14 Songwriting Prompts To Get You Started

songwriting prompts
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songwriting prompts
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Photo credit: Noah Buscher

If you’re feeling stuck as a songwriter, this post is for you. Actually, let me rephrase that: when you feel stuck as a songwriter, revisit this post. Below you’ll find 14 songwriting prompts that will get you unstuck and writing again.

There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block

First, let’s talk about “writer’s block.”

It doesn’t exist. It’s an excuse.

When someone says they have writer’s block, what’s really happening is that they’re editing themselves during the writing process.

They’re trying to write a great song every time they write a song. But that just isn’t going to happen. You will write bad songs before you find the good ones.

“When you flip a dirty tap on, it’s going to flow sh*t water out for a substantial amount of time,” says Ed Sheeran. “And then clean water’s going to start flowing.”

Okay, now let’s look at the songwriting prompts…

Rewrite Another Songwriter’s Song

This is one of my favorite songwriting prompts. When I do this, I end up with a song I really like 9/10 times.

Pull inspiration from the chord progression. Write their lyrics the way you would say them. Try to make your song sound like another songwriter’s song – it won’t end up sounding like that songwriter, it will sound like you.

Do Stream-Of-Consciousness Writing

Get a pen and paper, your laptop, or your phone. Then start writing or typing whatever comes into your brain. Don’t edit yourself, even if the words coming out are gibberish. Just don’t let your hands stop moving for, say, 5 minutes.

When you’re done, look through what you wrote, pull out words and/or phrases that are interesting, and go from there.

Make the Music First

Once you have the chords for every part of the song, sing it until you come up with the melody and lyrics. You could even start producing the instrumental before writing the melody and lyrics.

Start With a Poem

Don’t even touch your instrument. Just write a poem. Give the words a rhythm, or don’t. When you’re done, see if you can turn that poem into a song.

Write a Song in a Day

Limiting yourself can really push you to make decisions. And the inability to make decisions is at the root of “writer’s block” and never releasing music.

Just write a song today. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to fully make sense. But get something out in a day. This practice will help you write your good songs faster.

Start With Random MIDI Notes

Pull up your DAW and create a new MIDI track. Then draw a bunch of MIDI notes with no particular pattern or key. Play it back and see if there’s an interesting melody in there.

Brainstorm 5 Song Titles

Great songs often have interesting song titles. And many songwriters start their songs with the title. So brainstorm 5 song titles right now and jot them down. Do this every day and you’ll eventually find a song title that’s worth turning into a song.

Tell a True Story in Front of the Mirror

Humans are story-driven creatures. That’s why story songs resonate with so many people.

So stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself a true story. Then turn that story into a song.

Use an Instrument You Don’t Play

Sometimes knowing too much can get in the way of writing a song. When you start writing a song on an instrument you don’t play, you end up stumbling upon a cool melody or chord that you wouldn’t have if you were familiar with it.

Write a Letter To Someone

Whether you like the person or hate them, write them a letter (don’t send it). Turn that into a song.

Think of a Sad Story

This could be a story from your life, someone else’s life, or even a movie. But get into it, really feel it. From that emotional state, write a song about that story.

Limit Your Melody to 5 Notes

Limits can lead to creativity. So, see what happens when you limit your melody to just five notes.

Look At Your Last Text Conversation

Turn that conversation into a song.

Today Is Your Last Day On Earth

What would you say? Who would you miss? What would you regret? What does your life look like?