Many songwriters compose the title of the song after the song is written. Most often the song title is pulled from a key phrase or thought within the chorus of the song. Some artists view the song title as the final touch of the work like a painters signature, others see it only as an easy way to refer to the song.
But, think about this…
• When a fan buys a song on I-tunes—what do they see first? How do they order?
• When a DJ announces the song on the radio—what do they say?
• How is your music listed on the playlist on your band’s website?
• How are your videos titled on YouTube?
If the fans are not intrigued, the concert promoters, radio DJ’s, record labels, and venues won’t be either. We all know boredom of fans leads to death of bands. More importantly, fans disinterest in your songs leads to disinterest in your presentation of the Gospel. Are they going to walk away because your song has a boring title? Maybe, maybe not. But an interesting title is one more tool you can use to create an interest in your music and in its message.
If the song is already written, the Hook of your song is a place to start looking for a great title.
According to Wikipedia, a hook is a musical idea, often a short riff, passage, or phrase, used in popular music to make a song appealing and to “catch the ear of the listener”.
The song’s hook is probably the most memorable phrase of the song, as so is most often the title of the song. Hooks usually contain action words and are no more than 5 or 6 words long. Here’s an interesting idea:
What if you started writing a song by creating the title FIRST?
If the song title and the hook are the same, it makes sense to come up with the central thought first, and then write the rest of the lyrics around it.
So, where do you come up with song titles and hooks?
One unusual place to find song titles is the newspaper. Newspaper headlines use action words and short phrases that to grab attention. They are designed to make the audience want to know more. Like song titles, the most successful newspaper headlines convey a general topic but require the reader to read more to get the whole picture.
Try this exercise: Take 3 headlines out of context. Using only the headline (not the rest of the article), come up with 3 different ways of looking at each of the headlines. These new ideas may or may convey what the headline was originally written about. But, the ideas could be used to create stories for the rest of the song lyrics.
Song titles and hooks can be found in different ways at looking at things that are ordinary. Everyday life is constantly throwing little hints to us. Songs have been written about driving down the highway, working 9 to 5, singing in the rain, and working at the car wash. Some of these classics are classic simply because they look at everyday life a little differently and resonate with everyday people.
Try this exercise: Think of 3 ordinary things you did today, consider how someone from another culture (or, to make it really fun—a space alien) could interpret those actions, and then come up with a hook describing the feelings attached to each activity.
Most often, titles and hooks come from ideas that intrigue the songwriter, a new way of seeing things that just reaches out and grabs your attention. After all, if it is intriguing to you it will probably interest other people. You will want to know more about it and explore the possibilities. These ideas seem to pop up randomly and sporadically. Often songwriters will go weeks without an inspiration only to get 2 or 3 the next day. The most important thing here is to pay attention to the little nudges that could be great ideas. Many song ideas are forgotten before they are written.
Try this exercise: Carry a notebook or tablet with you everywhere for a week. Force yourself to stop immediately and write down inspirations as they come. At the end of each day, if you have not written down 3 inspirations, mentally review the day and see what you can come up with. The next morning, translate those inspirations into titles or hooks.
One last idea that some people love and others think is just silly—keep a notebook by your bed. Whenever you wake up, write down the things that come to mind first. Often it makes perfect sense when you are writing it, but upon later review is nonsense. But somehow that nonsense is inspiring.
So, try this exercise: Write your morning thoughts every day for a week. The following week reexamine the thoughts and use them to create hooks.
Of course, these exercises probably will not net you a best-selling song. But, they should get your creative juices flowing in a different way than they have before. And isn’t that what creativity is all about—stretching yourself, doing something in a way you have not done it before?
Your song titles are an important tool to market your song
because they express the whole of the song in one short sound bite, elevator speech, or key phrase.
It should be like the answer you give when someone asks your profession: “I am a Christian bass player for the band Right Side Cast”. In just one short phrase the person has a really good idea what you do. If asked, “What is your song about?” you should be able to say, “My song is about insert title here.” Hopefully that answer is interesting enough to make the fan ask for more!
Remember that song titles can be used on your bands merchandise. The most obvious way to do this is to create a t-shirt based on your most popular song. But you can come up with many more interesting ways to use your song titles to entertain your fans like, Like this:
Our word puzzle books are created from song titles from many Christian bands. You could create trivia books as well as puzzle books specifically about your band. You could also create accessories to wear, such as scarves, with your bands song titles printed on them. The ideas for merchandise are endless. Use your bands song titles to help your fans remember their experience with God at your concert.
Do you need more help writing the best songs for your Christian band? Check out this book:
The author, Robert Sterling, taught Christian songwriting at the Academy of Gospel Music Arts! It will definitely challenge and help improve your songwriting skills.
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