The passion for your poison

Everything in the world has it's nerds even songwriting. If you don't belive me keep reading because I'm about to talk songwriting theory. Some of which is very accurate and some that will spark debate with other songwriter nerds. 

Further down you hear a song I wrote a song with a Stable Verse created by stacking two unstable sections. The unstable sections have a rhyme scheme of AAB AAB. Here is an example of what I mean.

A - Mellow
A - Fellow
B - Hi

A - Jell-o
A - Cello
B - Bye 

The balance comes from the rhyme of Hi and Bye. 

The Chorus is unstable because the rhyme scheme is AAXX. It just kind of ends with a cliff hanger because there is no resolution in the rhyme. In the below example we just end with a horse and a cat. Your brain seeks stability and resolution so will want you to continue to a nice resolution somewhere else in the song. 

A - Hello
A - Fellow
X - Horse
X - Cat 

Warning: Deep Nerdistry ahead

In this song I used both Perfect and Family rhyme along with similar line lengths to create a sense of stability in the verse. While the chorus on the otherhand is all different line lengths using assonance and consonance rhyme to create it's instability. 

Verse

Where did my mind go? 
Where did my time go?
I think you took them with you.
Why did my life go? 
Why did my wife go?
I think I'll blame that on you.

Chorus

The passion for your poison lives deep within me
It's nothing that I want
But everything that I need
I wish you were something I could quit
But I can't.

And so concludes me nerding out over songwriting. If you disagree with anything I wrote feel free to do it in the comments. 

 

Turning Instability into Stability

It's always darkest before the dawn.

Things'll get worse before they get better. 

You have to break eggs to make an omelette. 

I don't know if the last cliche belongs in the list but it seems to say the same thing. No matter how bad things are now ... they may well get worse before they get better. As pessimistic as these can sound they all say something better is waiting in the end. 

You have to go through the rough stuff so you can appreciate when the good comes 'round again. 

Same goes for songs. If a song has all it's lines the same length and rhythm there is nothing to tell you when the verse changes into the chorus. This is a pretty simplified explanation of what songwriting coach Pat Pattison calls Stable and Unstable.

Unstable keeps the song going, keeps the listener leaning forward expecting a little something more. Stability is the resolution that makes the listener sit back in their chair and exhale. (Then hopefully press restart on your song :)

One of the ways to build stability and unstability is with line length. In this example I've created a verse with 5 lines and the last line is half the length. Keeping it unresolved so the listener feels like they need to keep listening until the resolution comes. 

No need for tomorrow

Today is all you need

Yesterday is a lesson

One you feel not one you read

live and learn

Then in the chorus we use an even number of lines with the lines the same length. 

Once you learn what your life is for, go live it 

Once you live what your life is for, go love it

Once you love what your life is for, believe it

Because all we can do is live, love and learn

 

It's this last line that brings the resolution and lets the listener relax. Ready to take on the rest of the song and enjoy the story you are telling. 

When the parts in your life seem a little rough or unresolved you need to go find what rhymes with you. Find your balance so you can lean back in your chair for a bit, exhale and get ready for the next bit of instability.

Here is a rough recording of the above song so you can here the instability lead it's way into a nice resolution (at least that's my hope).

 

I don't like coming here 'cause I don't like leaving.

Pat Pattison's Three Boxes for Songwriting. I have a five part philosophy that I've been developing over the last couple years. One of the parts is 'The Story Is Bigger Than The Song.' It basically means that I can write the best song in the world and play it for someone but it's highly unlikely that they will connect with the song on the very first listen. It's the story around the song that people connect to. The summer they spent houseboating listening to the same album 1000 times. That one song that defines a relationship. The song that defines a single night. But the song is only a part of those stories. For the listener The Story Is Bigger Than The Song. 

For a song to really resonate with a listener's story the song itself needs a strong story. This is where Pat Pattison's three boxes technique comes into play. The three boxes basically represent the three acts of the song. The first box describes the idea. The second box builds on the idea. The third box adds a new level of meaning and wraps up the first two boxes in a tidy package. It allows you to think of the story of the song without needing to worry about rhymes or line length right away.

I had a lyric lying around that was said by one of my daughter's friends as they were getting ready to go home after a play date. "I don't like coming here 'cause I don't like leaving". What she was saying was "I have so much fun here I'd almost rather not come over for a visit because it's so sad when I leave".

 

Here is the outline I did using Pat Pattison's 3 Boxes. 

Box one

I love the great times we have here dancing with just you and me but I don't like coming here 'cause I don't like leaving.

(Describes the fun similar to how my daughter's friend felt. There was so much fun to be had she didn't want to leave.)

Box two

It's so great here at this family gathering. Our kids and friends all around it's a wonderful time but I don't like coming here 'cause I don't like leaving.

(Builds on that idea from box one because now there is fun with family and kids. The story has expanded from just the two of them.)

Box three

The time we spent toghether, just you and I with our family, were the happiest of my life and there is nothing I like better than sitting here remembering them with you. But now all I can do is leave the flowers at your headstone I don't like coming here 'cause I don't like leaving.

(Ties in the previous two boxes by showing the full time they spent together but brings in the double meaning of leaving where the singer doesn't like leaving the gravesite but also doesn't like that their spouse has done the leaving as well.)

It's a little sad I know but it's not nearly as sad as draft one where box two was time they spent together in the hospice where the spouse was dying. I felt this current version of box two gave the third act a bit more impact.

There is no song yet. There is no lyrics yet. But now that you know how the story goes I'm hoping you're intrigued enough to hear the song when it gets written.

Then when you do hear the song you can share it with your friends and tell them about how you read this article before the song was completed. And now you are completely intertwined with the song because the Story Is Bigger Than The Song. 

Demanding a bit more respect from myself.

I had an idea for a t-shirt based on my song "Why They Call It A Crush". I had an idea for a technique to hand make t-shirts. Tired of always having only ideas I decided to actually make the t-shirts. But instead of waiting for me to do it myself I put a message in my newsletter saying I would "video myself making a shirt and sing a song of your choosing" and people actually took me up on the offer. Now I have to make shirts. 

A similar thing happened while making my Zany Zoo book. I asked the artist if she would like to do the illustrations she jumped at the chance and was done the entire book in a couple weeks. Then I thought "Well, I guess now I have to make a book."

I knew if I just waiting for myself to make the t-shirts I would never get around to it. But now having people waiting means I have to get off my butt and make them. So, I'm going to stop writing this now and head back to creating the stencil for the shirts. If you'd be interested in a shirt email me and I'll send you the details. 

Hmmm ... It's easier to let myself down than to disspapoint others. I may need to work on that and demand a bit more respect from myself. 

You can listen to Why They Call It A Crush and let me know in the comments if you think the shirt matches the the song.

Girl All Alone - the song project that took 15 years.

I've previously written about Girl All Alone but that was three years ago when I only one reader1.

The song is about a girl who keeps all her dreams in a jar so I thought it would be cool to have a group of artists create Dream Jars. I didn't exactly know what that would mean but I think they turned out fantastic. Once all the jars were done I booked a studio and my dad and I did our best impression of studio photographers to get all the shots. I'd love to hear what you think if you'd like to leave a comment at my Facebook page.

It's been a long journey to get to this point. I wrote the song in the mid '90s. I've performed many times over the years at shows. I did a blog post 3 years ago with the simple demo. I recorded it for my Born To The World EP in 2010. I did the jar project in 2012. Next I'm going to create a book using the jars. You can keep up with the progress of this, and other, projects by signing up for my monthly newsletter on the right -->

Even though it's taken 15 years to get this song and its story to this point I'm glad I've completed this. Small steps lead to big things. Just because it may take a while dosen't mean it's not worth doing. In fact, the fact that it'll require time may just mean it's the worthwhile thing to do. 

Some of the artits said they'd like to do another jar so I think I'll do another series of Dream Jars. If you're interested in joining us get in touch and I'll let you know the details when it happens.

1 I've easily doubled that by now and I love every single both of you. 

Tucker, why are you singing so high?

I sing pretty high sometimes but it is usually limited to falsetto versions of I'm Every Woman while driving.

I wrote a song called Almost In Love, it's a slow kinda song about someone who is just about to fall madly for someone but feel a little hesitant because they've been hurt in the past. I wrote it in the car a capella and sang it free of instruments for a few weeks. When it came time to figure out some chords I must have been singing it a bit higher than I normally do 'cause now I went to the studio and found it hard to sing my own song. It's not overly high just a bit close to the top of my range. Aaron seems pretty confident I can do it and says it sounds fine so... practice, practice, practice until my next studio session so I can nail it. 

I figure if I do something that kinda scares me then there is less around that I need to be afraid of. Wish me luck that my fear doesn't overwhelm me and leave me in a weeping heap shrieking "I'm every woman, It's all in meeeeeeeeee." 

Here is some of my work tape recording from when I was writing the song:

Never Apologize (for being in love)


See The Silent Cartoon Here

 

It's funny how time changes our memory of an experience. The cartoon and the song tell the same story from 2002: I went to a party, I met a cool girl, we had a great time and then she shot me down. 

The difference is that I wrote the song a few days after the party and the cartoon was made this week. The song definitely has a sweeter sentiment of the whole experience, it makes me seem a little more... understanding I guess. The cartoon on the other hand shows me a little more pissed off.  

Either way you tell the story I'm a schmuck. 

 

Girl All Alone

When I wrote this song I didn't know what it was about and it took me a while to put a meaning to it. Imagine you have a dream (I want to be a dancer, I want to go to the moon...) and a friend says to you "You can't do that". Owwww right in the dream jar. The lights go out for a while. The Technicolor prism effect of the sunshine through your dreams fades substantially.

Basically you are the master of your dreams. You must keep your dreams close to you and let them shine and colour your existence.

A jar is no place for a dream. 

 


I don't have a video for this song so I repurposed a thank-you card I created for my Grandmother when she gave me, and my wife, her china set (pictured).


Born To The World

I once had a girlfriend who was talking to a friend while at work. This friend was telling stories of all of his travels around Europe and all the fun he had in pubs and bumming around in hostels and such. She phoned me feeling kinda down because she'd never done any traveling and was feeling a little jealous. I can't remember if this song made her feel better. I wonder if she ever got to go to Stonehenge.  

I wrote this song from the perspective of someone who prefers the solidity of their roots and security of their home. Personally, I'm the homestead kinda guy. I've enjoyed the limited traveling I've done but there is something about the feeling of coming in the front door of your own place after a time away that really just puts me at ease.

Funny how sometimes you have to miss something to appreciate it. 

The video is a Big Breakfast performance I did back in 2002 to promote the open stage I hosted.

The Water Song

I was a member of a Calgary songwriters group where we'd each bring what we'd written in the last month and give each other support and feedback. It was fun even if you didn't have songs to bring. At the end of each meeting a topic was suggested by the group and the goal was to write something based on that topic. I didn't write a topic song for quite a while until water was suggested.

The interesting thing about this is when I first wrote the song it was something silly about a guy in a lifeboat. There was a bit about how he'd been in the sun too long and his skin was peeling off as it stuck to the gunnels. That didn't quite work for me so I did my first rewrite.

I was amazed at how I could take a song I wrote and turn it into something new with only a few lyric changes and omissions. The chords and melody didn't change and really, when I just took out the verse with the lifeboat, the bridge just fell into place. The changes took the song from a Black Comedy into a Technicolor shanty about feeling adrift in one's own life. I've never been scared to rework a song since.

The video is a Big Breakfast performance I did back in 2002 to promote the open stage I hosted.