Nothing teaches you more about songwriting than the experience itself. I’ve often said the process feels like turning on a rusty faucet. It takes a lot of work to turn at first, but after several rotations, things seem to really open up and flow. Then the flow is hard to stop! And while the practice itself is key, I’ve found something else that I think can help.
After many writes, especially co-writes, I began noticing patterns. I began to identify early on in the write which type of a writer my co-writers were. I would subconsciously categorize them in order to know how to best work them. Over time, I began thinking thoughts like: he likes to talk, he’s gotta be strong in content…she’s an internal processer….he needs to sing that melody out loud in order to hear how he feels about it….he is listening to me even if he doesn’t respond because he is calculating.
This observation is game-changing for two reasons. First of all, if we know our identity as songwriters, and what our greatest strengths are, it gives us great confidence in our writing. It gives us a definition of our nature. We learn where we can soar and where we need to grow. Secondly, it helps us to know how to best group our cowrites. I truly believe God made the body to operate in fullness together. When we each bring our strength, it is beautiful. (So, let that take the pressure off of you for needing to do it all in your writes!) When we put those great things together, and each person contributes and leads from their strength, amazing songs are written.
Out of these experiences, I put together a Songwriter Personality Test. If you take the test, you will score highest in one of these 7 categories:
Hearing/Prophetic: These writers don’t necessarily focus on either lyrics or melody. They focus on listening. They love the truth! They feel responsible for delivering an accurate message. They are less concerned about following rules than following the Spirit and are always willing to write something completely different or new.
Structure: Structural writers are logical writers. They believe that order, rhyme and syllable count are imperative to an effective song. They like creativity, but it is more important to them that the lyric makes sense and progresses, and the transitions and sections feel natural.
Content: Content writers are gatherers of lyric. They are very conversational, both in and out of the writer’s room. If there is a melodic space that needs to be filled, they can hear the lyrics to match. They are great at getting things started and keeping things going in a write.
Melody: These writers light up most when they hear a fresh, compelling melody. In their minds, lyrics can live or die depending on the music line they ride on. In a cowrite, the melodic hook is the north star that guides them. Their songs are always memorable because of them.
Chords/Arranging: Someone with this wiring is always experimenting with new chords and chord progressions. While writing a song, their mind zeros in on which chords would best support the melody in an original way. To them what really makes a song stand out is a fresh placement of chords.
Concept: These are the storytellers. They are great at mapping out the big picture of where the song needs to go. They help to make sure all the details that come out during the writing fit into the overall goal of the song. They are the guardrails.
Producer/Track: A producer/track writer hears an entire landscape of a song. When writing a song, they love to work on a track at the same time so they don’t forget all the details they are hearing in their head! Many times their ideas inspire greater melodies and lyrics from the others in the room.
You may feel relieved to find that there are more options than just music and lyrics.
Now, you may be able to identify which one you are just by reading through them. But what I would recommend, is go ahead and find out…..take the test! It’s free at:
My hope is that giving you this tool will help you know more about who you are and set you up for success in co-writing situations. I believe, more than ever, churches are hungry for songs with their own voices. We need you, we need your gift, we need your songs.
Krissy Nordhoff is a staff songwriter with Integrity Music, co-founder of Brave Worship (ministry), and creator of the Worship Songwriter Mentorship online course. She has had 3 Dove Award Nominations, and also won the Dove Award for Worship Song of the Year in 2012 for a song she co-wrote called, “Your Great Name,” which has impacted the church worldwide. Her songs have been recorded by artists including Natalie Grant, Mandisa, Darlene Zschech, Dustin Smith, Aaron Shust, Anthony Evans, Meredith Andrews, Charles Billingsley, Todd Agnew, Kerrie Roberts, Lacey Sturm, Joseph Habedank, Corey Voss, and Michael Farren. Krissy loves writing, but she also loves sharing what she’s learned with those coming behind her. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, Eric, and her three children, Alex, Kaden and Anthem.