Tag Archives | Songwriting

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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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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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Want to Become a Better Songwriter? Here’s Help

Over the years we’ve offered numerous seminars on songwriting at the WorshipGod conferences, taught primarily by Steve & Vikki Cook and Mark Altrogge, but also by guests that we’ve had at the conference. I thought it would be helpful to put them all in one place, so here they are. Whatever stage you’re at in your songwriting journey (and we never seem to “arrive”), I think you’ll find something here that will inspire you to be more faithful with your gifts. Mark, Steve, and Vikki will be returning with more thoughts for songwriters to this year’s WorshipGod conference: The Gathering, Aug. 10-13. I expect the website and registration …

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Songwriting – Who Gets the Credit?

My friend John Ripley, drummer for the band Generation Letter, recently emailed me some questions about how to figure out song writing credits. This is an area that can be sticky business because of miscommunication, no communication, ignorance, and indwelling sin. After writing songs for 30+ years, I’ve seen songwriting from all sides. I’ve written by myself, written songs that others have edited, and edited songs written by others. I’ve also served as a songwriter and a publisher. To my shame, I used to be much more concerned about who got the credit on a song. I remember working on a project for GLAD years ago and writing up the song credits. …

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Sovereign Grace Ministries Songwriter’s Retreat

A few weeks ago, I had the joy of gathering with 14 songwriters from Sovereign Grace churches to work on songs for some upcoming albums. Todd Twining hosted the event at Metro Life Church in Orlando. This was our 6th retreat, and probably worked the best. The retreat was by invitation, but everyone who came paid their own way, for the most part. We started out Wednesday night with dinner and a few comments from me. I shared some encouraging emails we’ve received about songs we’ve written, just to remind everyone that God really does use the songs we write to affect people’s hearts and lives.  I also showed a portion of the video that tells …

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Why I Love Writing Songs

I’ve been composing songs for forty years now. That’s a long time. In high school, my songs were very functional; I wrote them to meet girls. It wasn’t the most original plan, but it worked. A girl would catch my eye, and rather than introduce myself like a normal person, I’d go home and write her a song. The next day, I’d casually mention that I had written a song just for her. Did she want to hear it? It was pretty effective. As you might expect, my reasons for writing songs have changed (due in part to the fact that I’ve been married for 31 years to the most amazing girl I’ve ever met). I now devote most of my song-writing efforts …

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A Song Writing Machine

As the Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries, one of the things I do is oversee the production and direction of the CD’s we produce. That means I talk to CJ Mahaney, who leads Sovereign Grace, and plan the themes we want to build our projects around. Our last project was a father-son offering, In a Little While , featuring the songs and voices of Mark and Stephen Altrogge. I posted on it not too long ago. Our next project, Lord willing, is going to be congregational worship songs around the theme of trusting God in the midst of suffering and trials, coming out next April. One of my hopes is to provide songs for the …

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Songwriting Tips from Fernando Ortega

I’m in Austin, Texas at the moment, with three of my good friends, Ken Boer, Joe Stigora, and Pat Sczebel. Each of these guys serves as a music and worship pastor in a Sovereign Grace church (Gaithersburg, MD; Philadelphia, PA; Vancouver, B.C.)  They help me equip, encourage, and serve the worship leaders of Sovereign Grace in their different regions. We’re here attending the National Worship Leader Conference, put on by Worship Leader magazine, and also planning our own WorshipGod08 conference (July 30-Aug. 2). This morning I had the opportunity to hear Fernando Ortega lead worship with a string quartet and then teach a workshop on songwriting. …

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Thoughts on Worship Hits

If you’re a worship leader or music minister there’s a good chance you’ve heard another leader talking about the new song they just introduced. They describe it as the most “incredible, life-changing, awesome, heaven-releasing, God-calling-down, what-you-haven’t-heard-it-yet” song they’ve ever done. You heart sinks as you realize that not only have you not heard the song, you didn’t even know the CD was out. When you think of the 80 CD’s on your desk you still haven’t listened to, you really feel like a loser. “How can anyone in my church even worship?” If you’ve ever had those thoughts, you’re not alone. The problem lies mainly in our sinful …

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The Everlasting God and the Gospel

Ken Boer, who serves as music director at my church, encouraged me to share some of the thoughts I have as I plan songs for a Sunday meeting. This past Sunday morning as Josh Harris and I were talking about songs for Sunday, he asked if we could introduce the song, Everlasting God, by Brenton and Ken Riley. It’s taken from the CD of the same name. Here are the lyrics: Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, We will wait upon the Lord We will wait upon the Lord (repeat) Our God You reign forever Our hope our strong deliv’rer You are the everlasting God The everlasting God You do not faint You won’t grow weary You’re the defender …

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Worship Leaders – The Christian Musician Summit Reflections

This past weekend I had the privilege of joining 3000 or so folks at the Christian Musician Summit – Improving Skill, Inspiring Talent, held at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, Washington, near Seattle. My good friend Pat Sczebel, joined me from Vancouver, BC, where he serves as a pastor in Crossway Community Church. I marveled again at how diverse the body of Christ is. Ages ranged from 15 to 75, and I talked to people from every kind of denomination, meeting format, church size, and musical preference. Over two days people could attend 9 of 170 seminars that were offered, three main sessions, and two evening concerts. It was a massive …

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New CD – The Apostles Creed

Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. If you don’t know those names, you should. They are the co-writers of In Christ Alone, and as far as I can tell, are among the most gifted songwriters for congregational worship alive today. Stuart has been a friend for a number of years and I met Keith and his wife Kristyn this past year. My church had the joy of hosting all three of them for an event last September. I was challenged and inspired by Keith’s passion to equip the church through theologically rich songs. What makes his focus so impressive is that he doesn’t write the lyrics for the songs he composes with Stuart – he writes the melodies. …

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