Christmas Candles and Choir

Writing a Christmas Song That Connects With Friends and Family

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This is the time of year that you’re likely trying your hand at creating a Christmas tune. It’s probably your dream to write something that really connects with friends and family, and perhaps even becomes a new Christmas classic for those you care about.

In writing a successful holiday tune, you really want to connect emotionally to your audience, and so in that regard the principles are no different from any other song you might write.

Here are some tips you should be keeping mind that will help give your new Christmas tune a shot at making a meaningful impact on your audience.

  1. Use first person pronouns to make it personal. As with any song, putting yourself in the picture goes a long way to having a powerful effect on how the audience hears the song. So use lots of “I”, “my”, “me”, etc. Another idea: sometimes it can be nice to delay that reference to yourself: “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire”) starts the final verse with “And so I’m offering this simple phrase”, and it’s a very poignant moment.
  2. Write your lyric to someone. Of course you’re going to write a Christmas song to be about Christmas, but in fact, the best power comes from writing the song to someone. “Blue Christmas” (Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson) is a great example of this “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you…”
  3. Make your song’s message universal. For a great Christmas song, it doesn’t have to be overly unique. It’s hard to create a Christmas song that has something to say that hasn’t already been said! But no matter what your particular lyric is, be sure that the message is one that practically anyone can tap into and feel. Listen to the English version of Swedish Christmas song “Koppangen” sung by Anne Sofie von Otter, and you’ll have a perfect model for how this should be done.
  4. Create a melody that explores a relatively wide range. As melodies move up we hear emotional intensity increase. When a melody moves down, things relax. This is all an important part of playing into the emotion of the subject matter. You’ll notice that most classic Christmas tunes use a range of an octave or more.
  5. Be keenly aware of which emotions you want to enhance as you write each phrase of your song. There are many emotions related to Christmas time: joy, nostalgia, wonder, happiness, even sadness for those who are without loved ones at this time of year. You’ll need to be keenly aware of which emotion you’ll want to leave your audience with. You might be singing about a loved one that’s not around anymore, but there may also be a way of lightening the emotion a little, and talk about lovely times from past Christmases. A “hurting song” can be a powerful kind of song — just be sure that it taps into the hopeful and encouraging message that most Christmas songs are famous for.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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