By this, I mean primarily “On what medium”, but let’s discuss the physical location while we’re at it! What is the appropriate place to write a song? Surely you remember Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham”, where he says you can eat it in a house, with a mouse, on a train, in the rain, etc., etc., etc. It’s the same with writing music! There is no mystical prayer closet or pipe-organ or study-dedicated desk that you must have in order to write great music. If you are sitting in the DMV when a stroke of poetic brilliance hits you, grab a post-it or receipt from your purse and jot down your idea. Of course, you will probably transfer your idea to a more appropriate medium when you get home, but for now, you have that idea captured! Besides, what else are you going to do at the DMV while you wait? You can always play the “try not to make eye contact” game. That’s lots of fun.
So, now let’s talk about the medium. Any scrap of paper will do for a little while, but I like to have a whole piece of 8x11” paper dedicated to one song. In writing the tune, the best way to write it is to use staves and notes, and a little practice and a lot of grace can fix the fact that the five lines you drew were not parallel. Writing music is often a lot like writing a story or an essay: there are several drafts to it. Your first draft *more than likely* will not be your final draft, so if you mess up or have to rewrite parts, don’t be afraid to scratch and scribble all over the page (as long as you can figure out how the music is supposed to sound).
When you are satisfied with the piece that you’ve written, it’s time to transfer it to a clean, easy-to-read format, and that will be your final draft.
Maybe the idea of writing and scribbling is not appealing to you; the good news is, you are not limited to that method. There are many music-writing software programs available for use on your computer. Do some research and find one that fits your desires; while some are free, others come with a price tag that gives you access to more tools than the free versions. Some can plug in to your electric keyboard or other instruments, if that is what would help you the most. The program I use is called Noteflight (introduced to me by Megan), which gives me a variety of tools that I find useful in my methods of writing music. So, look around and find a program that works for you!
Side note: Since I write most of my music on a physical sheet of paper, I usually use the program for playback (since I’m not the best pianist) and printing (it just looks so much nicer than my drawings!). I have written songs only on the program, as well. Do what works for you!
Again, there is no magical place or way to write music; be creative, and don’t let your desire to praise God in this way be limited. Use what you have to the best of your ability! And have fun with it. J
BONUS QUESTION: When/how often to write music? Any time a song hits you, write! Obviously, there are times that it is not appropriate (when your number finally gets called at the DMV, no one will be happy with you if you say “Hang on, I’m composing a wonderful song!”) My only warning would be this: Don’t force it! If you’re not cranking out a new song every three days, that’s okay; you don’t have to be the next Fanny Crosby.
Soli Deo Gloria!