Archive | —Songwriting

Songwriting Camp with Steve and Vikki Cook (and me)

Writing songs for congregational worship is a craft. While God has been known to use mediocre songs to accomplish his purposes, he doesn’t want mediocrity to be our goal. He intends that writers work hard to produce congregational songs that enable the word of Christ to dwell in people richly (Col. 3:16). That’s why I’m excited to be participating with Steve and Vikki Cook in a 2½ day songwriting camp, July 13-15, in Santa Ana, CA. It’s sponsored by Eric Turbedsky of  Sovereign Grace Church of Orange County, and will be held at Calvary Church, Santa Ana, CA. The camp will consist of classroom instruction, workshops, group exercises, …

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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 …

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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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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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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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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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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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Review of God’s Lyrics by Douglas Sean O’Donnell

A few weeks ago I finished God’s Lyrics: Rediscovering Worship Through Old Testament Songs. O’Donnell “draws out the historical, exegetical, and theological significance of the songs of Moses, Deborah, Hannah, David, and Habakkuk. He then shows, in the light of the person and work of Jesus Christ, how the lyrics of God’s Word apply to contemporary congregational singing.” (from the back cover) In other words, he’s seeking to answer the question, “What can Old Testament songs teach us about the songs we use for corporate worship today?” His answer? A lot. O’Donnell chose this method for two reasons. First, these songs provide “unique poetic …

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“Jesus, Thank You” by Pat Sczebel

Back in 2005 we produced an album called Worship God Live, a live album that featured Pat Sczebel and me each leading six songs. Pat serves as one of the pastors at Crossway Community Church, in Surrey, British Columbia. He’s been a dear friend for years. Pat inspires me in many ways. He’s one of the most encouraging guys I know. He’s a caring husband, a faithful dad, a diligent pastor, and he has a heart for the lost. But most of all, I’m affected by his genuine love for Jesus Christ. Through a variety of circumstances, in want and fruitfulness, Pat’s love for the Savior has produced encouragement, hope, and faith that affects everyone around …

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Where Do Sovereign Grace Songs Come From?

I have a sweet job. One of my responsibilities is to oversee the production of Sovereign Grace albums. Some of you have asked where the songs for those albums come from, and what the process looks like. I’m right in the middle of a three day retreat with 18 songwriters from various Sovereign Grace churches, so I thought now would be a good time to answer that question. Last fall I worked with C.J. Mahaney and Jeff Purswell to determine what albums we wanted to produce in the coming year. That would set the course for a significant part of my job description. We determined that I’d focus on four main projects (I’ll share those details …

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Paul Baloche Talks About His New Album, Glorious

Yesterday I reviewed Paul Baloche’s new album, Glorious. I emailed Paul a few questions which he was kind enough to answer. As long as I’ve known Paul he has always been gracious and  humble. His songs are sung across the world, yet he consistently encourages those around him, laughs at himself, and directs people’s hearts to the glory of  Jesus Christ. He’s also been serving in his local church for the past 20 years. So grateful for his example of humility. Here’s the interview: 1.  How do you hope people who listen to this album will be affected? I hope that they will be inspired to wonder- to inquire- to lean in to the glory and mystery …

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Matt Redman Interview

I asked Matt Redman if he could fill us in on some of the background to his latest album, We Shall Not Be Shaken, which I reviewed yesterday. His responses give some insight into the songwriting process, as well as Matt’s humility. Themes of God’s sovereignty pervade the songs on this album. Why did you choose to make that focus for this album? I had a sense that many people right now need re-assurance that God is in control in their lives. So many recent events, particularly economic ones, have reminded us that much of this life and this world is fragile, temporary and changing. We’ve heard so many statistics about mortgage payments defaults …

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