Composing a New Song...Contemporary Worship style

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Composing a New Song...Contemporary Worship style

Some of you may already know that I love to write poetry and music. Friday night, I spent the evening listening to new songs and sharing my own with Joey, Marcus, and Anthony, for our first ever 'song writers' meeting.  We all go to the same church and write either music, lyrics, or both.  Dan, one of our pastors, who is also a song writer, couldn't be there. Joey, is our worship leader, and he is an incredibly knowledgeable and talented musician.  He will be teaching us theory and giving us 'assignments' to work on.  But one of the reasons for the get-together, which is very informal, is to play our latest song or two and get feedback and help from everyone else.

You are Holy, You are Great.. (new version)

Csus                              C
Lord, Your Word's a spotlight 
Shining on our hearts,
  F                               G
Showing us just who we really are.

And as we bow before you,
Minds filled with regret,
Dm                                             G
Your Holy Spirit calls us to repent,
Dm                                                 F
And the sacrifice you paid is glad - ly - spent...

and we cry..
Csus       C        Gsus       G
You are Holy, You are great,
                F          Dm        G
You are worthy of our praise.
Csus       C               Gsus        G
You are Lord, and You are king
        F      Dm           G
To you alone we sing.
         F     G             Csus-C
To you alone we sing.

Verse 2.
You made us for your pleasure
Our hearts are yours alone.
Your love will always keep us close - to - you.

You called us on this journey,
and your sovereign hand will guide,
You are always right there by our side,
And In your awesome presence we will abide.

Repeat Chorus.
I had already written this once  and it just wasn't working. I posted it a while back here. You can see the words and listen to a video of me playing the original version there.

Frankly, it just didn't feel right to me. I love the chorus for the most part, but not the verses. I wrote so many poems growing up that I tend to 'over rhyme' and over structure my music. It literally comes out that way with very little effort on my part. But I don't want it to be stuck in the '80's. I want it to be more contemporary.
Three Helpful Tips for Music Composition

I learned three great things that helped me refurbish this song and make it more contemporary in style. First, that every Key, like for instance the Key of C which includes, C, F, and G, also has three minor and one diminished chord that belong in the family. It is very easy to transition between the three major chords using the related minor ones.  Instead of feeling limited to only three chords to write a tune with, I now have SEVEN!! I wanted to write a more worshipful melody to match the message. The original melody I wrote was just too up beat which didn't compliment the message of the song.  Yesterday, I spent several hours writing a new tune for the verses. I had already come up with a new tune for the chorus, but not for the verses. It's so much better now I think!

The second thing I learned is that it is very common for song writers to come up with a great chorus and then have blah verses. That was very true of this one.  And I tend to make my verses too rhyme-y. I haven't been able to develop the 'prose' style that is so common in contemporary music until this week.

Following Joey's suggestion, I summarized the main ideas of my verses and then tried to work with that. It was amazing! I was able to break out of my old-fashioned rhyming pattern.   Joey challenged me to go home and just play the verse melody over and over until I got it the way I wanted. However, having the extra chords really made this easy!

And one more thing I learned was that in any key, there are common chord patterns that are usually made out of the three major chords. By varying the pattern, I can come up with a more interesting composition. 

 In my song, I used the key of C. Here are the chords that make up that key along with the rest of the minor chords that belong to that family according to the  Roman System. The Roman capitals represent the major chords used for the key of C...but you space them out to allow for two minors in the 2 and 3 position and a minor in the 6 position.

Key of C

I     ii       iii    IV   V     vi       vii
C  dm     em   F     G    am    bdim

My songs almost always use only the major chords which are colored in red. By adding the minor chords that go with them, I can add so much more variety and interest to the song!  The pattern of my chorus is 1 5 4, and now my new verses are mostly 2, 4, 5.  I love my new song now!! I can't wait to bring it to our next meeting. :o)

This wasn't the best recording I've ever done, but I really wanted to share it with you guys. I thought you might enjoy this little 'peek' into how i write music and what can sometimes go into the process.  I'm always so thrilled when a song 'comes to me'. I never know when that is going to happen, but it is always a special day for me when a new song is born.

Hopefully, you will enjoy the words to this one and the message. :o)

Happy Homemaking!


Cindy said...

Donna..I love them both..but I could tell the difference..the original had a steady beat to it..kinda of the same all thru it.The second one seemed more worshipy..I know not a

Either one is a big hit for me. I am in amazement that you can play that well. I can't do anything musically except..enjoy. I did enjoy it!!Thank you for sharing.

Cindy from Rick-Rack and Gingham

Caroline said...

Thankyou for sharing. My hubby plays music, which I love - singing hymns and choruses together. How neat that you can play and write.

Trudy said...



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