Worship Songwriting Tips #1: Importance of Structure


The structure is the foundation of any worship song. It doesn't matter how much passion you put into your melody, how profound a wordsmith you are or how sincere your heart of worship is: without the discipline of a structure, your song will fall down. Your message will not reach any further that your back yard! Having been part of worship songwriting days where I was asked to offer critique to budding writers, I know this is a common problem. Many of songs presented set out like meandering rivers gushing here there and everywhere before disappearing off into the sunset! There may have been moments of brilliance, but these are soon lost in the confusion.

Once you have got your head around the concept of structure, you will find that you are are able organise your creative heart flow into a form that is accessible to others. Accessibility is important for worship songs as we want others to be able to use our songs to glorify God.

A great way to develop our understanding of different song structures is to look at some popular worship songs and see the structure they use. So here goes:

Verse - Verse - Verse

This structure has no chorus just strong verses. Many traditional hymns take this form. Here are some examples of  V-V-V

In Christ Alone
When I survey the Wondrous Cross
Before the Throne of God above

Verse - Chorus

A simple structure but it works . Many of the worship songs that emerged in the 80's were powerfully simple and followed this pattern.  Here are some more examples of V-C

Shout to the Lord
Lord I lift your name on High
Come now is the time to worship

Verse Chorus Verse Chorus 

V-C-V-C A song with more that one verse with a catchy refrain repeated between each verse

How Great Thou Art
There is a redeemer
Shine Jesus Shine

Chorus - Verse - Chorus

C-V-C-V This is not so common.  Start with a very strong chorus.

Bless the Lord (10,000 reasons)
There is none like you

Verse -Chorus -Verse -Chorus- Bridge-Chorus 

Most worship modern songs now contain a bridge, sometimes known as a "middle section", which takes the melody somewhere different and keeps the music interesting. This is often after the second chorus (although not exclusively). Examples of V-C-V-C-B-C

Hear I am to Worship
Mighty to Save
Blessed be your Name

Pre-chorus

Blessed be your Name uses a pre-chorus too. A pre-chorus is a section that links the verse to the chorus each time

The following songs all use a pre-chorus:

The Heart of Worship
Everlasting God
Praise is Rising (Hosanna)

Of course there are other elements that you can put into your songs, such as instrument breaks and key changes. I think for worship songs it's better to keep things simple, especially if our heart is to see others use our songs.

You may also have a song that works and breaks all rules on structure! That's art for you. I tried to rack my brains and think of a popular worship song that didn't fit within the above structures and couldn't. Let me know if you think of one.

I hope you found these insights helpful. If you are just starting out on your song writing journey, be encouraged to keep writing. the more you write to more you will improve and hone the gift God has given to you. Start with the foundation of a good song structure.

You may also like Worship Leader Tips #1 Song Selection

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