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. 

 

A rhyme like a pixel.

Every craft has a level of detail that will often go unnoticed except by other craftsmen. I can appreciate a painting but an artist will appreciate the brush strokes. I can appreciate the way a movie looks but a phototographer will appreciate the film grain. I can appreciate your great lyric but Pat Pattison will notice your additive rhyme creating stability in your chorus. 

Here are two lines. The first end with please. A long 'e' vowel sound ending with a 'z' sound lengthening the word. While the second line ends short with flee leaving only the long 'e' vowel sound. 

There was a time I was ready to please
Now is the time when I'm ready to flee

This is a subtractive rhyme. The long 'e' vowel sound gives the words there similarity but because the second line ends with less sound it leaves it a tiny bit unresolved. There is a tiny part of your brain that is trying to fill in the length of the two lines and wanting more to come of the song to fill that tiny space left by the missing 'z'. 

Here are the two lines again with the two last words reversed. 

There was a time I was ready to flee
Now is the time when I'm ready to please

Not only does reversing the words change the sentiment but the tiny change of adding the 'z' sound creates a resolution to the lines that was lacking in the first version. This is an additive rhyme. 

I compare this incredibly subtle tweak to a designer shifting a line by a single pixel. You may not notice that it happened but you'll appreciate the effect when the shift is in the right direction. 

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. 

Back to Why.

This site is called Songs Tucker Wrote. The original premise was that I was going to post a demo a week of all the songs I'd written over the last 20 years (Good or Bad) and tell a quick story of how the song came to be. At the time I started the blog it was going to take about two years.

Since then I stopped sharing demos and:

All of this was in support of Songs Tucker Wrote but none of it helped the Songs Tucker Is Writing (which is none by the way). Songs where why I started doing all this in the first place. 

It's time to get back to why. 

At the perfect time comes a songwriting course by Pat Pattison of Berklee College of Music ( I learned about it through the Songwriters Association of Canada (S.A.C))

Over the next 6 weeks I'm going to write about the course and my journey back to why.

Do you know what your why is? Let me know over on Facebook.