Talking It Out

by Winner Olmann

I have never been particularly good at writing songs in a group setting. My natural tendency was to take an idea, leave the room, come back with a song and ask the group what they thought of it. Since this has generally worked for me in the past, I just thought that I was an introverted songwriter. In our last songwriting retreat in February I was challenged to write songs with a group. Needless to say, I was very nervous and was self-assured that this would not work out well for me.

Fortunately, I was very wrong in my supposition.

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Winner Olmann

When we began with the session I discovered something that was groundbreaking: we didn’t start with writing a song. Instead, we took time to hear what was on everyone’s hearts and conversed about that. As we would do this, we would take what people were saying and added melodies to it and behold, songs were being birthed.

Maybe you struggle with songwriting in a group like I did or perhaps songwriting in general is a challenge for you. I would like to take this time to share with you some techniques that I discovered from our last songwriting retreat that may possibly help you.

1. Start by talking

•     Fight the temptation to just get started with the music. You can come up with cool chord progressions or guitar hooks later. Talk about subjects that are important to you. Maybe you’ve been reading a portion of scripture that has been teaching you something. Perhaps your church’s core values could spark conversation. Consider this as a valuable part of the songwriting process.

2. Ask a question, answer it, write it down

•     One of the questions that we would ask when we would get stuck on a line is, “what are you trying to say?” As one person tries to answer this question, write down some of the key words and phrases that come out of the answer. You’d be surprised at the creative lines that can emerge from just letting someone say what’s on their heart.

3. Beat the line

•     Sometimes you can beat the line or phrase that you came up with. Toss the phrase around amongst the group. Consider replacing one word in the phrase with another. Sometimes you may realize that you can’t beat it but many times you can!

I can say that I am a better songwriter now than ever before. I say this with confidence because I am not just depending on my own experiences to craft songs but the experiences and ideas of a valuable team. I hope these techniques can help you as they have helped me. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. As we say at Family Church, “we’re better together”.

Winner Olmann is worship pastor for Family Church Sherbrooke