10 Rules You Need for Successful Co-Writing
One of the things that has most helped me develop as a worship songwriter has been learning to co-write.
Gone are the days when every song on a worship album was written by a single person.
A Matt Redman album is no longer written solely by Matt Redman.
Almost every single Bethel Music song is a co-write with at least 2, if not more, people involved.
Co-writing brings out the best in us.
To use a biblical term, It is iron sharpening iron.
So, I have put together a list of the top 10 rules you need to be successful in co-writing worship songs:
1. Become friends before you become co-writers.
Of course it is possible to be successful co-writers without being friends, but it is much harder. Writing together requires a deep level of trust. So, if you are planning on co-writing with someone, make sure it is someone that you would spend time with doing things other than songwriting!
2. Laughter is key.
There is something special about laughing. I imagine that Jesus and His disciples spent a lot of time laughing at each other’s jokes as they travelled around Israel together. Laughter has a way of creating a strong bond of friendship as well as the ability to defuse potentially tense situations.
Learn to laugh with each other and learn to laugh at yourself.
3. The Song is King
When co-writing with someone, know and believe that any criticism or feedback is not a personal attack. You are working with someone to help make the song the best it can be. Everything you do should be to serve the song and make it better.
4. Hold your song lightly.
Sometimes it is easy to become attached to specific lines or melodies in a song, particularly if it is something you have been working on for a long time. Hold your song lightly, with an open hand, so that when you co-write, new ideas can be placed in your hand that could improve and create a song that is more than simply the sum of its individual parts.
5. It is rare for God to give you fully formed songs.
Something that is often seen on Christian songwriting forums/FB groups are posts that start: “God gave me this song when I was worshiping the other day. It definitely came from God as it only took me five minutes to write…”
This is normally followed by the least crafted, badly written song on the forum.
I often think: “I’m sure God could probably do better…”
God inspires songs. He gives us ideas and melodies and lyrics to use. But our worship songs are our expression of love to Him.
My wife inspires me to tell her I love her. I even know what words she likes to hear (she likes to be affirmation and praise). It would be a little strange if she turned around and said:
“Alex, I want you to tell me you love me by saying the following words…”
God inspires our worship.
He rarely dictates our songs.
Believing a song comes directly from God removes the ability for others to offer helpful critique and also makes it harder for the songwriter to accept any feedback.
No one likes to criticise God!
6. Do not be afraid to disagree.
Disagreement when song writing is always going to happen. This is something to embrace and work through.
7. Agree who has the final say.
Agree beforehand who will have the final say.
I have normally found that in any given songwriting situation, one person brings the main idea of the song.
In my songwriting partnerships, if I bring the main idea of the song, then I am the one who can veto ideas. Equally if any of my songwriting partners are the ones who came up with the original idea, then they are the ones who get to veto any suggestions.
This approach works for us.
8. Don’t force it.
There are times when you will get together to write songs and there is simply nothing happening. No ideas, no lyrics, no melodies.
Take these times to cultivate your friendship.
Have a coffee, have a laugh.
Talk about life and get to know each other better.
Your friendship will translate into better songs.
9. Don’t throw anything away.
(I can hear the minimalists tears right now!)
What I mean by this, is that if you have a line and you decide it doesn’t fit in the song you are writing, don’t discard it forever.
Put it in a file, or a notebook, or, if you use evernote, in a digital notebook as an idea you could come back to later. Nothing is wasted in songwriting.
10. Have fun.
Have fun. Always have fun.
The moment you stop enjoying yourself is the moment you need to take a break.
Our God is a god of joy and life and love and laughter. He is a god of freedom and friendship.
Your time writing songs for Him should be a time that you look forward to.
It may be hard work at times, but it should always be enjoyable.
I hope you have found this helpful.
I would love to hear your stories about co-writing worship songs with others.
What have been your struggles and what has brought your greatest success?
Do leave a comment below.