If you’ve struggled to find new topics for songs you want to write, I can totally relate. It’s frustrating sitting there in front of a blank piece of paper with an equally blank mind trying to figure out where to begin.
Song ideas come from a variety of sources. Knowing where to look can get you started sooner than later. Use these 8 songwriting tips to help write your next song.
1 Listen To Everyday Conversations
As you go about your day, start to key in on conversations that you are either participating in, or ones you overhear. No, I’m not advocating eavesdropping! However, if you’re in the check out line and you hear the couple in front of you talking to each other and they are not trying to keep it private, listen to the lines they speak.
A subject might come up that you can write about. Perhaps a clever phrase is spoken that you think would make a great title or line. Or one that you can rearrange the words to that would make it work.
2 Listen to the radio
The DJs and advertisements you hear might spark an idea. Focus on the songs they are playing. Not just to the words, but the rhythm as well. I’ve had words come to me just by being in the groove of the song and it had nothing to do with the actual lyrics of the song. It’s kind of a free association type thing where you just let your imagination roam along with the feel of the song.
Sometimes you might not hear exactly what was said and end up with a unique song idea. For example, the other night while watching television I heard what sounded to me like, “Why Can’t Toys Breathe”. I’m sure that’s not what was said, but it struck me as unique and I wrote it down.
When that happens, start brainstorming ideas. One angle could be from the perspective of an inquisitive young child. Or you could employ personification and have it be about an actual toy wondering why it can’t breathe. See what I’m talking about? You’re not limited just to what you actually hear.
3 Read Everything You Can
Just as with listening, reading can sprout some song ideas too. Read as much as you can, from a variety of sources. Look at advertisements and their headlines. Marketers get paid good money to come up with lines that sell. Feel free to take one of those lines and run with it. The fact is, titles are not copywrite protected.
Check out magazine covers, especially those tabloids that are on the rack next to the checkout lines. They can display some wild headlines. Read through song lyrics of other songwriters for inspiration. Don’t copy any of those lines, but try and put a different twist on ones that might get your creative juices flowing.
If you’re of a certain religion, read through your book of faith for inspiration. These are some ways, through reading, that can help you out. If you aren’t much into reading, you should make an effort to be, in my humble opinion. Reading will help expand your vocabulary which will give you more options when coming up with lyrics. I am working on that myself.
4 Use a Random Word Generator
There are several of these online. Find one that allows you to choose the number of words that get displayed. I like to use at least 5 words. I look through the words and pick one at a time and see if it can be used with another for a nice song title. I just went to one online and here are the words that were generated: Frantic, Voice, Hope, Fire, Stolen. Next, I’d start looking at the combinations for possibilities…
Voice of Hope
Voice of Fire
Fire of Hope
And on and on. You might think of a word that wasn’t on the list to add to and improve the title. You may even think of something else not even related to those words such as something that happened to you in the past that one of these words reminds you of. There are random sentence generators as well. The possibilities are there.
Try opening up a book and just pointing somewhere on the page. What is the word that you are pointing at? Can that work itself into a song idea? Try reading some lines backward. You never know when a combination of words in reverse order will result in something useful.
5 Think of the Past
You’ve heard the expression, “there’s nothing new under the son”. Every human being deals with the same struggle, pain, joy, happiness, love, heartbreak, you name it. Some to more of a degree than others. Tap into yours and find a way to channel it through words and melody.
There are millions of people out there who’ve gone through the same experiences and emotions that you have. If you can craft your song in a way that has them wondering how you knew exactly what they are going through you’re on to something. Taylor Swift has done this masterfully with her songs. Your message is there. You as the songwriter have to communicate it effectively.
6 Listen to Children
Kids are a great source to utilize for song ideas. Young children are often unfiltered in what they say. They’ll just blurt it out. You never know what will come out of their mouths. They’ll often put together a sentence that isn’t grammatically correct (as do many adults) but will contain nuggets of ideas in them. If you have kids, or little brothers or sisters, or neighbor kids near you, and who doesn’t really, you have a valuable resource. Talk to them. Ask them questions about what they think of certain things. Then listen to their response and take notes!
7 Clear the Mind
Think of nothing at all. Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Sometimes the distractions of our environment can get to be too much. It’s like the walls are closing in. That’s when you need to find a quiet spot. One where you can be alone. Then just sit there and try to clear your mind. Then set up a kind of mental mailbox where you can receive messages. I imagine a light gray circle on a white background. I can’t remember where I got this idea, but it was a tip I read that is supposed to help someone fall asleep. It works well for that. For song ideas, I will sometimes just picture that circle in my mind and wait for words to appear in that circle. Most of the time I usually fall asleep! However, when I do get some words or phrases, I follow the next advice found in tip #7.
8 Write Everything Down
Now that you have read through six tips for getting song ideas, the eigth tip is to write everything down! Unused song lyrics are a potential gold mine. Even if you think that the fragments of ideas are of no value, write them down anyway.
Get a paper journal and a pen and write it down in your own handwriting. I know it’s more convenient to just type a note down on your phone or computer, but seeing things in your own handwriting makes it more personal.
When you end up writing that hit song, which do you think is going to be more valuable… the public seeing how it was first written down in computer-generated characters, or the author’s own handwriting? At the very least your children and grandchildren will someday treasure that piece of family memorabilia!
Be sure to keep that pen and paper near your bed too. There will be nights where a song idea will wake you up. I can almost guarantee that if you just go back to sleep without writing it down or recording it on your phone you will not remember it in the morning. I’ve personally had this happen. It’s not a pleasant experience.
Apply at least one of the previous 8 tips daily!
There you have it. These are my 8 tips for generating creative song ideas.
Don’t limit yourself when considering ideas. Maybe most won’t work, but eventually one will. I can tell you this, it gets easier to come up with ideas the more you put forth the effort. The key is to train yourself to be more aware of your surroundings and what could be used to make a great song.
One final point. Sometimes song ideas seemingly come from out of nowhere. They either float down like a soft snowflake and if we are paying attention we feel it land, or they drop like a brick on our head. Either way, say thank you, and go write about it.