Sorry that the blog posts have been very light on of recent (ie non-existant!) The good news is I've been using that time to do lots of songwriting. Not that there's much to show as far as end results, but the input time has been great!

I don't know about you, but for me it seems like my songwriting times are often either drought or deluge...and not much in between! Usually I'll get an idea - a phrase or melody or "key idea" and work outwards from there...but without that initial inspiration, nothing seems to happen. But I've been trying a few different things to 'seed the clouds'...

Starting with Structure
This was inspired by Pat Pattison's great book "Writing Better Lyrics" - while its not written specifically for a church / worship music context, there's some stuff he points out which is right on the money. In his chapter "Productive Repetition" - he says...

"In most songs, you'll repeat a line (refrain) or section (chorus) two or three times. The danger is that once your listeners have heard something once, it will be less interesting the second and third time - like telling the same person the same joke three times in a row: Once you've heard it, it doesn't give you anything more the second or third time.

Your job as a songwriter is to make your repetition interesting and productive so that the same words deliver more each time....

...It might be helpful to think about a song as a stack of boxes that are connected to each other, each one getting progressively larger. Think of each one gaining more weight, the last being the heaviest of the lot."
Pattison, P., Writing Better Lyrics (2009, Writers Digest Books, OH) p. 55

As much as this is relevant for listeners...how much more so when we're asking people to 'own' and sing choruses again. How can we use the verses to help people sing the refrain with new perspective or relevance?

So I've tried kicking off with this kind of structure in mind - here's how it looks...



This is how I started with 1 Peter 1. The box on the right is the chorus - I wanted to gather some ideas that are central to this passage, that other sections expand on...in this case vs 3...

lyrics example.jpg
In his great mercy
New birth
Living hope
Resurrection of Christ from dead

Then the 1st block on the left is vs 1 ideas - primarily vs 6-7. We know they're linked to the central idea by the "In this..." that Paul starts with. I thought this would be a good 1st verse as it expands on the present implications of this living hope...

Rejoice
Griefs and trials
Suffering
Faith proved genuine
Of greater worth than gold

The second verse then focuses on the assurance of this living hope in the future - drawn from vs 4-5. Again, you can see how this section expands and 'fleshes' out what this living hope is.

Inheritance
Never perish, spoil, fade
Kept in heaven
Sheilded by God's power until coming of salvation in final day

In my mind this vs 1 / vs 2 order makes most sense, helping the singer to entering into and engaging with the song from their present circumstances. But you could also argue for the other way around - as Paul has it - to firmly establish the hope before getting to the present relevance.

The bridge then takes a different angle - we actually articulate our joyous response to this hope - from verses 8-9.

Have not seen him => Love him
Don't see him now => filled with glorious (inexpressible) joy
Receiving goal of faith => salvation

The third verse ideas come back to the central idea - our living hope, and express the 'therefore' ideas...what do we do now as a consequence - coming from vs 13-16.

Ready for action
Self controlled
Set hope on future grace
Do not conform to old ways
Be holy as God is holy

So having this framework at the start of the songwriting process was really helpful! It ensured that the song made logical sense, and remained true to the argument and thinking of the passage. And it helped created productive repetition - that each time we sing the chorus, we sing it with fresh insight from the verses.

So here's how it ended up...at the moment - I didn't end up finishing a third verse...but looking back at my notes maybe I should!!


Born Again

Verse 1
Rejoice Rejoice Through trials and pains
Take hope traveling through the darkest of days

Of greater worth than purest gold
Your faith - tested and proved - will be for His praise

Chorus
We’re born again into a living hope
Jesus You rose again out of the grave
We’re born again holy and radiant
Jesus the blood you shed is mighty to save
Mighty to save

Verse 2
In Heaven’s our inheritance
New life - never to spoil never to fade

Protected by God's mighty power
Until all is revealed when you come again

Bridge
Though now our eyes can’t see
We love you Saviour King
Our lips cannot express this glorious joy
And when at last revealed
In glory You will bring salvation
Bring salvation

© Trevor Hodge 2012

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