By David Neff (Christianity Today) – Ten Good Ideas from Contemporary Hymn Writer Keith Getty

Irish songwriter Keith Getty began his workshop Tuesday at the National Worship Leaders Conference by telling those who had come to learn how to write a great worship song to leave. “Because art is the expression of life, you cannot ‘how-to’ creativity

Getty collaborates with his wife Kristyn and friend Stuart Townend. “They’re the words and I’m the music,” he says, estimating that somewhere between 5 and 20 percent of the words of any of their songs are his. “But we both get involved on both sides.”

Here are ten notable and worthwhile ideas edited and distilled from Getty’s workshop comments:

1. The primary form we use is the story form. The gospel is primarily story. How do you take people who want 4-line worship songs and get them to sing 32 lines? By structuring the song as a story.

2. It is important to look at things that are harrowing and that don’t necessarily make us feel happy. The central core of the Christian faith is not something that makes us happy. We need to acknowledge our need for a redeemer. The reason we worship is that we meet God through the central story of the cross.

3. We need lament. But if you want to write lament, remember that a successful lament resolves. Not into a happily-ever-after ending, but like the psalms of lament, by ultimately acknowledging that God is God.

4. To write strong melodies remember that folk melody has to be passed on orally (aurally). I try to write songs that can be sung with no written music. I imitate Irish folk melody, with a great deal of contour, of rise and fall.

5. Use pastors and theologians as resources for your writing. But keep company with them. Don’t just ask them to fix your text here or there when you’re done with it.

6. Trinitarian worship safeguards us from so many problems our worship can get into: either an overly stern view of god or a casual view of god. Both can lead to problems in our lives.

7. Martin Luther is one of ten people from history I would want to have coffee with. I have looked at a lot of Luther’s hymns and emulated him. First, Luther had a high view of redemption. He also believed we live our lives in the midst of spiritual warfare. Thirdly, he had a high view of the church and a high vision of the church.

8. The congregation is the choir and it is merely the privilege of those of us who are musically gifted to help them sing.

9. Lyrics and great writing are the same thing. Lyricism is poetry. If your write lyrics, read as much poetry as you can. Lyricists are people who love words and do crossword puzzles.

10. Growing up, I never listened to pop music as a child. I was steeped in church music. That could be a blessing because everything I write can be sung by a congregation.Christianity Today

David Neff’s Blog

Gettymusic.com

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About gettymusic

Keith and Kristyn Getty have been at the forefront of the modern hymn movement over the past decade demonstrating the ability to successfully bridge the gap between the traditional and contemporary.
This entry was posted in Christ, gettymusic, Hymns, in christ alone, irish, Jesus, Keith and Kristyn Getty. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to By David Neff (Christianity Today) – Ten Good Ideas from Contemporary Hymn Writer Keith Getty

  1. Pingback: By David Neff (Christianity Today) – Ten Good Ideas from Contemporary Hymn Writer Keith Getty « Cardiphonia

  2. jacquelyn says:

    Amen and Amen!! Most if not all of the early hymn writers for the Christian church were pastors or spiritual leaders. The first Christian hymns were written to combat heresy. I’ve often wondered why our songs are so “light” when our culture has such dark and heavy needs that ought to be addressed. “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” and the most cumbersome theology is pleasant, instructive and beautiful when wrapped in song.

  3. Brilliant summary of the Getty/Townend approach to creating their worship songs and provides a clear explanation for why their songs are as they are. Powerful stories told with dramatic flourish with strong tunes – making it easy for church leaders to choose them again and again…and again and again!
    I would love for Keith Getty to allow other musical styles to inform his compositions.

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  6. Marcie says:

    Great ideas — except for the flavor of number 2:

    “2. It is important to look at things that are harrowing and that don’t necessarily make us feel happy. The central core of the Christian faith is not something that makes us happy. We need to acknowledge our need for a redeemer. The reason we worship is that we meet God through the central story of the cross.”

    It’s true that we need to write, sing, paint, and express the full range of human emotion like Psalms does. And arguably, a church service shouldn’t always follow “proper story form” or look like a sitcom episode with a happy ending; however as believers, the central core of our faith IS someONE who makes us happy — God Himself! He wired us up to desire happiness . . . it just can’t be found on earth. So turning our congregations eyes toward true and more delightful happiness is my stretch as a lead worshiper.

    So yes, “the reason we worship is that we meet God through the central story of the cross” AND, that will make us infinitely and eternally happy.

    Thanks Gettys, for providing great songs to this end. My best friend just miscarried earlier this week. As much as we grieved together and prayed, the song “Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer” has been a healing balm. Ultimately, she will push through this passage and tempest and arrive on new shores of heavenward joy.

    Thank you!

  7. Excellent. Thank you, Keith & Kristyn (and Stuart), for your faithfulness.

  8. redchairmike says:

    Great! I especially like #4. The melodies of our songs must truly be that, melodies, rather than syncopation on the tonic! Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

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