Finding Subject Matter for Songwriting

Subject MatterAs you probably already know, a majority of songs that people write tend to be about time-tested, universal subjects:

Falling in love

Falling out of love

Being betrayed or cheated

Being very happy or very sad

Hard times/good times

Dancing, drinking


You’ll also find that certain genres of music tend to favor one or two subjects over another. For example, folk songs are often about politics. Country songs are often about hard times and lost love.

Do you have to write about these subjects? Of course not! But if you want to write a hit song that has universal appeal, then you need to choose a subject fairly close to one of these subjects.

It’s not that you can’t write about the bizarre or unusual, but if you do so, you’ve got to recognize the following:

1. If all of your songs are “odd” or narrowly specific, you’ll need to position yourself as an artist similar to Weird Al Yankovich or They Might Be Giants.

2. You also have the option of connecting unusual topics to universal themes.

In the second case, let’s say you feel inspired to write a song about a little, yellow bicycle. On its own, the subject is not very interesting. But what if you connected it to your thoughts on love or freedom?

For example:

Should’ve seen you coming from the start
with your little, yellow bike,
popping wheelies on my heart
Little, yellow bike of love…

Yes, it is ridiculous 😉 But do you see the point being made here? It is possible to turn almost anything into a metaphor. The absolute best advice any one can give you, though, is to write from the heart and write what you know. As a means of expression, songwriting is all about sharing your personal experience of life.

Make the effort to avoid using the same images and ideas that you’ve heard before in other peoples’ songs. Dig deep to find your unique spin on things. A good way to approach this is to keep a tape recorder or journal handy to record your thoughts. You do not have to write your thoughts in lyric form for this. In fact, I recommend that you avoid trying to write lyrically when you are in the preparation stage.

Just let your feelings and thoughts flow exactly as they are. Inevitably, you will find some real gems that can be used as lyrics and get inspiration for songwriting.

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