107 Song Prompts for When You’re Really Stuck

107 Song Prompts for When You’re Really Stuck

Songs prompts, oh, song prompts. If I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan. I’m not really into writing by numbers. I think spoon-feeding is great for babies but terrible for songwriters. And I think the most important thing a songwriter – well, anyone – can learn is to think for themself. That’s why most of the content on the site is about the big, fundamental ideas every songwriter should know about. (Including this article about how to come up with your own song ideas.) But, you know, sometimes songwriters get really stuck. Sometimes songwriters have no idea where to begin. Sometimes songwriters get so stuck they just sit curled up in a corner murmuring ‘HELP ME’ to their pot plants.     And if that’s you, I have some good news: I made you a big list of songs you can write. Specifically, 107 songs you can write. Do I hate myself for doing it? Of course. A little. But will it help you out if you’re really stuck? Of course. So we’re good.     If you’re new to the site I recommend you read my article on how songs tell stories, and how a song’s style, idea and hook work together before you do anything else. They’ll help you know what to do with the song prompts I’m about to give you. You can also download a nifty (and printable) version of the list here. Otherwise, have a browse. See which song prompts inspires you. Go write some songs, live your dream, change the world. And remember: these ideas aren’t gospel. You can use the song prompts as is....
There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be Creative

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be Creative

Sometimes it feels like the world is going crazy. The Nazis are back! A third of millennials will never own a home! Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water! And don’t even get me started on politics. But that’s only half the story. In fact and in facts, we live in the safest, most peaceful, most technologically advanced era in human history. We also live in the best period of human history – by far – to do something creative. Let’s talk about five reasons why.   It’s Never Been Easier to Make New Things In Mozart’s time, making music was just for rich people who either were the aristocracy or who were lucky enough to work for them. Well, sucks to be you Mozart, because these days you can get started entirely on your own and without spending a fortune. Seriously. You can pick up a decent instrument for less than $100. You can create an entry-level recording studio by plugging a decent mic into your laptop. You can make professional-sounding music in your bedroom, on the subway, on a plane, in the middle of nowhere. You have access to a huge library of sounds, beats and synths online, sometimes for free. You can shoot a great-looking music video on your phone. You can make all kinds of amazing things with the tools you probably already have and not much else. And that’s not even to mention the incredible and unprecedented freedom people alive today have. OK. I know it doesn’t feel like that when your alarm goes off at 7am Friday and you have to lug your sorry...
Five Reasons Why Being a Songwriter Sucks (And Five Why It’s Awesome)

Five Reasons Why Being a Songwriter Sucks (And Five Why It’s Awesome)

Sometimes being a songwriter sucks. Sometimes it’s awesome. Let me try to explain why.   — Five Reasons Why Being a Songwriter Sucks —   1. You never feel good enough You’re too close to the thing you’re working on. You’re the last person on earth who can judge it objectively. And because you made it, you know all the bits that weren’t as good as you hoped. And because you have high standards, there are plenty of them. Worst of all, you can’t just try ‘positive thinking’ your way out of this. Because you’re a great writer, you know the thing you make can always be better. There’s always one more rewrite you can do. There’s always one extra tweak you can make. Ad infinitum. That means at some point you have to call it a day and call the thing done, even if you’re not completely satisfied. That’s all you can do. That, and hope you do a bit better next time.   2. You spend way too much time on your own Most people spend most of their working day surrounded by co-workers (e.g. cubicle dweller), maybe even customers (e.g. ice cream man), maybe even masses of the general public (e.g. town crier). Most writers, on the other hand, don’t. Sure, there are co-writing sessions and meetings and rehearsals and days in the recording studio. But some days it’s just you. Just you and the blank page or screen. Just you and your lingering feeling that you don’t really know what you’re doing. Just you and your thoughts and your optimism that those thoughts might help...
Eight More Ways to Write Better Lyrics

Eight More Ways to Write Better Lyrics

In last week’s article I laid out five (well, eight) fundamentals that’ll help you write better lyrics in your next song. All of these principles were about the woods not the trees, because – controversial as this might sound on an internet listicle – most of the important principles of songwriting are about the woods not the trees. That is, yes, it’s generally a good idea not to split an infinitive where you can. But it’s an even better idea to write lyrics that are simple, conversational and specific, and show off a bit of your personality. The difference is, one of these skills takes about ten seconds to master (and give you an endorphin boost), and the other five might take you ten months (if you’re lucky). I know, I know. You came here for simple, instantly actionable advice that can change your life overnight. I know, I know. I should quit killing your vibe and just write ‘Ten INSTANT SHORTCUTS to writing a HIT SONG – RIGHT NOW!!!’ The trouble is, that’s not how this works. Anything worth having doesn’t happen overnight. So while I’d be fun to distract you with some simplistic dos and don’ts, that’s not really my style. Instead I’m going help you focus on developing a few key skills that are going to help you for the rest of your life as a songwriter. Cool, huh? That in mind, if you haven’t read last week’s article I recommend you do that before continuing. And if you have, nice work, and let’s keep going with a handful of more detailed principles – somewhere between...
Five (Well, Eight) Ways to Write Better Lyrics

Five (Well, Eight) Ways to Write Better Lyrics

If you’ve ever wondered how you can write better lyrics, I’ll give you the honest answer: practice more. Seriously. Lyric writing is pretty much the most difficult thing you can do with words. You have to say exactly the things you mean, using only a few words, all while making sure it rhymes, scans and works rhythmically the way you want it to. So before we look at five specific things you can think about to write better lyrics, here are the three big things you absolutely must be doing for any of those ideas to be useful to you.   How to Write Better Lyrics: Write. A lot. Like I said: practice. Then practice some more. Set aside ten, twenty, eighty minutes a day to sit down with a yellow pad or blank screen and get some words down. Start training your brain to think, live and breathe lyrics. Just like training in the gym or learning a new language, with writing lyrics you have to put in the hours if you want to make progress. And what should you write? Whatever you feel like. Honestly. It doesn’t matter. You might hate what you’ve written. (And if you don’t now, you will in a few years.) But that’s fine. That’s how it works. Keep practicing and you’ll be writing better lyrics in no time.     How to Write Better Lyrics: Listen to Different Lyrics. A Lot. Lyric writing, like all kinds of writing, is done with a heady mix of instinct and logic. The way you fine tune your instincts is to get to know a lot of...

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