[Song Construction] [Protection] [Hooks & Playing On Words]
[Correcting Amaterish Mistakes - Part 1] [Publishing] [Pitching]
[Co-Writing] [Vocal Tips] [Correcting Amateurish Mistakes - Part 2]


"Form," "structure," "format," "pattern," whatever you want to call it, every song has to have one.

The verse, chorus, bridge and tag are the parts of the song that make up the form of the song. As you start constructing your song, you need to be thinking about the pattern your song will take.

There are different patterns that you can use. Most southern gospel songs have the verse/chorus structure. You can have 16-bar verses and an 8-bar chorus, or you could have 8-bar verses and a 16-bar chorus, or you could have 16-bar verses and a
16-bar chorus. You can even add a tag consisting of ever how many bars you want.

But the most successful song pattern of all time, hands down, is called the 32-bar formula. The 32-bar song has 3 parts: A, B, C, and then back to A.

The song starts with A, of course, which begins to tell the story of your song and usually lasts 8 bars. The song continues with B with the same melody as A, but with different lyrics for another 8 bars. Then comes C, which is called the bridge. It also has 8
bars, but has a different melody than A and B. Are you with me? Thatís A & B both with 8 bars, the same melody, but different lyrics. C (the bridge) has 8 more bars with a different melody. After A, B, & C are sung, the song then goes back to repeat A, with the same melody and with either the same or different lyrics than the original A. Sounds pretty complicated, but it isnít. How about an example using one of the most successful songs of all time, written by Johnny Marks for Gene Autry called, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."

(A) "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose. And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows."

(B) "All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games."

(C) "Then one foggy Christmas Eve Santa came to say. Rudolph with your knows so bright, wonít you guide my sleigh tonight?"

(A) "Then how the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, youíll go down in history."

C is the bridge. It is 8 bars long and has a different melody than A and B. As the bridge, it connects the pieces of the song and gets you back to A. A and B are choruses with the same melody but with different lyrics.

Not coincidentally, I wrote the song "Iím "Ready to Go," which is my new radio single coming out in a few a few weeks (Iíll slip in a little plug here), as a variation of the 32-bar formula. The next time you hear it on the radio (and hopefully you will) notice the 8-bar A & B choruses, then the 8-bar C bridge, going back to the A chorus with different lyrics, repeating the C bridge, and ending with a 2-bar tag. Here, Iíll show you.

(A) "Woke up this morning; had heaven on my mind. No doubt about it weíre leaving any time. With a dream in my heart, a longing in my soul, got my mind set on heaven, and Iím ready to go."

(B) "May be in the morning, may be evening night or noon. Jesus is coming, coming very soon. Canít know the hour, but this one thing I know. Got my mind set on heaven, and Iím ready to go."

(C) "Donít have to worry Iím a child of the King. Heís Lord of all, and He knows everything. It doesnít matter what tomorrow may hold. Got my mind set on heaven, and Iím ready to go."

(A) "Iím pressing for the mark of my call in Jesus Christ. Still moving forward not looking behind. Got my eyes on the prize looking for that blessed hope. Got my mind set on heaven, and Iím ready to go."

(Then repeat the C bridge again. And end with the tag, "Got my mind set on heaven, and Iím ready to go.")

Now if it could just become as popular as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" Well a guy can dream, canít he?

May I suggest that you start figuring out the patterns of songs that you hear on the radio. But remember, your song doesnít have to be cut out of the same pattern as every other gospel song to be a success.

As important as the form is, it wonít make your song a hit. As Iíve said over and over in previous articles, "the hit is in the hook." Youíve got to have a recurring melody and lyric that is so catchy that it "hooks" the attention of the hearer. Keep repeating the hook line until you drum it into the hearerís brain. If you do it right, theyíll be able to sing your hook line after hearing your song only one time. And if youíre really good, theyíll be able to sing your song after hearing it 2 or 3 times.

If you canít figure out my hook line in "Iím Ready to Go," then Iíve failed miserably. But surely you notice that every chorus and the bridge end with "Got my mind set on heaven, and Iím ready to go."

How long should your song be? Shoot for the magic 3 minutes. Most DJís will tell you they like short songs.

As Iíve been sitting here writing this article, Iíve been singing 4 of my favorite songs in my head, "How Great Thou Art," "Because He Lives," "It Is No Secret," and "Midnight Cry." And I realized that each of them has a 16-bar verse and 16-bar chorus. Now, thereís a winning, southern gospel song pattern.


I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so I want to start this article by giving credit to the man who taught me most of what I know about song writing. His name is Ray Lewis, currently publishing coordinator for the Eddie Crook Company. He not only taught me most of what I know, but he gave me the encouragement I needed as a beginning song writer. And a lot of what Iím going to tell you today came from his experience. While I wonít be quoting him, I will be restating a lot of what he has told me at one time or another.

Most aspiring song writers cannot begin to imagine how competitive the gospel music song writing industry is or how hard it is to break into. Itís not uncommon for major artists to listen to as many as 200 songs before they finally select the final 10 that get
recorded. And the publisher or producer might have listened to up to 1000 songs to narrow it down to the 200 that the artist chooses from. As a beginning song writer your chances of getting a cut by a major artist are slim to none.

Am I trying to discourage you? Well, if you can be discouraged, them I am. But if you just canít help it because you feel compelled to continue to write songs, then I canít discourage you anyway. And if youíre willing to listen, maybe, just maybe, I can help you.

Iíve received a lot of lyrics to critique via email in the last few months, and, quite frankly, most of them arenít good enough to be recorded. And over and over I see the same amateurish mistakes that just immediately turn artists and producers off. You need
to learn how to avoid these pitfalls like the plague if you want to have any chance whatsoever of getting a song recorded.

Before getting into the pitfalls, let me lay some ground work. Contrary to popular belief, song writing takes more than inspiration. It also takes skill and talent, practice and determination. Some people think songs just get poured into your head by the Holy Spirit, that they come in a flash of heavenly inspiration, and that the writer just has to be the stenographer taking divine dictation. Well, that just ainít the way it happens, friend. The Lord might inspire me with the idea for a song, but He makes me do the hard work of writing it. And after Iíve written it, I rewrite it, and then I rewrite it again and again. I analyze every word to ensure that each says exactly what I want it to say and that the word or phrase molds perfectly with the melody and rhythm. And then I critique it using the principles that I will partially cover in this article. My current radio single, "The One They Crucified", took me about two years off and on to write. It is said that the average professional song writer rewrites a song and average of 5 times. So song writing is frustrating, hard work.

Most song writers donít write good songs when they first start writing. It is generally held that few song writers write any good songs until theyíve been writing at least 2 years and have filled up many a trash can with their compositions. And many struggle
for 8 to 10 years before they attain any degree of success. But if youíre serious about song writing, canít be dissuaded, and really want to learn, read on.

In critiquing your song, ask the following questions.

1) Is it fresh and original or is it stale and ordinary? We gospel song writers have a tough task. Weíve got to tell the same wonderful, blessed story thatís been told a million times. But weíve got to make it sound fresh and original and say it like nobody has ever said it before. Sound impossible? Well it almost is for a new song writer. But if your song isnít fresh and unique, it doesnít have a prayer of getting recorded. If your song contains the same old worn out lines, the same gospel clichťs that have been written hundreds of times before, you can just forget it.

2) Is your song written about the title of your song? Make sure every phrase is about your song title. Make sure your song title (the hook) is repeated word for word several times in your song, preferably at the beginning and/or end of your chorus. Set the scene in the first verse. In the chorus, intensify and elaborate on the subject. Really get down to business in the second verse, which should be the best one, and make it crescendo into the last chorus.

3) Do your words sound like natural conversation?. A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldnít say it in every day conversation , then donít say it in your song. For example, would you say to someone, "to church I will go"? Then donít say in your song, "to
heaven I will go". In real life "that way you do not talk", so donít "backwards talk" in your songs. I know that in the old days some successful songs got away with it, and today real professionals can sometimes successfully do it. But until you become a professional, leave backwards talking alone because it sounds amateurish. And you want your song to sound classy and professional.

4) Look at your rhymes. Is your rhyming pattern consistent? If the second and fourth lines of your first verse rhyme, the same should be true in your second verse. And donít just throw in a line just because it rhymes. Thereís no such thing as a filler line in a good song. The difference between an amateur and a professional is being able to write a good, classy line that stays focused on the subject, says something significant, and still rhymes. And, by the way, avoid rhyming a word with itself.

Whoops, Iíve used up my 1000 words for this article. Iíll continue on this subject next time. If youíve got feedback, email me.


This month I'm going to finish the article I started last month on the subject of correcting amateurish mistakes. As I told you last month, this is stuff that Ray Lewis, publishing coordinator for the Eddie Crook Company, taught me. You would do well to order his teaching tape entitled, "Critiquing Your Song." You can do so by contacting Ray at the Eddie Crook Co, PO Box 989, Goodlettsville TN 37070.

To recap from last month, after you've written your song, critique it by asking yourself the following questions.

1) Is it fresh and original or is it stale and ordinary? If your song isnít fresh and unique, it doesnít have a prayer of getting recorded. If your song contains the same old worn out lines, the same gospel clichťs used hundreds of times before, then you can just forget it.

2) Is your song about your song title? Make sure every phrase focuses on your song title, which must contain your hook line. You should repeat your hook line word-for-word several times in your song, preferably at the beginning and/or end of your chorus. Set the scene in the first verse. In the chorus, intensify and elaborate on the subject. Really get down to business in the second verse, which should be the best one, and make it crescendo into the last chorus.

3) Do your words sound like natural conversation? A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldnít say it in everyday conversation, then donít say it in your song. And eliminate "backwards talking." You don't talk backwards in real life, so don't do it in your song.

4) Look at your rhymes. Is your rhyming pattern consistent? If the second and fourth lines of your first verse rhyme, the same should be true in your second verse. Once you've established a rhyming pattern, you have to stick to it. And avoid rhyming with the same word.

5) Lastly, listen to your hook. The hook is the most important part of your song. You can get everything else right, but if your hook isn't an attention-getter, your song won't get recorded. Your hook is that part of the song that just grabs the attention of the hearer and says, "Play me over and over again." A real good hook will lift a song to a higher level and make it stand above all of the hundreds of other songs that are competing with your song to that get recorded.

A professional song writer is always looking for a good hook. Thereís no use even starting a song until youíve gotten an outstanding hook. Because without it, youíre wasting your time and effort. Just to make sure you know what Iím talking about, let me give you some examples of some good hooks. Iíll start with some of mine. "Iím a nobody telling everybody about somebody who can save anybody." Now I didnít originate that phrase. Itís so old that itís public domain. But I did write a song with that hook line that the Florida Boys recorded. And it was because of that great hook line, a good melody, and the
principles of good song writing that Iím writing about here, that the Florida Boys recorded the song and that it charted. So far this song has brought me over $2000.00 in BMI performance royalties after only the first two calendar quarters.

Iíve just finished writing and recording a song called, "Your Search Is Over." Actually, I co-wrote the song with Scott Bennett, a great new song writer who helped me with some of the lyrics. Up to now "Heís All I Need" was my most successful song. But this new song is to me the most beautiful Iíve ever written. But the point I want to make it that the song started with a great hook. The last line of the second verse says, "If youíll seek Him first, I know youíll find at last, your search is over, but your life has just begun." Both verses and the chorus end with the hook line, "Your search is over, but your life has just begun." Iím trying to decide whether to pitch the song save it for myself. Decisions, decisions.

Here are some hooks from songs I wrote for my latest recording project. "When life gets you down, look up." "He could heal the sick, raise the dead, cast mountains into the sea. But because of you he would not move a hill called Calvary." "Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic." Scott Bennett and I are writing a song right now that says, "I wonít live a single minute of this life without Him in it. Heís become my all in all, my everything. Iíve done time in sinís dark prison, but now Iím free and heaven blessed. Give me liberty in Christ or give me death." Of course itís a play on Patrick Henryís famous statement. Youíve got to admit it grabs your attention. And if Scott and I can write some classy lyrics, itís going to be a good song.

Jeff Gibson and Tim Greene wrote a song a few years ago that the Inspirations made into a big hit. The hook line was, "All across the country, the country needs the cross." The rest of the song wasnít all that great (sorry guys). But the hit was in the hook. The hook was so good that it took an ordinary song and made it into a hit.

Here are some great hooks that I WISH I had written. "Iíll never be over the hill (Calvary)." "Donít point a finger; lend a hand." "When He was on the cross, I was on His mind." "He doesnít mean much to this world, but he means the world to me." By now I hope you get the idea of what a good hook sounds like.

Keep your ears tuned to listening for hook lines. When you hear one, write it down. Well, "I'm Outa Here" until next month. (Hey, sounds like a hook to me.)

©1998-2000 Jennifer's Websites


1. Get as good a demo and you possible can. I'm a writer/singer and I record in a good studio, so it works out great for me to use the songs on my recording project as demos. A good demo makes a big difference, no matter what anybody says to the
contrary. Most groups think they can hear a good song and recognize it, but my experience is they hear it a lot better if the song is professionally recorded. But then again, let's face it, if you wrote "God On the Mountain" and sang it acapello, off-key, it
would still be recognized as a great song.

2. Put anywhere from 2-5 (max) songs on a cassette tape. Type (peferably) or print the lyrics and include a lyric sheet for each song you send out. Make sure your name, address, and phone number are on the tape and on each lyric sheet. If you get a cut
you'll probably find out by phone. I used to include a letter of introduction, but I don't bother any more. If a group gets a tape and lyric sheets, it obvious what they are for.

3. The next, and most difficult question is, who do you send it to. (Grammarians I know its whom.) Boy, I wish I knew the answer to that one. I try to send the song to the group I think it most sounds like. I'm usually wrong. The song I thought they'd
record they don't and, you guessed it, the one I thought they'd never record that I just included on the tape as an afterthought, they cut it. For example, the Inspirations cut a song I didn't even intend to send to them, "Back to the Old Time Way". I still don't know how it got on the demo tape. On the other hand, I once got a letter back from the Mid South Boys saying I really ought give more thought to the style of music I pitch to a particular group because nothing I sent them fit their style. And I thought I had very carefully selected only the songs that perfectly fit their style.

Before I send out any songs I pray...that God would help me know which songs to send to which groups and that the right song will be recorded by the right artist. Then I usually use the "shot-gun" approach. That means send out a bunch of tapes to a lot of groups and hope for the best. I'm serious. I know a lot of semi-successful song writers and most of them agree this method works best. And don't even think about worrying that they'll all want to record the same song. In your dreams, pal. You'll be lucky if even one of them cuts one song. If you send out 100 tapes (not all at once 'cause that could get expensive), you'll probably get 98 that don't respond and one that writes a nice letter saying they can't use the songs but please keep sending them
material. And I do. (By the way, the McKameys and the Inspirations usually return the tapes with nice letters. They are both very classy groups of people.) But that one phone call when they say, "We're gonna cut your song; who has publishing?" makes
it all worthwhile.

"He's All I Need" was turned down by about 12 groups before the Kingsmen recorded it and made it a number one song. And I'm so glad. Because, obviously, not every song is right for every group. And "He's All I Need" was perfect for the Kingsmen.

You may find it interesting that I don't even remember sending "Somebody" to the Florida Boys, and its their current chart single.

I've had enough success that a few groups sometimes call me and tell me they're recording and to send material. Not very many, though. They're certainly not beating down my door to record my songs. But I keep on pitching and praying.

Thanks for listening, and keep on writing, praying, and pitching.



Question: I have been receiving the mail from the Singing News list serv. I have been
reading your postings, and for some time have wanted to aquire the talent of song
writing. On occasion I have put down a few lyrics and even sang them to people in my
church, usually I get a very nice response however I really have no idea about what to
do next. I am wondering how to list with a publisher, and what are the options in
choosing a publisher? Do you have to include the written music when songs are

Answer: Publishers are listed in the Singing News Source book which you can purchase
for $25.00.

As a new writer, you may want a publisher, because they know who is recording and
can pitch your material with them. If you do sign a writing contract, please protect
yourself by including a clause that gives the songs back to you after a period of time, say
3 years, if the publisher hasn't gotten you any cuts by then.

As an experienced writer, you're better off, I think, to have open publishing, that is, no
single publisher. That way you have negotiating leverage. Most groups want publishing
themselves on songs they record, for obvious economic reasons. If you get a cut with a
major group, you can negotiate to give them part of the publishing and maybe keep part
yourself. If you've got a great song, you can probably keep publishing for yourselves,
because groups want a great song even if they can't get publishing on it. It sells product
and keeps them on the charts. But if the song is "on the bubble" it can make the
difference of getting a cut or not if you can give publishing to the group doing the
recording. I've lost a cut or 2 with major groups because I couldn't give them publishing.

You can publish yourself, you know. Just obtain a publishers application from BMI (or
whatever organization you choose), list one song with them, and send them a check for
$100.00. Then you're a publisher for life. Instructions come with the application.

All you need to send the publisher is a demo tape and a lyric sheets. Very few songs
ever get the notes written on paper (sheet music) any more. It will get "charted" for the
studio musicians, but those are just generic chord numbers that studio musicians work

By the way, you can develop the craft of songwriting and hone your skills at it, but
you've either got the talent or not. Its God given, in my opinion.

Question: I have also considered attempting to record some songs and I am wondering
how to get new material. I have sang for years in my home church and have also been
invited to sing at other churchs. I realize that being "unknown" to the music industry that I
would not get the songs that writers may consider or expect to be "chart toppers", nor
would I expect to starting out. I am willing to start by knocking on doors in necessary :o)

Answer: Contact the publishers listed in The Source. Or you could just pick out the
addresses from Singing News Ads, which is how I got started. I just thumbed through
the Singing News and picked the company with the classiest ad. The publishers will be
very happy to send you some songs. Or if you know some writers, call or write them
and ask for songs. If you mention that you will pay royalties, it will help.

Question: Finally, if I were to start receiving songs from writers, how would I go about
getting conscent for recording?

Answer: Find out from the writer who the publisher is. Call or write the publisher and
ask for a mechanical license. If there is no publisher, make some kind of arrangement
with the writer for paying royalties. An experienced writer will know what to do about

Hope this helps,


When I first started writing songs, there were two words I kept hearing in connection
with song-writing that bothered me--"hook" and "commercial." People kept telling me
songs had to have "hooks" and they needed to be "commercial." Hey, I just wanted to
"be a blessing". I didn't want to "hook" anybody and it just didn't sound spiritual to be
talking about a "commercial" song.

So just in case a reader has a problem with those two terms, let me give you a spiritual
definition for them. A "hook" is that certain phrase that keeps being repeated in a song
that causes you to be blessed, and it is usually in the song title. It is often a play on
words, or it may just be a strong, Biblical message with a great melody. " And a
"commercial" song is one that you really like to hear and will make you want to buy the
cassette or CD."

But, really, a song has to have a good hook. The most successful type of hook in the last
several years has consisted of a "play on words." Here are some examples, some
well-known and some not so well-known.

He doesn't mean much to this world, but He means the world to me. (Larry Petree)

All across the country the country needs the cross. (Jeff Gibson & Tim Green)

Stand by the Word of God and the God of the Word will stand by you. (Sammy Easom)

When the stone rolled away, the Rock of Ages walked out. (I forget who the author

In each of these examples, there is a play on words, and it's a very effective hook. It
catches your ears and "hooks" your imagination and just says, "play me."

So if you want to know how to start to write a good song, find a good hook, which will
become your song title. What part of a song do I write first? Almost always its the the
last line of the chorus, which is my hook line. "Build your song around the hook line and
make your song about the hook line."

And what if you can't get any further than finding a good song title? Well, file it away for
now. Start a song title file. Keep pulling your titles out and thinking about them. Hey, it
takes a woman 9 months to have a baby. When you get your song title, think of yourself
as being pregnant with a song. It might take a while before you actually give birth to it.

You want a tried and true formula for writing a song? Look no further than the songs of
Bill Gaither. Over and over again he wrote tremendously successful songs with this
simple formula.

Hook line. Hook line. Tada Tada Tada. Hook line.

Let me show you what I mean:
Hook line: BECAUSE HE LIVES I can face tomorrow. Hookline: BECAUSE HE
LIVES all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living
And you can apply this formula to most of his songs, like Gentle Shepherd, He Touched
Me, and on and on.

I don't recall if Bill Gaither ever used a play on words. That trend came along after Mr.
Gaither had written most of his great songs. His and Gloria's songs were just great lyrics
and a great melody built around that hook line.

Most of the time, your verse will end with the hook line, and the chorus may begin
and/or end with the hook line. You should repeat it several times so there is no mistaking
what your song title is and so the repetition of it hooks the imagination of listeners. In my
best known song, He's All I Need, I started each verse with the hook and ended the
chorus with it. But there was no doubt what the title of the song was.

I don't want to get too far off the subject of hook lines here, but I've just got to say
something. Whatever you come up with for a song title, make sure it's scriptural. Every
Gospel songwriter needs to be a student of the Word.

How many songs have you heard that had Gabriel blowing a horn? Well, I've read the
Bible through several times and I try to read it every day. You know what? I've never
read one single time where Gabriel ever blew a horn or was ever going to. And I refuse
to write about him blowing that horn.

And you know what else, when the stone was rolled away, the Rock of Ages didn't
walk out, I don't care how clever a play on words that is. The stone was rolled away to
show that Jesus was already gone. Make sure your message is scriptural.

I've got lots more to say about songwriting, but I'll wait for another time.




1) How do you go about protecting yourself? I mean, what stops a group from recording
your song and not giving you the credit?

2) Do you get a fixed rate or a percentage of sales?

3) Then, when the song has been around for a while, what's to stop another group from
picking it up. Do your copyright your songs in an official manner or just put a little
copyright label at the bottom?

1) How do you protect yourself?


The Law says my song is copyrighted the moment I write it. I've never seen the need for
further copyrighting. Now the publisher does copyright each song, so, you see, I don't
have to do it. Your problem won't be people trying to steal your songs. It will be trying
to get anyone to record it. After a long time with no cuts, you might be praying for some
group to steal your song and record it. If you'd feel better you can copyright your song
for 32 cents. Put the lyrics in a letter and mail it to yourself, but don't open it when you
get it back. The post mark is your legally binding copyright

2) Do I get a percentage of the sales?

Anyone who records a song is supposed to get a mechanical license from the publisher
or writer, if there is no publisher. The writer is supposed to get .033 cents for each unit
sold. Unfortunately, only a few Southern Gospel recording companies, including the
major ones, obey the law and pay mechanical royalties. If you want a list of those who
do and don't, I'll send it to you privately. Don't get me started on that subject again. We
writers know who pays and who doesn't and we just don't send songs to groups whose
record companies don't pay royalties. (I'll probably hear from that remark). However, I
do make exceptions and have sent songs to artists I particular like, knowing all the time
I'll never get a red penny from their recording company. But God keeps a record. If your
song is released to the radio stations, you'll get royalties from BMI or SESAC or
whoever the recording rights company is you're registered with. Those secular
companies religiously pay royalties. (Isn't that ironic?) The amount of money you get
varies according to the audience size of the station, but it's comparable to the amount
you get from mechanical royalties except its based on the number of times a song is
played instead of to how many units are sold.

Now if the song is performed on TV, its different. A song I wrote was performed on
"Prime Time Country" on the Nashville network a few weeks ago. This week, I received
a check for $120.00 for that one performance. The publisher also got $120.00. With
BMI, by contrast, it takes about 9 months to get your royalties.

3) What's to keep another group from picking up the song, recording it and not giving
me credit?

Happens all the time with part-time groups I've never heard of. The major artists will
always give you credit even if they don't pay any money. We often don't get credit (here)
and often never get paid. I'm not worried about it. I do the writing and God does the

In spite of what all the learned theologians in this group may say, I consider every
GOOD song I write a gift from God. And once a song is released, its like a genie let out
of the bottle. You can't control it, and it does its spiritual "magic" whereever it goes. I'm
going to give God credit for inspiring the good ones. Now the bad ones, I take full credit
for, but I refuse to withhold the glory from God when He blesses me with a good song.

Now you "theologians" listen up. I'm only going to say this once. I don't mean "inspire" in
the plenary, verbal sense the way the Bible was written. You see, I've got somebody
called the Holy Spirit inside me. And He ain't just sittin' in there doing nothing. He's
leading, guiding, teaching, and inspiring me.



Let me state clearly right up front that what follows consists of my opinions and my
experiences with co-writing. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, but I have had
some successful experience at it.

For me, the experience of co-writing has always begun with me calling another writer (or
them calling me) and saying something like, "I've written a chorus (or verse) and it
sounds pretty good, but I'm stuck. Or I need a verse by a certain date and I need your
help to finish the song in time."

For example, once on the way home from a Dixie Melody Boys concert, a chorus of a
good song came to me. When I got home, I called McCray Dove, a teriffic writer and
lead singer for DMB, (the concert wasn't far from his home, so I knew he's be there). I
sang to him the chorus I had and asked him to write a verse. He agreed and the next day
he called me with the melody and words to a verse. It was great. I was very excited and
told him I'd write the other verse. Which I quickly did. My group recorded the song, and
not long after that, another group, called Promise, recorded it, and Anthony Burger
produced it. McCray and I have co-written several other songs successfully and we
each draw quarterly BMI checks from the fruits of our collaboration. By the way,
McCray didn't have an answering machine and he was on the road so much, so I bought
him one as a gift just so I could call him and leave him parts of songs for him to
complete. True story. It works. It leaves him the words and melody to work with.

Another time, Mark Trammel of Gold City called me and told me they were interested in
a song I wrote called "Can't Do Without the Lord." I took the opportunity to pitch
another song called, "Feeling the Touch." Mark said he liked it and to send it right away
because they were about to go into the studio. Well, the truth was I had only one verse
and a chorus written and I had no idea for the second verse. So I called my buddy Ray
Lewis, publishing coordinator for Chestnut Mound Music, and told him I had to have a
verse in about 2 days. Well, in 2 days he called with a great verse that went, "If heaven
were a scroll and the sea full of ink, and I could keep writing through eternity, still I
couldn't tell how it feels to be, touched by the the hand of the Lord."

Now, the rest of the story...As it turned out, Gold City didn't record either song, but
"Can't Do Without the Lord" has since been recorded by 2 other top artists. I won't tell
which ones lest one find out the other recorded it. But the song "Feeling the Touch" is a
good one and will eventually be cut, I assure you.

Each successful collaboration had necessary ingredients. First, one of us had a good idea
for a song. Second, we had respect for each other's writing. If I came up with the idea
for the song and had already written part of it, my co-writer didn't try to re-write what
I'd written. He or she concentrated on what I asked them to do--write a verse or chorus
or whatever. We had respect for each other's work, and we encouraged one another.

Once Dan Atkins, who was then director of A&R for the Eddie Crook Co, and I were
talking on the phone. He told me he's had some words for over a year and hadn't yet
come up with the song, and he asked me to give it a shot. The words were: "Soldiers
made Him a sacrifice with hammers, nails, and swords. The Father made Him a Savior,
but only you can make Him Lord."

Around those words I, along with Jim Watters, wrote what I think is a very pretty song
called, "Only You Can Make Him Lord." My group cut it on our last project, and it has
very well received in concert.

Co-writers cannot be concerned with who will get the most credit for the song. The
message of the song has to be foremost.

Collaboration works best when the writers can complement one another. For example,
I'm good at melodys and rhythms and Jim Watters is a very accomplished lyricist, but is
not as strong with the music. I write good lyrics, but I have to work very hard at it. So
you see Jim and I complement each other well. And on several occasions he has simply
given me lyrics and I've written the music. He's better at pitching songs than I am. In fact,
he's gotten all of our co-writing efforts cut at least once and some of them released as
singles. It's really nice to be able to co-write with someone who can get your songs cut.

Now, I must admit that not all of my co-writing efforts have been successful. In those
instances we just didn't have the chemistry. Once I spent several hours writing what I still
believe was a great verse to a song. The other writer didn't like it. Well, to make a long
story short, I haven't tried co-writing with that person again.

Two truisms apply to co-writing. 1) Two heads are better than one, and 2) half of
something is better than all of nothing.

1) When you write with someone else, you have the input of the other person's talent,
ideas, abilities, and experiences. Plus, we writers need all the encouragement we can get.
The encouragement and support of that co-writer can make the difference between a
good song and a great song. And you are both continuing to develop your writing skills.

2) When you co-write, you have to share any royalties with your partner. But hey, isn't it
better to have 50% on a well-written, "commercial" song that gets recorded than to have
100% of a mediocre song that hasn't got a prayer of being recorded?

That brings us to the question, how do you determine how much credit each writer gets
when a song is co-written. Well, that really depends upon what the co-writers agree
upon. I've co-written when the other writer said lets go 50/50 no matter how much each
contributes. However, I prefer the method used by the real professional writers. And
that method is this. The music counts for 50% and the lyrics count for 50%. They
actually count the words in the entire song and count the words each writer contributes.
And if one writer pens 20 words out of a 100 word song and writes none of the music,
he or she gets exactly 10% of the song.

Also, the writer who originates the song has the final say as to what the final product will
be. In other words, the song originator has veto power on anything else the co-writer
comes up with. Now, I've never seen that in writing anywhere, but that's just always
been understood when we co-wrote.

One word of caution. Not everyone is suited to co-writing. Some people just prefer to
write alone. And that's OK. If you are very good and both lyrics and melody, then
maybe you don't need to co-write. However, if you come up with great lyrics, but your
melodies are weak...hey, maybe you and I ought to get together!



Q: What can I do to keep from waking up hoarse in the morning's?

A: I'm so glad for the opportunity to address this question. Having studied voice for 4
years in college and also a couple of years of private voice lessons, plus many years of
singing and lots of voice problems, I feel sorta like a lay expert on the subject of how not
to get hoarse. I might give some vocal conditioning advice later.

There are 2 main ways you get hoarse.

1) Misuse or abuse your voice. Singing or speaking improperly will make your hoarse.
Rest is the best cure for that. Prevention is the best practice. Get some voice lessons on
how to sing properly to avoid abusing the voice. A person can sing every single night for
hours and not get hoarse, if he or she sings properly. In fact, opera singers sing every
night and testify that if they miss a single night of singing, they can tell the difference,
meaning they don't sing as well. Of course, most of us don't want to sing like opera
singers, but the sound principles of singing apply to all kinds of singing.

2) If you haven't abused your voice you can get hoarse, usually overnight, because of
sinus drainage. I suffered from morning hoarseness for years before learning the cause
and cure. Thank God for medical research and a very smart ENT who cured me

Medical research has discovered (this is going to sound strange but keep reading) that
sinus drainage is mainly caused by esophagial reflux. Of course, that is when acid goes
up your esophagus from your stomach. Stay with me here. Your body reacts by creating
excess mucous from the sinuses which drain down into your throat causing congestion.

So as wierd as it sounds, almost all of my hoarsness was caused by acid reflux. Typically
I would go to bed at night and wake up during the night trying to clear my throat and
wake up hoarse the next morning. Sometimes it would start happening right in the middle
of a concert while I was singing. I could feel the drainage going down into my throat even
as I sang with this horrible tickling feeling.

The solution is very simple, but you must have personal discipline to deal with it. Here
are the preventions.

1) Don't take caffeine after 6:00PM. Caffeine causes acid. You know what has
caffeine--coffee, tea, a lot of soft drinks, chocolate. We really ought to take as little
caffeine as possible to avoid reflux. In fact, avoid greasy foods, anything that causes
excess acid. Added stress also makes it worse.

2) Elevate the head of your bed by at least 4 inches by putting blocks under them. Some
people use wedges instead of a pillow, but I can't sleep with one so I elevate my bed.
On the road in motel rooms, I've even been known to elevate the bed with books or
anything I could find if I was having a reflux problem. Elevating the bed helps prevent
acid from coming back up your esophagus during the night.

3) When I sing, I've got Tums/Maalox some kind of antacid in my pocket. If the
drainage starts, I pop antacid until it stops. If it starts in the middle of the night, I get up
and take an antacid tablet or 2 and pop in an acid blocker. I don't return to bed or lie
prone until the drainage stops, which it does in about 30 minutes.

4) We all know that we can't always control our diets on the road and I sometimes need
a caffeine fix to get through the day. So I keep a box of acid blockers handy, which I
wouldn't need if I did all of the above. I'm talking about over the counter Pepcid AC,
Zantac, or whatever. They prevent the production of excess acid.

You should not abuse the use of antacids or acid blockers. Proper diet, primarily giving
up caffeine and greasy foods will help most. But use the cures when you need them. Too
much calcium, a primary ingredient in antacids, can cause constipation problems.

That pretty much sums it up, but I'll summarize.

You can get hoarse through improper vocal techniques or through sinus drainage caused
by esophagial reflux.

Get voice lessons to avoid voice abuse.

Neutralize the acid and you stop the drainage.

I promise you. It works. I haven't woke up hoarse since I discovered the secret.