Every songwriter runs into writers’ block at some point in their career. To help you dig your way out of the dreaded doldrums of songwriters’ block, we put together 25 songwriting tips and prompts plus great songs to inspire you.
Check out these songwriting tips and find your muse today!
Bonus: Take the quiz to find out what you should write your next song about!
Write about your day.
Think your life is boring and you have nothing to say? Check out the lyrics to this Courtney Barnett song and think again. She starts “Small Poppies” by describing a yard and finds unique meaning in those every-day details.
Write about your favorite book.
You don’t need to have a degree in classic literature, and you don’t need to be an overtly bookish artist to pull this songwriting move off. For inspiration, look to Led Zeppelin. Their catalog is full of Lord of the Rings references, especially apparent in songs like “Ramble On”.
Literary references don’t have to stay on the page. Another great track that takes on this prompt is “Soma” by The Strokes. This song walks a line between referencing Brave New World and commenting on contemporary drug culture.
Write about someone from history.
No need to write a history lesson to follow this songwriting prompt. In her song, “Amelia”, Joni Mitchell drew on the amazing story of Amelia Earhart and combined it with a personal story to create a poignant and heartbreaking song.
Write a response to someone else’s song.
Got a song stuck in your head? Maybe you can write a response by taking on the subject of that song from a different point of view. For example, The Mamas & The Papas’ classic “California Dreamin'” is all about feeling restless and wanting to run away to California.
Wolf Parade’s 2008 song “California Dreamer” pulls imagery from The Mamas & The Papas original and tells the story of being left behind in the snow.
Write about something that makes you angry.
Odds are, the things that really grind your gears are super relatable. Tap into your anger and let it all out in a song.
Write about your favorite food.
Feeling hungry? Why not write an ode to your favorite food. “Grilled Cheese” by Cherry Glazerr is a fun and playful display of the band’s teenage attitude and garage-rock vibes.
Write a song with no chorus.
If you usually write songs with a predictable verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, breaking out of that box can be great for your creativity. For song structure inspiration, check out “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel, and their full album by the same name.
Use the chord progression from another song.
It’s okay to use the same chord progression as another song that already exists. There are hundreds of songs you can play using just a few chords. Experiment with some common chord progressions and feel free to put your own spin on it!
Write a song for your best friend.
Friends are some of the most special people in our lives, so why not honor your bond with your best bud in song? For inspiration, check out this song by The White Stripes.
Try writing in a different style than you’re used to.
Working in different styles is great way to avoid getting stuck as a songwriter. For example, check out this lovely acoustic song by drone-metal artist Chelsea Wolfe. On her album Unknown Rooms, Wolfe took a detour from her heavier, dronier electric material and wrote a beautiful album on acoustic guitar.
Write about your pet.
You can write a song about your pet without heading into childrens’ music territory. Pinback’s 2001 hit “Penelope” is actually about a pet goldfish.
Make your lyrics a conversation between two characters.
Thinking of a song as a conversation can open up tons of new songwriting possibilities. Even if you’re not as adventurous as David Bowie in his “Space Oddity” days, consider using dialog in your next song.
Write about your favorite holiday.
Holiday music doesn’t have to be sentimental or overly saccharine (unless that’s what you’re going for, of course). Take a cue from Misfits and write your own dark Halloween ballad, or be a trailblazer and write the first song ever about a more obscure holiday.
Write a sequel to one of your own songs.
Do you have a song that people seem to really love? Why not write part two! Ever since the 50s and 60s, pop artists have been following up hit singles with sequels, like Leslie Gore’s follow up to “It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To” entitled “Judy’s Turn To Cry”. Take that, Judy!
Write about someone in your family (you don’t have to tell them).
Family can be wonderful, horrible, comforting, difficult, or all of those things at once. There’s likely a lot of fodder for songs in your family story if you look. For inspiration, check out “Feet Asleep” by Thao, written about the singer’s relationship with her mother.
Write about your fondest memory.
Memories are a rich source of inspiration for many songwriters, so tap into your happiest memories to find your next song. Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath wrote “Come Down” about bathing with her cousins as a small child.
Write about something that scares you.
Fear is a powerful, primal emotion that we all experience. Whether you’re afraid of intimacy, loss, or monsters under the bed, your song about your fear is sure to resonate with many people.
Draw inspiration from your religion or spirituality.
If you’re a spiritual or religious person, you can absolutely find deep inspiration in your faith. Many of Leonard Cohen’s classic songs, such as “Hallelujah”, use religious imagery to illustrate personal stories and feelings.
Write about something in nature.
Get off your computer, put down your phone, and write a song about something you see outside. Often, when you unplug, you’ll find inspiration is right there waiting for you.
Write about your daydreams.
Dreams and daydreams are great source material for songs! Don’t limit yourself to writing about the real world. You might even find themes from your dreams repeating throughout multiple songs, like Lorde’s frequent references to royalty in her work.
Write about something you regret.
We’ve all done things we’re not proud of or that we would rather not think about. Get in tune with your regrets and you’ll likely find something worth singing about. For inspiration, listen to “Cat’s in the Cradle”, one of the most well-known and haunting songs about regret.
Write about a social issue.
Do you have strong feelings about a social issue, like racial equality, LGBT rights, or feminism? Like Beyoncé, use your music to speak your mind and maybe even inspire change.
Write about the town where you grew up.
Evoke feelings of nostalgia by writing about the town where you grew up. How has it changed since you were young? What do you miss?
Write about the last time you cried.
You might not enjoy dwelling on pain or sadness, but there is something deeply satisfying about a well-written sad song. Check out this song by Angel Olsen for inspiration and try writing an emotional song of your own.
Write about someone or something that always makes you smile.
What makes you happiest? Whether it’s watching your favorite show, going to the beach, or just seeing that special someone, you can put that happiness into a song. The most important thing is to have fun!
For extra help or feedback with your songs, it’s always a great idea to work with a partner or private music teacher who can help you hear your songs in a new way.
What inspires you? Share the odd or interesting things that have sparked your songs in the comments below!