Breaking Songwriter’s Block!

You’re driving along the highway and it hits you! An epic song title and an idea definitely worth developing. You repeat the idea over and over to yourself as you drive so you don’t forget it. Once home, You rush to your laptop and jot down those golden words! Yup! This song is going to be a hit.

Thirty minutes later, you stare at laptop screen and still all you have written is the song title. Maybe you need a little breather. You get up, stretch and head out outside for a little bit. Some time basking in nature’s ambience should do the trick and get your creative juices flowing.

It’s now half an hour later,and you are back at that computer screen, ready to create your lyrical masterpiece. You jot down a few words… Umm nah.. That doesn’t work. So you hit the delete button. You type some more, only to delete it again. This goes on for another half hour. For some reason you just can’t seem to find a way to develop that awesome song title and capture the essence of your idea. To say your frustration is building is an understatement! How do you work around this mental block?

Ideas written on a crumpled piece of paper next to a note pad

Robin Frederick’s “The 30-Minute Songwriter” offers songwriting tips and techniques which may help you break through that dreaded songwriter’s block.

Expanding the title’ is one technique presented by Frederick. In his book, Frederick notes that “in a song lyric, the title is often part of a longer phrase, which turns up at important places in a song, often the first or last line of the chorus.” Frederick therefore recommends that songwriters spend a 30-minute session expanding the title of their songs into a full statement or question.

Frederick provides examples using the song title “Break the Chain.” In his expansion of the title he wrote the following:
“I need to break this chain”
“I don’t know how to break this chain.”
And “Are you gonna break this chain”

Frederick points out that each expansion suggests a different song. So with this exercise, one is able to brainstorm various angles and possible storylines from just one song title. The thing to do now is to select the expanded title which most resonates with you!

Once a title line has been selected, Frederick believes it is important to spend some time ‘getting to know that title line.’ This is accomplished, he says, by taking the time to come up with questions about the title line which you would like answered in your song or questions which you think your listeners might have.

Examples of questions provided by Frederick are:
“What does the title line mean?”
“How do you feel about it?”
“Why is it important to you?”
“What do you want to tell other people about it?”
“what happened that made you feel this way?”

As a more practical example, let us work with one of the expanded title lines provided by Frederick: “I need to break this chain,” and think of any questions which this title line brings to mind.

Ok we’ve come up with a few:
• What does the chain signify?
• What went wrong to make us want to break this chain?
• Why haven’t we broken the chain before?
• Is there something making it difficult to break this chain?

Can you think of any more questions which listeners or you would want answered based on the title line?

The next step of getting to know the title line is to then answer the questions. Frederick says answers should be written in short phrases, no more than nine or ten words long.

Another activity which Frederick recommends, rather than simply getting to know the title line, is “Creating a Lyric Path.” Fredrick explains that “a lyric path leads the listener from section to sections using universal statements that underlie many song lyrics.”

Frederick offers that in song verses, the lyric path approach can be used by finishing one or more of the following statements:

• “I am…”
• “You are…”
• “We are…”
• “I feel like this business…”
• “I/you don’t understand…”
• “I never expected…”
We tried using two of those lyric paths with the “I need to break the chain” lyric title from earlier and came up with

“I am tired of feeling this way”
“I never expected to become so caught up on you”

Meanwhile, Fredrick in his ‘The 30-Minute Songwriter” says that in devising a lyric path for the chorus one should include the song title and one or more of the following universal lyric path ideas:
• “I just need to tell you…”
• “All I really want is…”
• “The reason I’m saying this is…”
• “These feelings are like…”
• “My emotions feel like…”

Here are few lines we came up with for the chorus based on the “I need to break the chain” title line

“My emotions feel like a train wreck”
“All I really want is to be wrapped up in your arms
“But you don’t see me at all
“So I need to break this chain that binds me to you
“I need to break this chain”

So next time you find yourself struggling to break through songwriter’s block consider using these 30-minute songwriting exercises devised by Frederick. Meanwhile for more 30-minute exercises and further guidance purchase a copy of Frederick’s “The 30-Minute Songwriter,” which is currently available on Amazon Kindle at an average price of US$5.00
Frederick, R. (2014). “The 30-Minute Songwriter: Write, Develop, Polish and Pitch Your Songs in 30 Minutes a Day”

Photo retrieved from:

The Songwriting Cycle: Getting Stuck…and Unstuck

—Post written by Christine “Chrycee” Charlemagne