By Jon Nicol
© 2003-2004, Jon Nicol. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.
note: Jon is no longer able to continue this column due to
time constraints. But he's put a lot of effort into his participation
here and those efforts have been greatly appreciated. Hopefully,
he'll have time to continue at a later date. Thanks again, Jon!
least three times in the Book of Psalms, the psalmist instructs
the people to "sing to the Lord a new song." So it has been the
work of the songwriter for thousands of years to write the new song
that God’s people will sing. In the last ten to fifteen years, the
world has seen an outpouring of "new songs" to the extent that even
media giants like Time Warner can’t ignore. From the local Christian
bookstore to Wal-Mart to TimeLife television commercials, "praise
and worship music" has become a force and industry all its own.
And with any genre of music, it would have no life without the songwriter.
you are endeavoring to set your craft "on things above" (Col 3:
1,2), you are a "vertical songwriter," and this column is for YOU!
Together we’ll explore the unique challenges of writing songs for
and about the highest audience: God. There’s plenty of great instruction
on how to write songs (some of the best is right here on The Muse’s
Muse!), so I won’t try to reinvent the wheel. The focus will be
to take those tried and true (as well as some of the unorthodox
and unconventional) techniques in songwriting and apply them to
praise and worship music. We’ll also look elements in great worship
songs in order to figure out what made them "great." My hope for
this column is two-fold: 1) To equip "vertical" songwriters (including
myself) to move to a higher level of excellence in writing; and
2) to gather together an online community of praise and worship
songwriters for collaboration, encouragement and networking.
to Vertical Songwriting!
up and further in! --Jon
A short bio
Out Standing Songs -
With so many songs out there, here's a few thoughts on making yours stand out.
Learning from my old band...
Lost in Translation, Part 1 -
OK, so this article isn't about the Bill Murray movie, but we will look at how we translate scripture into lyrics...
Lost In Translation, Part 2 -
same song, second verse...
Simon Says, “You’re Terrible!” -
American Idol offers parallels to songwriting...
"It's All About the Rewrite" -
Advice from a seasoned songwriter that took awhile to sink in...
The Old Jedi Songwriting Trick: Lessons from Yoda -
Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy's love child gives us some songwriting tips.
Looking at an often overlooked tool for songwriting.
Does It Groove? Part One: Middle-Age Rock Guitarists and the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Album -
We're finally wrapping up the "3 Rules of Worship Songwriting" in this two-part article.
Does it Groove? Part Two: Exploratory Groove Surgery -
Digging into what makes a worship song groove here in Part Two.
The Eight Ball in the Corner Pocket -
Jon looks at the second rule for songwriting for worship: "Does it fit the bag?"
Sound Theology: Truth and a Kick-in-the-Teeth -
A deeper look at the first rule of songwriting for worship...
Groovin' in the Bag with Sound Theology -
Do you remember that plastic comb we use to put in our back pocket as kids? (We never actually combed our hair, it was just cool to have it sticking out just below the red 501 tag.) The comb was billed as "unbreakable." If you were anything like me, you would find a way to break it--just because it said you couldn't. So now we're all grown up into semi-well-adjusted-songwriting-adults and we treat the rules of songwriting the same way: we love to break them! So as we take off with this inaugural article of Vertical Songwriting, I'm going to buck the system and suggest that there are three "unbreakable" rules for writing praise and worship music. And I'll admit, like the comb, you are able to break these rules. But what good is a half a comb?
Jon Nicol is an independent artist and songwriter from Tiffin,
OH. He is the worship leader and youth pastor at his church, Tiffin
Alliance Church. He is married to an incredible woman named Shannon.
Presently, their only dependent is a Jack Russell terrier named
Tillie. You can hear samples of Jon's CD, "St. Laundromat" at jonnicol.com