NCWA welcomes songwriter and author and artist, Marty Nystrom! He will be speaking at NCWA’s meeting on June 3rd. Click here for details.
How could I decide? Hundreds of demos poured across my desk. I was responsible to review new songs submitted to Integrity Music for possible use on their popular Hosanna! worship albums. In time, I learned to recognize these ten traits consistently present in well-received songs.
1. Universal Theme:
Powerful lyrics express an existing sentiment in the hearts of worshipers from a broad audience. The song’s theme remains true to people regardless of age, denomination, or cultural background. A lyric should not require an in-depth Bible study before it can be understood.
2. Lyric Consistency
A good song has a theme that is consistent through all of its sections. It doesn’t wander from idea to idea. The lyrics in the verse support or build on the topic stated in the chorus. Can the song’s theme be stated in a word or short phrase?
Prosody in songwriting refers to the perfect marriage of music and lyric. Not only should each compliment the other but will ideally bring out the best in its mate. Does the music incite the same emotion or message the lyric expresses?
4. Lyric Originality
Engaging lyrics find a fresh way to express an old thought. Songwriters should avoid words, phrases, and rhyme pairs that are overused and have become predictable or trite.
Some “right-brained” songwriters love to break molds and free themselves from the restraints of musical structure. But remember, the audience is mostly made up of “left-brainers.” Their minds seek a clear picture of how a song is ordered. A formless song leaves them unsettled.
6. Musical Interest
An enduring song has a unique melody that is easily recognized apart from its instrumental accompaniment. It has enough musical integrity to be appreciated by musicians of all levels and will introduce fresh musical ideas with each section.
The challenge for writers of worship music is to apply originality while keeping the song usable for the local church. Is the song still effective when accompanied by a single piano or guitar? Is it singable for the non-musician? Usability is crucial to longevity.
8. A Well Placed Title
A song should never leave a listener wondering what the title is. The title should be unique, repeated appropriately, and set in strong places within the song’s lyrics.
9. Balance of Repetition and New Ideas
Life is made up of the familiar and the new. The same is true in songwriting. Too much of a good thing is boring — an overabundance of new ideas causes a song to ramble. A memorable song will have the right balance of both.
10. Effectiveness in Worship
A well-crafted song does not necessarily guarantee spiritual impact. Often a simple chorus has a special anointing that touches the hearts of the people. Most importantly, a song should not bring attention to itself but draw the worshiper closer to God.
Marty is a married father of two sons and lives in the Seattle area. He has a degree in music education and has taught music in a wide variety of settings. He has written over 120 songs that have been released by publishers of Christian praise and worship music. His best known song is the worship chorus, “As the Deer.”
In 2006 Standard Publishing released his collection of humorous poems entitled “Don’t Mess With Moses!” It was illustrated by veteran artist Steve Bjorkman. He has just completed a sequel to the book and hopes it will soon be in print.
The purpose of his two books is to pique kids’ curiosity in the Bible and to see it as interesting, exciting and well worth reading!
Click here to visit Marty’s blog.