Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Worship Wednesdays - Choosing the CD Songs!

Before we get into today's post, please let me express a huge THANK YOU to all of you for your prayers and support over the past week. Being sick is never easy, but throw cancelling-a-tour into the mix, and it makes for one horrible time. We are so grateful for all the love, and we look forward to seeing how God will use this change in plans.

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Two weeks ago, we shared that we're working on a new CD! There are so many wonderful things about being a musician, and recording is one of our favourites. Including my first EP, this will be our 6th recording project! It's been 2 years since our debut Infinitely More CD, and we're just itching to get into the studio.

And it's all about the songs!

Since our last CD, we've written about 50 new songs, not including the dozens of signature arrangements we've created for favourite hymns and praise songs. As much as we'd like to record them all, there's this thing called Budget, which is never big enough to record all the songs you love. There are lots of steps in pre-production, but today we want to talk about one of the most critical - song selection.

How do you narrow down 50 songs to 10 for the CD? 
Here's our process:

Start With A Master List
Write them all down, even the ones that you know won't make the final cut. See their beautiful titles and celebrate your accomplishment in birthing these musical babies. Then, start putting them in groups. We divided ours by up-tempo, mid, and ballad. We also made separate lists for originals and covers.

Find the Shape Of Your Album
All originals? All covers? How many songs can you afford to record? What do you want to say? Do you have a theme, either musically or with your message?

Use Post It Notes
Lists can be a great tool, but sometimes, it's good to see the songs in a different way. We love writing each title on a post it note, and putting them all over the wall. Then, we can grab titles, and put them in various groups and shapes to see how the different songs bounce off each other.

Our high tech song selection process, on a hotel room wall...

Road Test Your Songs
Every song on our CD has been performed in a variety of concerts and worship services. We've been able to play with the arrangements, and really get a solid sense of how the songs live and breathe in front of an audience. Some bands opt to create live recordings and videos and get fan feedback using online polls and social media.

What Are People Asking For?
We often debut new songs in a concert, and announce, "This is brand new. We finished it this afternoon," and inevitably, someone will come up and ask what CD it's on. These are the songs to record. From a practical point of view, it means the song will help sell CDs. But it also means that these are the songs that are connecting with people. These are the songs that are carrying your message.

Get Trusted, Critical Feedback
Notice, I didn't say, "Ask your Mom which songs she likes," although we do that too. Gather the songwriters and artists you trust and ask them to listen to your top 15. Be open to their ideas and suggestions. Try to choose artists who are creating great work themselves, folks who are at the top of their game, and who are currently in the industry. If you don't have people like this in your group of friends, consider hiring an artist/songwriter you admire as a consultant (many will consult for an hourly rate.)

Be Open To New Ideas
Our original plan was to record 10 songs, but as we've worked through the process, there's this 11th song that just keeps rising to the top. So, with a little reworking of the Budget, it looks like there will be 11 songs on the project. Of course, Gerald keeps writing new songs, so you never know...

And remember this: when you record a song, you'll need to sing it live for the next 2 years, or at least until your next CD is recorded. And if it's a hit, you may need to sing it forever! For each song, make sure that it expresses your message, that you can perform it well in a live setting, and that you truly love it!

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!

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