I live in Nashville, TN, the home of Country Music. You may not love this genre of music but we can all admire the songwriting skills These men and women know how to pen some memorable song titles.
How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Say Goodbye?
I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well
I’m So Miserable Without You It’s Like Having You Here
If I’d Shot You When I Wanted To, I’d Be Out By Now
My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend and I Sure Do Miss Him
Billy Broke My Heart at Walgreens and I Cried All The Way to Sears
I Still Miss You Baby But My Aim Is Getting Better
If I Were In Your Shoes, I’d Walk Right Back to Me
I’m not a great songwriter but I’ve studied songwriting enough to identify the key elements that go into a memorable song.
The Hook — This is the line that sticks in the mind and that people remember and associate with the song.
The Chorus — This is the section of the song that includes the “hook,” but which is repeated several times. Usually, we can remember the chorus to a song even if we forget the rest.
The Verses — In most songs, there are two verses, though this is not a rule and some songs add many more verses.
The Bridge — Songs that use a bridge do so to transition the song into the big ending for the song, usually the final chorus.
Writing Psalm 119 Songs
When I began my Psalm 119 Experience and wanted to begin memorizing the entire 176 verses, I knew that I would not be able to remember all the verses through rote memory. My only hope was to shape the verses into songs with song structure — hooks, choruses, verses, and bridges.
It would have been much easier to write songs about the big ideas in each of the 22 sections. That may be a good project for someone else, but that would not have helped me with my Psalm 119 Experience. I wanted to memorize the complete Psalm.
In each of the eight-line sections, I established the following rules for my songwriting structure.
Rule 1: I would write 22 songs, one for each of the 8-line sections of Psalms 119.
Rule 2: Each song would include all the words from each section. My goal was to leave nothing out.
Rule 3: Within each 8-line section, I could reorder the lines to find verses, a chorus, and a bridge. I wanted songs with a familiar structure, not chants.
Rule 4: Repeating phrases and lines was acceptable but I wanted to avoid reordering words within phrases.
Rule 5: The songs should reflect the tone of the words in each section.
Rule 6: The music for each of the 22 songs should be different, reflecting different styles that would aid memory.
Rule 7: The songs should be simple enough for me to sing, which meant that I had about an 8-note range with which to work.
In some sections, these constraints really challenged me, but I maintained these rules and am glad I did. In the end, I may have changed 2-3 words simply to make the lyrics flow, but did nothing to alter the meaning of the text. As a result, when I sing the 22 songs, I am reciting all the words in Psalm 119.
I’ve wondered how the writer of Psalm 119 would have felt about my work with his words. Personally, I like to think that he would have said, “Great. I want people to remember these words and quote them often.”
This long project will be “worth it” for me if these songs help you as they did me remember these powerful words.