Have you run out of songwriting ideas or don’t know where to start? Are you looking for good song starters? No worries! We’ve all been there and most likely not just once. I want to show you some songwriting techniques that I use to find the best songwriting ideas and always know what to write a song about. So let’s dive in!
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You must never forget that when you write a song you tell a story both with the music and lyrics. Nowadays with AI and other kinds of songwriting apps, it’s easier than ever to find and come up with fresh songwriting ideas. But once you have your idea what do you do next?
Five techniques to find and develop the best songwriting ideas
What’s the most important skill a songwriter should have? Imagination. Without imagination, you are nowhere. Why you ask? Well because unless something grandiose happens to you every day you might have a shortage of personal experiences to write songs about. So how do I get ideas to write a song? With these five techniques, you will always have something to write about!
- Let the music speak
- Object Writing
- Imagining a situation
- Write with a character or role-playing in mind
- Use current, and past experiences or future expectations
Let the music speak
This is one of my favourite techniques and I use it all the time when I write songs or compositions. There are two main types of songwriters, one that starts with the music and adds the lyrics later. Or one that starts with the lyrics and writes music to accompany them.
I almost always start with a musical idea, because a short piece of music can communicate so many different ideas. Things that help guide me with choosing the songwriting idea are:
- Is the chord progression major or minor?
- Is it upbeat or slow?
- What is the rhythm like?
- Are there long or short melodies?
- Is the music complex or easy?
- Many different instruments?
- Sing and improvise a melody. What words pop up?
To me, music without words possesses so many possible songwriting ideas and that’s why when I write a song I like to start with the music. If you don’t like a lyric or topic, just run down the points above and see what topic comes out!
Object writing is a technique that I learned from the amazing book Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison. What it boils down to is that you choose a random object like a pencil, a boat or maybe even a coat. You set the timer to 5 or to 10 minutes and you just start writing. Off you go! While writing, you focus on all of your senses and translate them into words. Questions that you can ask are:
- How would the object taste if you would bite it or if you’d eat it?
- How does it feel? Is it rough or is it smooth?
- What does it smell like?
- What does it look like? What colour is it?
- How close is it to you?
- Can you wear it?
- Is it surrounding you or is it near you?
- Does it make your heart beat faster or freeze your hands?
You use all your senses:
- Your inner senses (heartbeat etc.)
- How the object relates to you. (near or far, below or above)
You use the object as a starting place to get your creative juices flowing. So don’t dwell too long on one object but continue the story and make transitions. Try to use as many creative jumps to different topics as possible and the key is don’t overthink. So just write down what comes to mind. For more inspiration, you can also check out the book Songwriting Without Boundaries.
If you don’t have any inspiration for objects, just use a random object generator to get you started.
Imagining a situation
I use this songwriting technique for finding out what to write a song about or developing a songwriting idea. It always leads to lyrics and topics that have plenty of emotional impact. The lyric writing technique of Imagining a situation works as follows:
Choose a certain emotion or state of mind and you really imagine yourself being in that state or situation. Try to imagine and come up with as many details as possible to make it realistic and to get yourself almost in a dreamlike state. Some questions that I always ask myself that might help you are:
- What are your surroundings like?
- Are you in nature or an urban area?
- Are you searching for something and are there other people around?
- Is there interaction and how does that make you feel mentally and physically?
The thing that Object Writing and Imagining a Situation have in common are that you rely on your senses to make it an interesting and vivid story. You describe and transform your senses into something with emotional impact.
Write with a character or role-playing in mind
This lyric writing trick and idea generator are very wide in how you can apply and use it. Go and think crazy with this one! When it comes to role-playing, can you imagine yourself being a lonely queen or a fancy taxi driver? How would they see the world and what kind of situations do they get themselves in?
You can also use this technique to give objects a character that they would normally never have. For example, how would a shovel feel that needs to dig all day? Or how would it feel if it was used for raking leaves instead? Turn it into a person and find out what kind of emotions you can pull out of this fresh point of view!
Use current, and past experiences or future expectations
I would say that most songwriters already use this intuitively and for many, this is their main source of inspiration. But we are going to detach ourselves to avoid re-telling something that happened to us. Let’s give our memories some more potential for expanding or getting different points of view.
I call this reliving your memories or imagining future memories. But one small detail: you are now standing on the side like a ghost that cannot interact or be seen. I know it’s tempting to do, but we are not going to copy-paste our memories. We will use it as a source for creating a new story and each time you get stuck just transfer yourself to the memory or expectation and think: What did I feel or what would I have done and how would I feel now?
I guarantee you will get an amazingly personal lyric that can spark many songwriting ideas and help you find what to write a song about.
Free Songwriting and Music Composing Tutorials
If you want to explore my free songwriting lessons online, then I suggest you watch this playlist. It is a gathering of music classes that focus on creative songwriting techniques. If you feel that you need more help with creating music, then don’t hesitate to contact me and schedule a songwriting class.
What to write a song about? 62 song prompts and songwriting topics to use or get inspired
Now I will show you some examples of songwriting prompts that you can either use straight away or that you can see as inspiration to how these techniques can work.
Letting the music speak
Is your song upbeat? Write something about:
- Living in the fast lane
- Two people chasing each other
- A fast plane ride to an interesting place
- Racing for a deadline
- The speed of light and how it touches everything
Is the music slow? Write something about:
- A slow and intimate dance
- Watching the stars or gazing towards the sky
- A boring rainy day
- The feeling of life or some situation dragging along
- Relaxing and taking time off
- A long and slowly developing struggle
Is the chord progression major? Write something about:
- Having a road trip
- Achieving personal success or some kind of victory
- Happy family moments
- Personal celebrations
- The joy of doing something (creating music, gardening, sports)
Is the chord progression minor-oriented? Write something about:
- Losing somebody or something
- The ending of a relationship
- Difficulties within your surroundings (climate change, accidents, personal tensions)
- Bad weather
- A ruined vacation or holiday
Is the music complex? Write something about:
- Something that you don’t understand (a person, situation or task)
- Complicated conspiracy theory
- Walking on a busy street and possibly picking up many conversations
- Creating a master plan for something
Is the music simple and straightforward? Write something about:
- Living an easy life without worries
- A simple person
- A predictable affair
- Something or somebody that has only one goal. (could go together with upbeat music)
- Celebration of something
Object writing song prompts
Basketball: What does the smell remind you of? Why are you holding it? What does the colour remind you of? Are you bouncing with it outside or inside?
Coin: Can you feel the engravings together with the smooth surface? What else is like that in life? When it falls what sound does it make and how would you respond? Are you giving it to somebody and do you touch their hand while giving it?
Street lights: Is the light bright? What does it do to your surroundings? Where is the light and where are you standing? Is it fixed to a smooth metal pole or wooden pilar? Are you alone and passing by? Are you running?
Sketch pad: Can you smell the paper? Do you hear the sound of your pen when you write on it? How does the paper feel when you crumple it? Why would you do this, did it read something you didn’t like?
Matchbox: Can you feel the heat when you strike a match? What sound does it make? Is the flame in front of your face? What are you doing with it, lighting a candle? Does it bring you memories?
Umbrella: Is it above your head? Can you still see or is it blocking your view? What colour is it? What does the handle feel like? Is it dry or wet? Smooth or rugged? Why are you holding it and where are you going to?
Imagine a situation where you are in
You cannot pay the rent and will get kicked out: You are locking yourself inside of the house. Blocking all the entries. You can see clear patterns of where the furniture used to be. But now it is in front of the door. The curtains are closed. You have missed calls on your phone and unopened letters on the doormat.
You are riding your bike with a group of friends: Are you cycling through nature? What is the weather like? You are with your best friends that you haven’t seen in a long time. Some of them have changed for the better while others have stayed the same.
You are walking on the sidewalk: You just came back from a performance. You are reliving it inside your head. How was the crowd? Where was the concert? Every now and then you are interrupted by something like a car that takes you back in real time. Are you happy and satisfied or did you humiliate yourself?
You are desperate: You are about to be late for the most important meeting of your life. You cannot find the car keys. Your hands are shaking and you can feel your heart beating inside your head. The blood is rushing through your veins and your eyesight is on hyper-focus. What is at stake if you miss it?
You are having a good time with somebody: Is it love or is it friendship? Is it intimate or just fun? Are you doing an activity outdoors or watching a movie? Are you relaxed or tense?
You are working a boring shift at work: What do you need to do? Are you imagining more fun things while being at work? You feel stuck in life and with your job. You want change but don’t know how. You are looking for options to escape or improve.
Character or role-playing song ideas
Here are some ideas for when you want to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes.
- You are a village elder and people come to you for advice
- You are a part-time taxi driver who drives celebrities
- You are a famous designer
- You are a recently divorced parent
- You are an orchestra leader who wants to become a painter
- You are a teacher who doesn’t like his/her students
- You are allergic to honey
- You are a mother or a father taking care of a small child
Here are some ideas and examples of how you can assign objects different characters and roles. Write about:
- A baseball bat that gets hurt every time it hits the ball.
- A telephone who doesn’t want to call, but just surf on the internet.
- A truck that wants to hawk its horn.
- A teaspoon that is jealous of the tablespoon.
- Grass that doesn’t want to grow.
- A door that doesn’t want to be locked out of fear of closing.
- A beer bottle that wishes it had soda pop in it.
- A cloud that wants to travel the world.
Using experiences to generate songwriting ideas
You had a fight with your partner and you wish you could interfere and stop yourself from yelling. How do you feel watching yourself behave like this?
You were driving dangerously the other night and you wish you could press the breaks. Ask yourself the question, was it worth the risk to be home 5 minutes earlier?
You were in love on vacation. How do you feel watching yourself walk hand in hand towards the sunset?
You expect to earn a prize. What would you look like up on that stage? Will there be a big audience? Will you be able to hold your nerves?
What to write a song about for beginners
As a beginner but even as a professional, I can imagine that you ask yourself the question what should my first song be about? Your song can be about many things such as happiness, loneliness, hate, love, sadness, jealousy, celebrations, dreams, nightmares or things that are in the news. But my main advice is to choose something that you really connect with and that gets you excited. In the end, this will keep you motivated and inspired while you are writing your song.
So now that you have a songwriting idea, how do you write a good song story? Turning your idea into a good song story can be difficult because you now need to write lyrics for your verse, chorus and bridge. On top of that, your story also needs to make sense to your listener. So how do you do this? Let’s dive in to how you can create a good song story.
First, you need to know that each song section has a different function. The verse tells the story, so your lyrics need to continue and develop with each verse. During the chorus time stands still and these lyrics will repeat. Also, you want these lyrics to be memorable. So in the chorus, you don’t want the story to evolve or continue. The bridge section is reserved for lyrics that shed new light on your story. It’s meant to give a new perspective. It’s like a small story within your story. After the bridge, mostly you continue to the chorus again.