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The fundamentals on how to write a gospel song

This editorial offers a basic conceptual guiding to people that want to know how to write a gospel song relatively fast

How to write a gospel song: Brief Introduction

Anyone that wants to initiate the scientific discipline of music must follow a complex didactical method, and although the article is not exhaustive or complete, I'll try to teach you how to write a gospel song in a systematic manner, following some simple, consecutive steps.

Gospel music is firmly embedded in the American culture, it changed the relationship between the faithful people and God from one of servitude or slavish compliance to one of joyful gratefulness. It is the result of social and ideological change towards a more humanistic society.

Gospel music has a powerful meaning to the African-American culture because slaves would sing gospel pieces while working, it served as a therapeutic comfort to help ease the pain of living as a slave.

How to write a gospel song: The essentials

Know the roots

The gospel genre of music traces its origins back to the 17th century, with roots in the black oral tradition, but it wasn't till the 1930s in Chicago when Thomas Andrew Dorsey (July 1, 1899 – January 23, 1993) came along and brought the innovative music to mainstream audiences. So innovative and original that the tunes were called "Dorseys" because of an absent tradition before him, no one has ever attempted such a novelty. He will be remembered as "the father of black gospel music". The blues pianist created a new form of religious music by bonding various blues elements with mournful, lamenting vocal verses, syncopated rhythms, and Christian prayer. The result of the mix between sacred and profane attracted some hate from the more fundamentalist church-goers, but soon raised in popularity among the ecclesiastic community, and went on to be one of the pillars of modern church ceremony, especially in the Baptist Church.

Although the modern gospel is far from its original piano-and-tambourine form and has evolved into multiple sub-categories that follow the international industry, the essence has remained unchanged, and if you follow some fundamental guidelines, you too can compose an authentic gospel tune.

Find a subject matter

A gospel song is usually a worship number in which the singer praises God or His actions, so search for a subject on which to elaborate. The Bible provides a perfect source of inspiration, or if you want a more immediate alternative, just use the internet and search for Psalms, Prophets, life of Saints or other folklore prayers and stories, and if you choose the latter, just make sure they are approved by the catechism of your church, as to avoid being accused of heresy. Choose an argument, read it, understand it on your own or with the help of a theology scholar to make sure you interpreted the piece accordingly to your faith. After this initial research, you'll have the inspiration to create lyrics.

Follow these general guidelines on writing lyrics

The lyrics should be relatively simple to understand, and sing along to. You have to remember that most of the church-goers are inexperienced, and may not have a high level of education. It would also be wise to focus on only one story narrative, write simple and coherent lyrics as to avoid confusion. So let's get to the nitty-gritty: how to write a gospel song?

There are many metric systems used in gospels, there are no strict rules, but most of the time, there is only one metric system for the whole piece. The composer should decide what metric to use based on the general speed of the musical piece: longer verses for a speedy, happy tunes, and shorter verses for slower, sadder jams. The rule of thumb should be homogeneity, if you choose to rhyme the first verses, you should rhyme the rest of the verses, use one metric system, and verses should be similar in length. Generally, words should be under five syllables as to avoid mispronunciations, and watch out for clumsy phrasing. The lyrics should emanate passion, describe the action, as well as the context, but in a simple manner. For the majority of the hymn-type songs such as the gospel, the standard lyrical layout consists of 2 to 4 verses that lead to a chorus. You could add a bridge, a coda or a reprise - it’s entirely up to you. Another common lyrical instrument is the ostinato: a repetition of a word, phrase, sound or group of sounds, and should be used for phonetic aesthetics and/or whenever something is worth mentioning more than one time, for a dramatic effect. Don't forget to choose a point of view, you can compose the lyrical narrative from basically any perspective, the one exception may be that of God. God's point of view should be avoided as to not risk being accused of blasphemy.

The most effective way to compose a song, for an inexperienced writer, is through trial and error. Just get a piece of paper and a pen, and start writing some lyrics ad hoc, keep a melodic line in your head or record a melodic line by humming, sing the lyrics out loud, and improve from there. To get an idea or to break a lack of inspiration, just read some classic gospels lyrics, expose yourself to religious culture, or even consider your own personal experiences, and see how your own life relates to the spiritual sphere. Some classic tunes you could listen to: "What Child Is This?" by John V. Rydgren and Bob R., "Free at Last" by Al Green, or some more modern variants like "Jesus Walks" by Kanye West, "Walking" by Mary Mary. Once you have some written lyrics and have an idea of the music tune, you should seek professional help to transcript your melody idea into a written musical score. In alternative, you could surf the internet and seek assistance from freelancers, pieces of software, books and literature (I highly recommend "How to Write A Hit Song, Fifth Edition" by Molly-Ann Leikin) or got to your local church and seek help there, they will be more than happy to assist you.

Practice your singing

If the final product pleases you, you may want to learn a few tips on how to sing correctly. The passion from the lyrics has to transfer to the actual singing, you are singing about sacred things, so act accordingly. The words have to come from the heart and soul, which usually translates to stressed syllables and elongated vowels. Think about the fashion in which a typical southern Baptist preacher conducts his mass, how he infatuates the words, how he gesticulates in excitement, and how he pronounces "halle-liew-jah". Some words are sung and some words are spoken, in any case, the pronunciation has to be clear and emphatic, so you can get your idea across clearly, so practice your diction. Because of the revealing nature of the genre, you'll usually have to sing powerful notes on higher frequencies, so you'll have to train yourself to sing "forward", towards the front of your face so you can produce those frontal resonances in your nose and mouth. You'll also need some larynx practice to carry that powerful sound correctly. Breathing is another fundamental technique necessary for gospel singing. Unlike classical music for example, where you have to dose your exhalation to make it last longer, gospel singing requires you to fill your lungs more often to produce powerful sounds, so practice on filling your lungs with quick breaths, you'll have to get it right so you won't end up with no gas in the tank in the middle of an ascending climax.

Get with your friends

Now that you know how to write a gospel song, and after you've practiced singing and feel comfortable, maybe you'll want to share your song with others. Make some easy-to-read flyers and organize a choral session at your local church. This is a great way to socialize, get your work some publicity, and fulfill the primal purpose of this type of music: choral praising of God. Don't forget to measure up your chorus, and decide their capabilities. Compose a simpler jam for amateurs or a more complicated one for advanced singers.

This genre is quite an exclusively religious type of music, so don't expect a huge mainstream success or monetary gains, those things should be tangential to your purpose, money and fame will come only if you truly dedicate yourself, but if that's your main focus, maybe you should consider some other form of music.

This editorial offers a basic conceptual guiding to people that want to know how to write a gospel song relatively fast

How to write a gospel song: Brief Introduction

Anyone that wants to initiate the scientific discipline of music must follow a complex didactical method, and although the article is not exhaustive or complete, I'll try to teach you how to write a gospel song

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100000115
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CREATED ON
June 19, 2016
COMPLETED ON
June 20, 2016
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$34
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