Archive | Songs & Songwriting

Oh, Oh, Ooh, Ooh, La, La, Whoa

I’ve been thinking about the use of generic syllables in congregational singing for a while now. It’s not a new phenomenon. I remember singing, “Lai lai lai lai lai, lai lai lai lai lai lai,” as the last verse of the song in the 70s that was called “Then shall the virgin break forth into dance.” I think it was supposed to be the dance section. We sing, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la” and don’t think twice about it. And the Beatles did just fine with “ob-la-di, ob-la-da” and the epic ending to Hey Jude (Na Na Na Na na na Naaaaaaa). But recently an increasing number of modern worship songs feature syllables …

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It’s Your Grace – The Acoustic Sessions

A few weeks ago we posted the first song from “The Acoustic Sessions,” Our Only Hope is You. These are going to be stripped down versions of songs we’ve recorded on Sovereign Grace albums. We’re starting with songs from Grace Has Come, our latest release, but plan on going back to other albums and recording arrangements that are easier for a smaller church, or any church for that matter, to adapt. In this video, Devon, McKenzie, and Jonatan offer a simpler version of the song, It’s Your Grace. I wrote this song with Doug Plank, a good friend and a pastor at Crossway Church of Lancaster, PA. Right before he left for a two week trip …

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Our Only Hope is You – The Acoustic Sessions

Every time Sovereign Grace Music releases an album we bump up against the competing values of seeking to create fresh sounds and arrangements and recording something that a group of musicians in a small church can pull off. Our most recent album, Grace Has Come, was no exception. One song in particular that received a more dramatic production was “Our Only Hope is You,” by Neil and Kate DeGraide. It opens with a beautiful piano riff (played by Neil), and includes an orchestral cello part and a passionate lead vocal by Kate. The song is full of the angst of living with a hope that is not yet seen, but a hope in which we are fully confident. But …

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As You Go – The Evolution of a Song

Here’s our latest video from The Gathering: Live from WorshipGod11. As You Go was written by Mark Altrogge, who has been writing songs for Sovereign Grace Music since the early 1980s. That’s a long time. It amazes me how he continues to write such theologically rich, relevant, singable songs. What you may not know is that even with the decades of experience Mark has, he is one of the easiest people to work with when it comes to suggesting changes to his songs. Rather than giving you a detailed explanation of why he wrote what he did, or sharing 5 reasons why no alternative could possibly be better, he typically gets back in less than …

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What Goes On at a Sovereign Grace Songwriting Retreat?

We had our 10th songwriter retreat this past October. In a previous post I shared some details from our 2010 retreat. Since a couple guys have asked me about these recently, here’s a little more info. Sovereign Grace is a family of over 90 churches. We’ve been producing albums since around 1984. At first, we were simply getting out songs that Mark Altrogge was writing. Songs like “I Have a Destiny,” “In My Generation,” and “You Sat Down.” We started producing “Song Service Tapes” that went to Sovereign Grace churches and anyone else who was interested. Most of them were recorded in Steve and Vikki Cook’s bedroom. (thank you, Vikki…) It …

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Resources for Your Worship Team from WorshipGod11: Leading, Songwriting, Tech

Last August at WorshipGod11 we offered 40 seminars for pastors, musicians, leaders, vocalists, instrumentalists, and tech teams. Today and tomorrow I’m posting the descriptions of a few that might serve you and your team in the coming year. Right clicking on the title will download the MP3, and of course, right clicking on the outline will get you the…outline. Leading Putting Songs Together – Bob Kauflin (outline) Why do you choose the songs you do? What factors go into deciding whether one song is better to use than another? What’s the difference between lyrical flow and musical flow? How can we use songs to effectively care for people’s …

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The Piano in Contemporary Worship, Part 2

Here’s the second part of the pre-conference piano seminar I led at WorshipGod11, focused on playing with a band. Dave Campbell and Neil Stuckenschneider helped me out on guitar and bass. I’ve included the outlines notes after the video. Playing with a Band Be aware of the audio spectrum. Guitars – 80-880 Hz Bass – 40-260 Hz Vocals – 110-660 Hz Piano – 27-4200 Hz Fills. Distinct and memorable Don’t tread on others Octaves Use your LH wisely. With the bass player Around the bass player More with just a guitar, acting like a kick drum Not at all Acoustic piano vs. electric keyboard More overtones …

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Love Divine – The Hymns of Charles Wesley, Updated (and win a free copy)

I think it was about 6 weeks ago that I received a copy of the CD, “Love Divine:The Songs of Charles Wesley for Today’s Generation,” which came out April 19. It’s a collection of Charles Wesley (1707-1788) hymns that have been set to music by John Hartley and Chris Eaton. There are a lot of hymns albums being made these days. In fact, I’m working on a post now that highlights some of the ministries and individuals who are participating in rearranging, rewriting, or composing hymns. Very exciting to see more people realizing that the songs we use for praising God can’t be restricted to ones that are driven more by melody and beat than lyrical …

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Spontaneous Song from NEXT 2011 for Those Who Have Lost a Parent

As I was preparing for the NEXT conference a few weeks ago, I had an ongoing impression that God wanted to minister through a prophetic song to attendees who had lost one or both parents unexpectedly. I wasn’t aware that two of the testimonies that were going to be shared at the conference referenced parents who had died recently. In any case, I ended up sharing a spontaneous song on Sunday night when I was leading corporate worship with Generation Letter. A number of people said the song encouraged them and have asked for a copy of it. You can download the audio by right-clicking here. You can also listen to it here: I’ve posted the …

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What I Love About Sojourn Music

This past weekend I had the joy of hanging out with Mike Cosper and the gang from Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY. Mike is one of the pastors at the church and heads up Sojourn Music. He’ll be leading a band for one of the main sessions at WorshipGod11 and also co-leading a guitar workshop on “tone, gear, and playing together.” It was a quick trip that included leading a songwriting workshop, dinner at an amazing Mexican restaurant with a bunch of the guys who lead the music for Sojourn (including Jamie Barnes and Brooks Ritter), attending one of the Sunday AM meetings, and leading the singing for the two evening meetings (5 and …

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From Album to Sunday Morning

When Sovereign Grace produces an album, one of our main goals is to write songs that can be sung by local churches. Songs that are singable, memorable, and theologically informed. Another one of our goals is to make albums that are musically creative enough to bear repeated listenings without sounding tired. Those two goals can compete with each other, at times making it challenging to take a song on an album to Sunday morning. One of the ways we’re hoping to address that issue is by producing training videos that present songs as they might be played in a small group. You can find one for Jesus Lives here and one for You Have Been Raised here. Another …

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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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Christmas Mystery

Christmas Mystery He who forged Earth’s iron core And scattered stars to distant skies Came shattered beauty to restore And answer lost ones’ mournful cries. A God who stands among the weak To lift each burden that they face, To lift away their bondage bleak And give them strength in holy grace. The star of hope for all the years, Though spoken of through ages past, Lies born in dust and blood and tears Without His glorious trumpets’ blast. Yet in His tiny hand He holds The power that built the mountains high. His glory shatters earthly molds As angels’ voices split the sky. The angel heralds call out clear To tell us of …

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Spontaneous Song for Those Facing Impossible Situations

During the Christmas season, many people find themselves in the midst of impossibly difficult circumstances. They find out the hard way that pain and sorrow are no respecters of holidays. For these individuals, Christmas becomes the most terrible time of the year. Recently I ran across an insightful and hopeful post by Matt Redmond called “Christmas is for Those Who Hate it Most.” He writes, “We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams.” Matt then goes on to remind us that Jesus came for those …

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Songs that Reference God’s Judgments

In a recent post, I suggested that we generally shy away from singing songs about God’s judgments, but that judgment is a theme found in many Psalms and Scriptural songs. I promised that I’d follow up with a post that suggested some songs we can sing that reference God’s judgments and help us think about them in a way that honors God, encourages a passion for holiness, and strengthens our confidence in the gospel. So one month later, here we are. (If you didn’t read my previous post, please read it to get the context.) Before listing the songs, it’s important to mention a few things. First, God is the Judge, not us. We’re concerned about …

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