How to find inspiration to write a great song

Today, we’re sharing some of our top tips for finding creative inspiration when you’re hoping to write a song. Say goodbye to writer’s block! With these suggestions, you’ll have creative ideas flowing in no time.

Female musician sitting on bed and playing melody on electronic musical instrument

Introduction

When you’re trying to write a song, it can be hard to know where to start.

You may have ideas floating around in your head, but how do you turn them into something worth listening to?

Even worse, what happens when writer’s block hits? You start a song with high hopes, but your inspiration quickly fades…

Luckily, there are many ways to get inspired when you’re trying to write a song. Today, we’ll cover some great ways to get to writing music, even if you have writer’s block.

How to Access Creative Inspiration

  1. Listen to music you love.
  2. Get your ideas out of your head.
  3. Remember that no idea is a bad idea.
  4. Let your imagination run wild.
  5. Talk your idea out with someone new.
  6. Schedule time for your next songwriting session.
  7. Make your favorite snack or a cup of coffee.
  8. Try a songwriting challenge.
  9. Take a day off and try again another time.
  10. Change up the scenery.
  11. Change up your writing routine.
  12. Listen to your favorite creators.
  13. Find a spot with no distractions.
  14. Spend time on a hobby you love.
  15. Jam with your friends.
  16. Find inspiration in other art forms.

1. Listen to music you love.

Listening to music you love is one of the best ways to find inspiration to write a great song. This could be any genre, style, or type of music — what matters is that it gets you thinking.

Listen carefully for anything that sounds interesting or exciting about certain parts of the track. Maybe there’s something to take away from how certain instruments are used or how the lyrics flow together just right. Can you decipher the chord progressions and melody?

Try analyzing what works about another song so that you can apply it to your own composition. Focus on the song’s structure, like its chord progressions and melodies.

If you need a little help, our database of over 30,000 songs may be able to point you in the right direction.

TheoryTab database over pastel gradient

Each page in the TheoryTab database contains information about a song’s:

  • chord progressions
  • melodies
  • key
  • tempo

…and more!

2. Get your ideas out of your head.

Another essential step to writing great music is simply getting your ideas down before they disappear.

Try setting a timer for 1 or 2 minutes and spending that dedicated time listening to your stream of consciousness while you write them down.

No matter how scattered or silly they may seem, this can be a truly transformative process for some creatives.

Our songwriting sketchpad, Hookpad, is perfect for this exercise. With keyboard shortcuts and MIDI controller compatibility, you can capture chord progressions and melodies that come to you in an instant.

There’s no need to break out an instrument or worry about sketching ideas in your DAW. Hookpad is great for quickly writing down ideas and iterating on them.

Hookpad songwriting software over pastel gradient

The key to this exercise is to focus on speed, not judging your ideas as they come to you.

Remember: you can always go back and make sense of your ideas (and build on them) at another time.

The very act of organizing your ideas might get even more creative inspiration flowing. Just like using a mind map, one good idea can lead to dozens of others.

3. Remember that no idea is a bad idea.

Sometimes when you’re writing a song, you try all kinds of ideas, but nothing seems to work. It can be frustrating to plunk out chords and melodies, listen back to them, and want to start all over again.

Keep in mind that it’s totally fine if something doesn’t sound right at first. That’s how we keep learning and growing as artists.

A sure sign of sophisticated taste is knowing what you like and dislike. So if something doesn’t sound right, just keep writing.

While the process of writing and re-writing can feel draining, you should embrace it for what it is… a process!

You know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Why hold yourself to unrealistic expectations about what you need to accomplish in one songwriting session?

Trust that having songwriting sessions where you don’t create anything tangible doesn’t mean you haven’t made progress. Every time you start writing, you further develop yourself as an artist.

Progress in the form of newly crafted chord progressions and melodies will come, we promise!

4. Let your imagination run wild.

When it comes to writing, fear is a common enemy. It’s easy to be afraid of trying something new and failing.

As humans, we’re programmed in many ways to stray away from the unknown. But isn’t it silly to stop yourself from trying new musical ideas?

You aren’t expected to have a fully finished piece in one sitting. Why not follow your creative ideas and see where they lead you?

If you’re struggling with finding inspiration for a song, let your imagination wander.

Don’t limit yourself based on what has worked in the past. Instead, create something truly unique and exciting for you.

Open your DAW, grab your instrument, or start adding chords and melodies in Hookpad.

Rather than focusing on where you want your work to go, embrace the joy of exploring and learning as your imagination leads you. You may just create something new and unexpected along the way!

5. Talk your idea out with someone new.

Sometimes it helps to bounce ideas off of someone new.

Writing music can be a very solitary experience, and while it’s often therapeutic to sit on your own and write, there’s lots of potential waiting for you if you’re willing to let someone else in on the process.

Of course, you can talk to a fellow musician. Glean some of their expertise or get a new perspective by cluing them in on what you’re hoping to accomplish.

And while not anyone can compose music from scratch, almost everyone can appreciate and talk about it. You may find that talking to someone with no experience in music can be equally helpful.

Sometimes picking up the phone and talking with your best friend or a family member about your process can lead to new and interesting ideas. A shift in perspective can go a long way.

6. Schedule time for your next songwriting session.

Male songwriter sitting by a window composing music in a notebook

Setting out to write a song can be daunting if there aren’t controls in place to make the process a bit more predictable. Rather than sitting aimlessly for hours on end, try scheduling time for a songwriting session.

You can set aside a couple of hours at whatever frequency you prefer and use those times solely for brainstorming and writing.

For some people, this may look like two sessions that are three hours long every week. Others may find daily 30-minute sessions are key to getting the ball rolling.

Once you find the schedule that works best for you, your productivity will soar.

With scheduled sessions, you can control distractions and focus on channeling your creative flow. This is a helpful practice for those who are looking for discipline and consistency.

Best of all, no matter how productive (or “unproductive”) you are in a single session, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that another opportunity for creativity is right around the corner.

7. Make your favorite snack or a cup of coffee.

Making time to make something you love — a cup of coffee or your favorite snack — can put you in the right frame of mind for creative work.

Just as we turn to comfort foods and drinks when we’re sick, familiar treats and the rituals we do to prepare them can provide us with the boost we need to push through our work.

It’s nice to look forward to having your favorite treat while you write. Plus, stretching your legs and getting a quick change of scenery before writing can help clear your mind, which will make it easier to focus on the task at hand.

Even small adjustments like this can make a big difference when your goal is to write great music.

8. Try a songwriting challenge.

A great way to start writing instantly is to utilize songwriting challenges.

There are lots of challenges online that are geared toward writers in general, and many that are specifically for composers, lyricists, and producers. Either category can work, depending on what interests you.

There are many benefits to songwriting challenges when you’re in a rut:

  • You’ll be working within a set of rules. When you’re working without any restrictions at all, getting started can feel overwhelming. Embracing constraints is a great way to get creative and think of entirely new ideas.
  • You’ll have a new perspective. A songwriting challenge doesn’t necessarily mean you’re working one-on-one with another songwriter, but you do get to think about songwriting through another artist’s lens, based on the challenges they create. This may help you think about your own writing in new ways.
  • They provide a sense of accomplishment. Even when you don’t finish an entire song in one sitting, the sense of accomplishment from checking off each item on your list helps motivate you to keep improving as a songwriter.
  • They’re fun! Songwriting challenges can help you think in new ways and expand your creative boundaries.

To get you started, here are some songwriting challenges you can try out:

  • Write a song that uses only three chords
  • Write a song in the style of a famous artist you admire (use the TheoryTab database to study how they structure songs)
  • Use our chord chart (showcasing the most popular chords in the key of C major) to write a song where the chord progression moves clockwise or counter-clockwise along the chart.

Check out a recent songwriting challenge we hosted with some of our favorite creators.

9. Take a day off and try again another time.

If you’re feeling like you’re not getting anywhere with your creative process, take a break. You may feel like it’s counterintuitive at first, but taking time away from the creative process can do wonders for your writing.

It is important to accept that your energy level and productivity will ebb and flow as you move through the creative process.

No rule says you have to complete a project in one sitting. You can stop whenever it makes sense for you and pick up where you left off later.

If you still haven’t come up with anything by then, try again another time!

The key is to keep going until inspiration strikes, and when it does, don’t give up on those ideas immediately. Instead, commit yourself fully to making them into something great.

10. Change up the scenery.

A change of scenery can help put your mind at ease in many ways.

For one thing, it forces you to shift your perspective.

When you’re home, so many things are vying for your attention — family, housework, and the laundry that’s piling up. But when you go somewhere else, the chance to relax and unplug from those things gives your brain space to develop new ideas.

You can even plan out a trip explicitly for this purpose — whether it’s an extended vacation or just an afternoon getaway to your favorite coffee shop, changing up your routine will allow you to explore and discover new things around you.

Having the right tools for your trip is important, too. Bring a notebook, a voice recorder, or your laptop with your favorite songwriting software loaded up.

Better yet, try out Hookpad, which is accessible on your phone, tablet, and computer.

In a recent interview, Emerald Pham shared how she wrote an entire musical using Hookpad to compose songs on the go with her iPad.

11. Change up your writing routine.

It’s easy to fall into a routine with your writing, so try making a conscious effort to change things up.

If you always open your DAW to get started, try a pen and paper first.

If your go-to is a guitar or piano, consider starting with Hookpad and adding chords and melodies into the software first.

Or, load in a chord progression from an artist you admire using our TheoryTab database, and build from there.

Sometimes, when we’re laser-focused on how ideas have come to us in the past, we forget that trying something new can produce new and exciting results.

Too often, we all fall into patterns that keep us from being creative. It pays to think outside the box!

12. Listen to your favorite creators.

Another great way to get inspired is by listening to content made by your favorite creators.

If you don’t have any favorite YouTube channels or podcasts in your industry, spend some time discovering interesting people to listen to and learn from.

You can learn a lot by listening to other artists’ insights. Plus, as you listen, you can:

  • Go on a walk with headphones on
  • Take notes to come back to later
  • Dial in on the parts that interest you most

Listening to your favorite content creators is likely to spark inspiration. Plus, with suggested videos and channels full of content, you can easily spend an entire day consuming relevant content that may get your wheels turning.

13. Find a spot with no distractions.

Female songwriter plays acoustic guitar and listens to a song from her smartphone while writing a song

When the time comes to write, you need to find a place where you can be focused and comfortable.

Finding a space you can use all to yourself is probably ideal, but even if you’re working in a shared space, you can still ensure that your space has minimal distractions.

Here are some tips for minimizing distractions:

  • Turn your phone off. Text messages and phone calls can wait! Plus, if your writing session is scheduled out, you can let people know ahead of time that you won’t be available for a while.
  • If you’re using your computer, close any applications that may distract you. Nothing cuts into creativity quite like an email or messaging app chiming away.
  • Wear headphones. This is especially helpful if you’re trying out ideas on your laptop or jotting down lyrics in a public space like a coffee shop. Even if you’re not actually listening to anything, it’s a simple way to cut down on auditory distractions and keep you focused on the task at hand.

14. Spend time on a hobby you love.

Inspiration can be elusive and frustrating to find, but sometimes the best ideas come when you aren’t actively searching for them. If you’re experiencing writer’s block, try shifting your focus to another activity you enjoy.

Think about what inspires you: is it around other people or when you’re more solitary? How can you find yourself doing activities that revolve around the ways you’re inspired?

If you find inspiration around other people, consider:

  • Joining a hiking group
  • Taking classes like ceramics, baking, or yoga
  • Volunteering with others
  • Spending extra time with friends or family

If your best ideas come when you’re alone, try:

  • Taking up a solo hobby like running
  • Reading a great book
  • Trying a new creative hobby endeavor like photography or painting

The key here is not to force ideas but to trust that they will come to you when you’re doing things that bring you joy.

15. Jam with your friends.

Another great way to get inspired is to have a jam session with friends. You don’t have to be talking explicitly about the piece you’re writing — just being around creative people can get the ideas flowing.

Sometimes, a few hours or days after spending time with other musicians, new ideas will naturally come to you without any effort on your part at all.

We like to think of this as “inspiration through association” — that is, having an idea from being around other people who are also actively creating.

Think about it: tons of artists benefit from collaborative songwriting sessions. Creative synergy is a very effective way to produce great work.

Even if you aren’t writing a song with others, taking time out of your day to jam with friends can be what it takes to generate new ideas.

16. Find inspiration in other art forms.

Don’t limit yourself to finding inspiration only through the lens of music. Try seeking inspiration from other art forms altogether.

Head to a local museum and look at sculptures, paintings, and photographs. Spend time at a community library looking through books. Turn on your favorite TV show or a new movie you’ve been eyeing.

The great thing about art and creative expression is that great ideas can appear everywhere. A certain painting, dialogue from a TV show, or some combination of the art you’re admiring may conjure up new ideas.

Conclusion

Accessing inspiration doesn’t always come automatically, and learning to find that inspiration on a whim is a skill that artists spend their entire careers honing.

As long as there’s some spark of creativity behind what we do, the rest will follow in time with practice and patience.