Here are 14 of the best lyric writing prompts to inspire your piano students to dive into songwriting with confidence. These are perfect to use when a student can’t find inspiration for their songwriting project.
⬆️ Listen to the podcast above or keep on reading, whichever fits your style. ↙️
When your piano students are stumped by lyric writing, it can be hard to help them find inspiration.
Writing lyrics is a very personal process. Your students might not yet have the skills to tap into their own personal wells of inspiration, or the self belief to be able to share them.
Having guidelines or structure might seem like it would hem your students in – but it can actually help to free them. Guide rails give us the confidence to start creating because they reduce the fear of the “wrong” answer.
Lyric Writing Prompts
With that in mind, here are 14 different to get your students’ songwriting juices flowing. These lyric writing prompts have enough variety to keep your studio putting pencil to paper for years to come!
Lyric Writing Prompt 1: Set an Assignment to Spend Time in Nature
Sometimes students just need some quiet time for ideas to come to them. Put an assignment in their notebook, folder or practice app to go outside and spend 5 minutes looking at some trees and thinking.
Yeah, some students may roll their eyes at you. But if they try it inspiration may arrive.
Lyric Writing Prompt 2: Write About What You Know
Encourage students to reflect and write about an experience in their life. This could be a big thing that happened this year or a small thing that happened this week. Songs don’t have to tackle the meaning of life to be effective!
Lyric Writing Prompt 3: Word Bomb
Get a blank page and call it an ‘opportunity paper’. Write a word on the page, and see what other words your student can spin off from that one.
Can they link any words to make an idea? Could this make a phrase?
Lyric Writing Prompt 4: Create a ‘Lyric Snake’ Between Students
This is especially great for buddy or group lessons, but could even work between individual students if you pass it along lesson-by-lesson.
Start with a word or phrase and pass it between students, each adding their own lyric ideas until it becomes a complete set of lyrics. Many kids will already be familiar with this idea from doing story-telling games in school.
Lyric Writing Prompt 5: Set a Timer
Set a timer and encourage your student to write down as many words as they can in that time. When the time is up, this will become their palette of words, and they can only use these words to write their song. (They can add pronouns and verbs to make full sentences, of course!)
Lyric Writing Prompt 6: Get Silly
Write lyrics with each word or line using the next letter of the alphabet.
Lyric Writing Prompt 7: Write About an Upcoming Holiday
Something you find exciting is a great starting point for lyrics. And who isn’t excited about upcoming holidays or vacations?!
Lyric Writing Prompt 8: Start With the Melody
Songs don’t have to start with the lyrics. Have your student improvise until they find a nugget of melody they like and then riff on words to go with that motif.
If the melody goes down, what words could express that? If it has a unique rhythm, what words match that pattern?
Lyric Writing Prompt 9: Rhythmic Inspiration
Sometimes a rhythm can make you think of certain words. Have your students create a rhythm and think about which words would fit well.
Lyric Writing Prompt 10: Have Your Students Draw a Picture
Have your student draw a picture as a starting point. Then ask questions to help them decide how that picture would sound on the piano, or what lyrics they could use to match the sound or image.
Lyric Writing Prompt 11: Start With a Title
Sometimes just having a title can be the hardest part. Once your piano student comes up with a clever title, the rest of the lyrics often just fall into place.
If your student is struggling to find a title, try giving them a list of 10 potentials and having them pick one. They can always change it later, but it will get the ball rolling.
Lyric Writing Prompt 12: What is the character of the piece?
Have your student think about what kind of piece they want to write, and work backwards to the kind of lyrics which would match. What words would they use to describe fast pieces, slow pieces, staccato sounds and different dynamics? What would be the lyrics to express that?
Lyric Writing Prompt 13: Write Lyrics to Easy Piano Songs
Get out a beginner piano method and open up to a piece without words. Brainstorm some lyric ideas to fit the music. You can then take away the music, tweak the lyrics and create your own new song from there.
Lyric Writing Prompt 14: Steal an Opener
Pick out a book and have your student open to a random page and point with their eyes closed. Take this sentence or fragment and have them continue the lyrics from there.
Now you have the lyrics…not sure how to proceed to the rest of the composing process? The latest-and-greatest resources about composing are on my Creativity hub page.
Tips & Tricks for Writing Lyrics
Some important things to bear in mind before starting these exercises:
Not everything has to rhyme. Students often fall into the trap of thinking their lyrics have to sound like a poem or rap, but in many cases, the music can be the glue which sticks them together later.
If your student gets stuck here, have them look up the lyrics to some of their favourite songs, so they can see how those look without the music.
Something Is Better Than Nothing
We can push ourselves through writer’s block if we give ourselves permission to write garbage.
Whenever I’m stuck writing an article (like this one right here…how meta!) I just make myself write something – anything – knowing that I can always edit or redo it later. Words are always better than a blank page, even when the words aren’t very good yet.
Get Every Piano Student Writing Lyrics
Right from the beginning lessons, include lyric writing as another paint in their creative toolbox. It’s a fun way to personalise your time spent learning, and students love the special songs you create together.
Benefits of Writing Lyrics
Writing lyrics is a great way to experience music and can be a useful tool for your piano teaching studio and beyond.
Bridging the Gap Between Lyrics and Music
“Music” is an abstract idea for many students. Lyrics can help students bridge the link between musical expression and storytelling to make their performances more captivating and artistic.
Adding lyrics to music can help with internalising rhythms. Creating their own lyrics will force them to really get to grips with time signatures, note values and patterns.
When students have to think about the thoughts and feelings of characters, they learn to understand another’s experience. This is one of the many beautiful gifts which learning and creating music can give us.
Which of these lyric writing ideas are you going to try out with your piano students?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below. 🙂