Writing songs can be hard, writing good songs even harder. Coming up with songwriting ideas can be tricky, we can get stuck in a rut or face the often inevitable wall that is writer’s block. Like anything we want to develop skills in though, practice unquestionably makes it easier over time. The more you write, the closer you get to writing that one song that really reaches out.
Whether you see this task as purely for fun, or something to genuinely help you escape your songwriting hiatus and build a lasting, enjoyable habit – here are 100 songwriting prompts and ideas to play around with.
NB: Don’t over think it, songs are generally much shorter than articles or stories; a few key lines and hopefully some rhymes are all you’re really looking for. And if you don’t like the song at the end – no one ever has to hear it! You’re in control.
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- Write a song from the perspective of the last surviving human on the planet.
- Write a song that tells a story about an intoxicated night out.
- Imagine your life if you were a carpenter on a small island – population no more than 500. Your craft is your life. Write a song about an average Monday.
- Many people consume coffee or tea during the first half of their day, and alcohol or other intoxicants during the latter half. Write a song from the perspective of someone who does this in reverse order. (eg: Brandy for breakfast.)
- Consider life within an absolute dictatorship. Write a song about your commute to work.
- Think about the day before yesterday. Write about your feelings and your ambitions for tomorrow (which would have been yesterday).
- Write a song about the things you didn’t do yesterday.
- Write a song about a famous person from history.
- Write a song about all the best cereals there are.
- Write a song comparing the value of material things to happy memories.
“I wish I were one of those people who wrote songs quickly. But I’m not. So it takes me a great deal of time to find out what the song is.” – Leonard Cohen.
- Remember your last argument – write a song from the other person’s point of view.
- Write a song about the city you’re currently in.
- Set your alarm slightly earlier than it needs to be, have your note book and whatever else you may need by your bed, then write a song the very moment you wake up – make this be the absolute first thing you do. Try to spend at least twenty minutes writing the song before you get on with the rest of your day.
- Make a song where each line starts with the next letter in the alphabet (from A-Z)
- Write a song that would fit as the opening track to your favourite film.
- Base your song on your favourite fictional character.
- Take your favourite food and make a song about it, without using the actual name of the food.
- Use the chord progression from another song, but play it backwards.
- Write a song about your first year in high school.
- Write a song that explores why humans wear clothes.
Remember, some of these songwriting ideas are just for fun, some are a little more serious and emotionally rooted – whichever it is, you’re in control, and any one of the songs could end up meaning far more than the prompt alone can imply.
- Pick up the nearest book, turn to a random page, read the first paragraph and write a song about what you find there.
- Put yourself in the position of a dog who can’t find his way home – write a song from his perspective. Don’t mention that you’re a dog.
- Write a song about the possible need to experience true sadness in order to appreciate real joy.
- Write a Birthday song. A brand new birthday song that we can all replace the classic with.
- Write a song about someone you love, without using the word love.
- Think of a time when you felt terrified – try to write a song that would calm someone who was feeling that same way.
- Imagine you’ve reached a point in your life where you’re homeless, stuck in a foreign town, you don’t speak the language or know anyone, and you have no possessions. Write a song that details that experience.
- Write a song that summarizes or references a bunch of your personal favourite songs.
- Look around the room for something that comforts you – write a song purely about that thing.
- Write a song about a topic of expertise you have – whatever the subject, just roll with it.
- Write a song asking for help with something that’s been troubling you.
- Write a song to your enemy about forgiving them.
- Write a song using only 12 different words.
- Make up a melody on the spot, then add lyrics to it based on what your eyes are drawn to as you look around the room.
- Choose a planet other than Earth and write a song about living there with your family.
- Write a song about everything you did yesterday.
- Think of a country you’ve never visited and write a song about how you imagine it to be.
- Write a sequel to one of your old songs.
- Write a song about something you have privately always regretted.
- Write a song about the last mainstream news story you heard.
If you’re struggling with a certain songwriting prompt, just move on to a different one – the challenge is to write something you’re happy with, so find something that interests or engages with you.
- Write a song in cave-man speak.
- Write a comeback or reply song to someone else’s song.
- Think back to the worst book you ever read, or the worst movie you ever saw, and write a song about it.
- Get a stopwatch or timer ready and set it to just ten minutes – write a song in full, with two verses, and a hook. If you manage it, time another five minutes and write a middle 8. No cheating – when the timer stops, the song is over!
- Write a song about the most pointless food you’ve ever tried.
- Write a song using only two chords.
- Consider a song about someone specific, then re-write it as if they were a totally different kind of person – for example, if the song celebrates their kindness, have yours berate them for their evil ways.
- Play a riff or hum a melody on the spot, don’t overthink it, just make up a tune – then stick with that and turn it into a song about living in the moment.
- Write a song without ever referring to any people – not yourself, or ‘you’, or ‘they’, ‘he’, etc.
- Remember someone you knew who was a bully – write them a song.
Don’t fret too much on any of these, practicing your songwriting is key if you want to improve, but it’s also important to actually enjoy the process. Writing songs can be a fun or even therapeutic way to spend your time.
- Write an entire song using only single-syllable words.
- Write a song about healthcare.
- Write a song about about cruelty.
- Write a song about your dream day – what you’d do, where you’d go, who you’d share it with.
- Write a song in a major key about something that’s worrying you.
- Write a song in a minor key about something that made or makes you laugh.
- Write a song where each line starts with the next letter of the alphabet, starting with ‘A’.
- Imagine you were an astronaut who had floated away from their spacecraft – write a song about that isolation and helplessness, or however you might feel.
- Picture a society without money, where we simply trade independently – write a song about a day in the life.
- Write a song about running a 200 mile race.
Had any major breakthroughs yet? Or are you just skipping through the list out of sheer curiosity? Get involved!
- Write a song about your great, great grandparents falling in love.
- Whoever you voted for in the last election, write a song celebrating an opposing party’s strengths.
- Write a song about a psychedelic awakening.
- Pretend you’ve bought a one way ticket, alone, to the other side of the world – you’ve made no plans upon arrival. Write a song detailing what you do when you get there; how you feel, what your options are, what’s around etc.
- Write a song about the last day of your life.
- Drum out a rhythm on the nearest hard surface and write a song or rap over the top of it.
- Take one of your favourite songs and re-write all the lyrics to be about life alone on a deserted island.
- Whatever subject you studied last, try to write a song about the key facts or principles you learned.
- Write a song that says all the things you’ve never been brave enough to say to people.
- Set the timer for one hour and get to work writing the best possible song about how you’re feeling today. Aim to write the best possible song, but more importantly – make sure to finish the song, whatever it seems to sound like, within that one hour. Record your work if you can. When the time’s up, the song is done.
- Try to think of the saddest or most heartbreaking story or event you ever witnessed – write two different songs about it, one in a major key, one in a minor key.
- Write a song about cheese.
- Write a song about the difference between people aged 50+, and people aged under 35 right now.
- Imagine your country as being completely under the control of the government – every move we make is monitored and our good behavior used to stack up societal points – write a song from the perspective of you, the citizen.
- If we didn’t need or crave love in our lives, what would we do differently? Tell me in a song.
- Focus on your breathing for five full minutes – try to keep it even, a few seconds in, and a few seconds out. At the end of the five minutes, pick up your instrument of choice and start writing your song.
- Imagine going out to work and to do your daily tasks while completely drunk – like, blatantly, unmanageably drunk. Write a song about that day.
- Write a song as if you were just being born into this world, it’s your very first hour on Earth (for some reason you already speak fluent English).
- Try to remember a time you messed up in a big way. Write a song about how you might have done things differently, and how that would have impacted your life as it is now.
- Write a song about the next big revolution in the world.
Spend some time with a few different prompts – choose one and take it away for a while, work on melodies, chord progressions, rhyme schemes and hooks. Then narrow it down to the best bits and roll with it for three to four minutes – or however long you want the song to last…
- Write a song about life without language.
- Write a song about the struggles of fame and having everybody know who you are and want a photo with you, everywhere you go.
- Using either fiction or genuine experiences, write a song about using fitness or some epic athletic feat to overcome personal turmoil or difficulty.
- Write a song about the global shift to electric vehicles.
- The next time you’re about to watch something on YouTube, TV or Netflix, have a reminder by the device to instead sit down and spend the time writing a brand new song.
- Write a song about building a bizarre new business from scratch. Whatever comes to mind.
- Write a song using a specific scale for the melody – only work up from the start and back as if you were practicing the scale. This can also help sometimes when learning scales, make a little poem-song out of it.
- Write a metaphorical song about love and hate battling it out on the front line.
- Consider a bunch of societal timeline expectations that have affected you and write a song about these – eg. People expecting you to be married or own a house or have a certain type of job by a certain age.
- Write a song that makes you cry when you perform it.
“For me, songwriting is something I have to do ritually. I don’t just wait for inspiration; I try to write a little bit every day.” – Sean Lennon.
- Write a song that makes you laugh when you perform it.
- Write a song about a young person working their way up in politics right now – they still hold their values highly, they’re smart, educated, thoughtful and caring, but are about to enter the shark tank.
- Write a song about how much everybody loves themselves online.
- Print out a paragraph or two of text from your favourite book, then cut up the words individually and shuffle them around to make a new and mysterious song.
- Imagine a future where people choose robots as their life partners. Write a song about your partner. Include pros and cons.
- Take a piece of classical musical and write some lyrics to it – either using an existing melody or over the top.
- Write a song about someone you lost.
- Write a song about someone you’re afraid to lose.
- Write a song about what you’d do if you knew you would live for 500 years. (You’re the only one)
- Write a song about your life so far – the main events, the turning points, the direction you’re currently heading in. The hook should be the resolve – something emotionally hopeful regarding who you are or your future.
“For a songwriter, you don’t really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes. And you try to understand them and take them apart and see what they’re made of, and wonder if you can make one, too.” – Tom Waits.
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How are you getting on?
Got any songwriting prompts of your own that might help other artists? Let us know in the comments!