The Building Blocks of a Song

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on January 16, 2010


Now, back to our Cardinal Rule of Songwriting.  Make all the elements work together to enhance the feeling of the message.  What do we mean by the elements of songwriting? There are at least nine definable elements that make up most songs: The Intangible elements: 

1. Message. Not to be confused with lyrics. Message is what you have to say; lyrics are the words you use to say it. There are lots of ways of stating the same message, some more effective than others. 

2. Style. Such as pop, rock, country, southern gospel, black gospel, etc. 

3. Atmosphere or ambience. A song may take us to a tropical island (as the reggae song, “Heaven is in My Heart”), or before the Throne of God (“Holy, Holy, Holy”). 

4.  Mood. Not the same as atmosphere. Mood asks “How do you feel about what you’re saying?” Let everything in the song tell us you are happy, pensive, sad, nostalgic, triumphant, worshipful ... If you do your job in using rhythm, harmony and melody, etc., we’ll feel it with you. Two songs might have the same atmosphere but opposite moods. 

The tangible elements. We’ll list them here and examine each of them in more detail later. 

1. Form, the shape of the song

2. Lyrics, or words 

3. Melody, or tune 

4. Harmony, or chord structure and voicing 

5. Rhythm, or beat 

These nine elements are the building blocks of a song. Which element is most important will depend on what you want the song to do. In a song for ministry, the most important of all is the message. All the other elements, both tangible and intangible, must work together to support it. 

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