more than 3 times.

Don’t repeat a chord progession more than 3 times.

Maybe a 4th time with a twist.

I won’t go into everything he said, but he gave me a cool idea!  For those of you piano players, or musicians in general, when you go to sit down at the piano to write a song, you tend to go the same chords and maybe end up playing the same tune.  At least that happens to me all the time.  The idea I got from him is so simple, but can make a big difference on your song writing.  So, here it is:  Get a cheap keyboard.  Yep, you heard right!  Go get yourself one of those cheap keyboards you can get from Wal-Mart or Costco.  The reason is, these little keyboards (try a Casio keyboard) have many recorded beats on them.  Different rythyms.  To get out of the rut of going back to the same old chords, set one of these keyboards up next to your piano, start a beat, and wah lah!  There’s something about a simple little beat that can help.  He demonstrated this is the class.  He started a fast beat, sat down at the piano, and something other than his normal piano chords came to him.  He had other people help out.  He started another beat, and asked if anyone was hearing anything they wanted to add in.  A guy in the class said he could think of a bass line to go with the beat, so Bro. Young gave him a base, and the guy started playing to the beat.  Then Bro. Young followed along with him on the piano.  It started to turn into a song really fast.  People from the class started suggesting words, and within just a few minutes, we we’re getting a song going.  It was amazing how fast it happened!  I tried using a beat from a keyboard I have at my house, and something else other than my normal chord procedure on the piano started coming to me.  It’s really neat how the simple things in like can make a big difference.

So–those are just some of the thoughts from one of the classes.  I might end up posting more later about other things I learned from different classes. 

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11 Responses to “Innovate-2008”

  1. 1 Jana

    Hi, Jen – I’m glad you enjoyed the music conference.

    To answer your question left on my blog, I have written songs but I have not recorded any of them. I know that seems strange, but the songs I have written are better suited for another voice. Several years ago, when Bro. Allard and I were youth convention choir directors, I wrote a song for the conference theme and the choir sang it. For my recent CD, I wanted to sing songs that ministered to me in a personal way and that I enjoyed vocally. Maybe my next album will take a different path.

    From what I have learned in the many song-writing classes I have taken, I woulld disagree with the opinion of “don’t write just to write.” People who have written Christian songs that won Dove or Grammy Awards, are songwriters who try to write a song everyday. They write everyday to gain experience and out of the hundreds of songs they write, they pick the very best to record. Unless you get busy writing, you will always be a beginner.

    Pentecostals sing an unbelievable number of Andre Crouch songs. Many of these were written in the 70’s, but today I hear his songs used many times over in numerous churches. Andre Crouch has won seven grammy awards and sold hundreds of thousands of albums. He says, “I try to duplicate what I feel in my heart.” Even after 40 years of songwriting, he started using a digital program, Logic, and asked Swiss singer/songwriter Saschka Wittau to help him. During a month and a half of working with her, he had written at least 80 songs. Although his songs have earned him millions of dollars, he continues to follow his passion and write.

    I believe we need Pentecostal songwriters to get their songs into the mainstream and win awards. Now don’t misunderstand me – we write, sing, perform, as praise to God, and every song is a short sermon. If Pentecostal songwriters got their songs recorded by top Christian artists, then the Pentecostal message would spread even further. We cannot compromise our convctions in doing so, and I really believe we need more Pentecostal artists albums on the Christian bookstore shelves.

    I have noticed beginner songwriters not only tend to keep songs in the same vein musically, but also lyrically. Recently, a beginner songwriter asked my opinion of a newly released CD. My response was, “You are doing good but…….think about every song on your project. Each of them were the same story. In a nutshell, they were, “everything was terrible and bad then Jesus helped me.” It is wonderful when things go wrong that Jesus helps us, but don’t you have some good days just being friends with Jesus? Is everyday bad? This got the young songwriter thinking. I expect to soon hear some other songs from this writer that will tell me how beautiful the world is with Jesus and how much fun it is to worship Him. Find something new each day and write about it.

    Another benefit to writing good songs and getting them published, is the potential to be recorded by an established artist who would pay good royalties to use a song.

    When a song is written, it needs accompaniement that compliments the lyrics. I think picking on the song “Blessed” was a little unfair. Have you heard Rachel Lampa sing “Blessed?” It is a fabulous song and it became a number one hit. I think the lyrics and music gel quite well and Rachel sings it with conviction. The problem is not with the song but rather with the performance of other singers. If Bro. Young heard the song and it depressed him, then it was a vocalist/music/rhythm error and not the song as it was written.

    Two more points before I stop this long response. :~)
    1. Make sure the song is grammatically correct. Write the lyrics and read them out loud. Do they make sense? Do they jump from first person to third person? Make sure the song is consistent. Sort of like how some preachers talk – “I was studying the Bible and we felt the Spirt…” Is it me or we?
    2. Have a message in your song. Keep it spiritual and Godly. I don’t like shallow songs. A good song will touch your heart, give you chill bumps, make you want to cry or dance, and cause you to feel something deep within your spirit. Several years ago an alternative Christian group sang a song, “Rubber canoe, rubber canoe, Jesus, I’m giving my love to you…” Sorry, but it never touched my heart.

    Good luck, Jen, in your songwriting.

  2. 2 Jen

    WOW! I think your comment might have been longer than my post! lol! Yes, I think it was the version of “I am blessed” he heard. I have heard Rachel Lampa sing it and it was really good. I think it’s more when people sing it that old, slow style, that it becomes “I’m depressed.” lol Good point you made about writing to write. What I meant, was more, don’t just go on and on in your writing with no meaning or even thinking about what you’re saying, for the purpose of just writing a song—to say you’ve written one. I don’t think the rubber canoe song would touch my heart either. 🙂

  3. 3 Jana

    Jen – do some searches online for award-winning Christian songwriters and read their bios. You would probably find them interesting and informative.

  4. Hey Jenga:

    Great post! Glad you got to go to that conference and learn some helpful tips and suggestions. Now I know what to get you for your next b-day….a cheap keyboard! LOL
    I wonder what Miles Young would think of your song “I am So Happy Can’t you Tell”?? LOL
    You definitely have a God-given talent for playing and singing. Always remember to use it for His glory, and who knows where you will go? I love you, and I’m so proud of you, my sweet niece. Love, Aunt Kiki

  5. Jen,

    I’m glad you were able to go to the music conference, and you did a fine job writing this post. You have something you have at your age that I didn’t have when I was that age, and that is confidence.

    Pro 14:26 In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.

    I believe that comes from fearing the Lord and not having faith in who you are but in WHOSE you are! Never forget that through your music, God wants you to be a worshipper and not a performer or entertainer. I’ve seen some fine musicians that started out as worshippers, but then when they achieved a certain measure of success, somewhere along the line they started performing and lost the anointing that they had in the process.

    You know your mother and how I have said many times that I like the old hymns, but I believe we need new songs too. Why else would the Word say:

    Psa 33:3 Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

    Psa 40:3 And 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.

    Psa 96:1 O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.

    Psa 149:1 Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.

    I believe God is going to use you to write some of those new songs, and I look forward to hearing them. I echo the sentiments of your dear Aunt Kiki too, and am so very proud of you! I love you, and I’m confident that your steps are ordered by God.

    Love,
    Mom

  6. 6 Jen

    Thanks Aunt Kiki—and Mom! =)

  7. 7 Jen

    I might do that Sis, Allard…but I am not out to win any awards! lol

  8. 8 Tena

    Hi, Jen! What a blessing that you were able to attend this music conference. It’s amazing how much we learn from going to these. My boys and I have attended “To The Chief Musician” Music Conference (http://www.tothechiefmusician.org/)
    the last two years and have learned so much and were very blessed. The next one coming up is April 9-11, 2008. It’s at Christian Life Center in Stockton. Maybe I’ll see you there! 🙂

  9. 9 Tena

    And, God bless your talents for His kingdom!

  10. 10 Jen

    Hi Tena! Good to hear from you! I’ve heard of the music conference in Stockton, and I think my piano teacher might be going. I don’t think I’ll be there though. Yes, it is amazing how much you learn from even just one class at a music conference! I got a lot out of it.

  11. Jenn:

    Let me know just as soon as you compose a song. It sounds like the conference was really good. I like the Rock Church’s new building. The No Limits Friday night service was good, wasn’t it?

    Haven’t been to Olive Garden lately.


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