Archive | Songs & Songwriting

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The Story Behind O Come, All You Unfaithful

We’ve been really encouraged by the response to O Come, All You Unfaithful, the opening track on our new Christmas album, Heaven Has Come. A number of people have said the song has made them freshly aware of how good the gospel really is. Amen. I had the joy of writing the song with Lisa Clow, although I really only helped her refine and finish a song she wrote a few Christmases ago. She brought what she had written to the Sovereign Grace songwriters retreat this past January. I’ll let Lisa tell you in her own words how it came about: I was struggling. It had been a long year and a half. Finances were stressful, I miscarried twins, …

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10 Reasons You Should Come to the WorshipGod19 Conference

Back in 2006, Sovereign Grace Music hosted our first WorshipGod conference in Maryland. Since then, we’ve led conferences in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, and the UK. By my count, this year will be our 20th. Each time we prepare for another one, I ask myself the same question: Do we really need another worship conference? Obviously, I think the answer is yes. Which is why we’ll be gathering in Louisville, KY, July 31-Aug. 3 for WorshipGod19 – The Glorious Christ: Music is great. Jesus is greater. There are a number of worship conferences you can choose from these days. They range from massive productions …

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Songwriting

Is it Humility to Leave My Name Off a Song I Wrote?

Recently someone wrote me and asked: A young woman in our church has written a few songs that we have taught but she doesn’t want to let anyone know she wrote them. I think she feels she is being humble but I also see how it can encourage our church to know one of our young adults is doing this. Your thoughts? I appreciated the question. I also appreciated a songwriter is even thinking this way. Social media tempts us to believe it’s our duty to broadcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or our blog that basically, we’re doing a bunch of cool stuff, saying some awesome things, or eating some incredible food. How refreshing for …

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Why a Synthesizer Isn’t the Holy Spirit

In recent decades ambient sounds have become omnipresent in church gatherings. Meetings start with a synth swell and every song after that is connected to the next with musical glue. Synth pads play softly behind prayer, Scripture readings, song intros, communion, and in some cases, the preaching. If you don’t have someone who can produce the necessary sounds, no worries. “Worship pads” in every key are available for purchase to smooth out the transitions. Which raises the question: what’s going on? Music and God’s Presence We often see a connection between music and the Holy Spirit’s activity in Scripture. Long before he was …

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The Story Behind He Who is Mighty

He Who is Mighty is one of my favorite songs from our Christmas album, Prepare Him Room. Every time I’ve led it, which I’ve done both during and beyond the Christmas season, the response has been immediate and enthusiastic. I asked Rebecca Elliott, one of the writers, to share a little of the story behind the song, which she co-wrote with Kate DeGraide. For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. (Luke 1:49) The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2) Mary, Jesus’ mother, has always been a hero of mine, …

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The Songwriting Process – Prepare Him Room

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Neil DeGraide, Steve Cook, and my son, Devon, to talk about different aspects of our new Christmas album, Prepare Him Room. One topic we discussed was the songwriting process. Songs rarely come instantaneously. And that can be an encouraging thought for someone currently in the midst of writing a song that sounds remarkably mediocre. When we hear a song on an album we have no idea of the dozens of hours of labor, thought, editing, prayer, conversation, and study that went into it. We only hear the finished product. So in the video below we take time to talk about some of the things that went into …

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“O Holy Night” Revisited

A few years ago, my friend, Kevin Hartnett, wrote two new verses for the classic and well-loved carol, “O Holy Night.” We ended up recording his version on our new album, Prepare Him Room. We called it O Holy Night (Hear the Gospel Story). Any time you mess with a “classic and well-loved” carol, you’re bound to get some questions. Why change something that has been popular for so many years? Why fix what ain’t broke? The original lyrics for “O Holy Night” were written in 1847 by Placide Capeau, a Frenchman, at the request of his parish priest. The author was so encouraged by what he had written that he asked his Jewish friend and composer, …

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Songwriting Camp with Steve and Vikki Cook (and me)

Writing songs for congregational worship is a craft. While God has been known to use mediocre songs to accomplish his purposes, he doesn’t want mediocrity to be our goal. He intends that writers work hard to produce congregational songs that enable the word of Christ to dwell in people richly (Col. 3:16). That’s why I’m excited to be participating with Steve and Vikki Cook in a 2½ day songwriting camp, July 13-15, in Santa Ana, CA. It’s sponsored by Eric Turbedsky of  Sovereign Grace Church of Orange County, and will be held at Calvary Church, Santa Ana, CA. The camp will consist of classroom instruction, workshops, group exercises, …

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Oh, Oh, Ooh, Ooh, La, La, Whoa

  I’ve been thinking about the use of generic syllables in congregational singing for a while now. It’s not a new phenomenon. I remember singing, “Lai lai lai lai lai, lai lai lai lai lai lai,” as the last verse of the song in the 70s that was called “Then shall the virgin break forth into dance.” I think it was supposed to be the dance section. We sing, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la” and don’t think twice about it. And the Beatles did just fine with “ob-la-di, ob-la-da” and the epic ending to Hey Jude (Na Na Na Na na na Naaaaaaa). But recently an increasing number of modern worship songs feature …

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It’s Your Grace – The Acoustic Sessions

A few weeks ago we posted the first song from “The Acoustic Sessions,” Our Only Hope is You. These are going to be stripped down versions of songs we’ve recorded on Sovereign Grace albums. We’re starting with songs from Grace Has Come, our latest release, but plan on going back to other albums and recording arrangements that are easier for a smaller church, or any church for that matter, to adapt. In this video, Devon, McKenzie, and Jonatan offer a simpler version of the song, It’s Your Grace. I wrote this song with Doug Plank, a good friend and a pastor at Crossway Church of Lancaster, PA. Right before he left for a two week trip …

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Our Only Hope is You – The Acoustic Sessions

Every time Sovereign Grace Music releases an album we bump up against the competing values of seeking to create fresh sounds and arrangements and recording something that a group of musicians in a small church can pull off. Our most recent album, Grace Has Come, was no exception. One song in particular that received a more dramatic production was “Our Only Hope is You,” by Neil and Kate DeGraide. It opens with a beautiful piano riff (played by Neil), and includes an orchestral cello part and a passionate lead vocal by Kate. The song is full of the angst of living with a hope that is not yet seen, but a hope in which we are fully confident. But …

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As You Go – The Evolution of a Song

Here’s our latest video from The Gathering: Live from WorshipGod11. As You Go was written by Mark Altrogge, who has been writing songs for Sovereign Grace Music since the early 1980s. That’s a long time. It amazes me how he continues to write such theologically rich, relevant, singable songs. What you may not know is that even with the decades of experience Mark has, he is one of the easiest people to work with when it comes to suggesting changes to his songs. Rather than giving you a detailed explanation of why he wrote what he did, or sharing 5 reasons why no alternative could possibly be better, he typically gets back in less than …

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What Goes On at a Sovereign Grace Songwriting Retreat?

We had our 10th songwriter retreat this past October. In a previous post I shared some details from our 2010 retreat. Since a couple guys have asked me about these recently, here’s a little more info. Sovereign Grace is a family of over 90 churches. We’ve been producing albums since around 1984. At first, we were simply getting out songs that Mark Altrogge was writing. Songs like “I Have a Destiny,” “In My Generation,” and “You Sat Down.” We started producing “Song Service Tapes” that went to Sovereign Grace churches and anyone else who was interested. Most of them were recorded in Steve and Vikki Cook’s bedroom. (thank you, Vikki…) It …

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Resources for Your Worship Team from WorshipGod11: Leading, Songwriting, Tech

Last August at WorshipGod11 we offered 40 seminars for pastors, musicians, leaders, vocalists, instrumentalists, and tech teams. Today and tomorrow I’m posting the descriptions of a few that might serve you and your team in the coming year. Right clicking on the title will download the MP3, and of course, right clicking on the outline will get you the…outline. Leading Putting Songs Together – Bob Kauflin (outline) Why do you choose the songs you do? What factors go into deciding whether one song is better to use than another? What’s the difference between lyrical flow and musical flow? How can we use songs to effectively care for people’s …

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The Piano in Contemporary Worship, Part 2

Here’s the second part of the pre-conference piano seminar I led at WorshipGod11, focused on playing with a band. Dave Campbell and Neil Stuckenschneider helped me out on guitar and bass. I’ve included the outlines notes after the video. Piano in Contemporary Worship, Part 2 from Sovereign Grace Churches on Vimeo. Playing with a Band Be aware of the audio spectrum. Guitars – 80-880 Hz Bass – 40-260 Hz Vocals – 110-660 Hz Piano – 27-4200 Hz Fills. Distinct and memorable Don’t tread on others Octaves Use your LH wisely. With the bass player Around the bass player More with just a guitar, …

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