Preparing to be a dad in four easy steps.

This post has nothing to do with any of my songs or songwriting but it's my response to a question from a songwriter I know. (Know is a pretty loose term, I met him once when he was facilitating a songwriting course and we've tweeted a couple times. Hardly the kind of relationship where you seek each other out when the apocalypse happens). 

His question was this:

It's too big a question for twitter so here it goes:

1) Your time is no longer yours - Any time your wife and kid are around is for being a family. You'll need to find/schedule your own time to do what you need to recharge. It may seem unfair to the new mother but you need to be a whole person to be able to fully give to your family. 

2) Your wife needs her time too - At some point she will desperately need time away from the baby but may feel like a bad mother for wanting time for herself. Just like you need to find your time to recharge into a full person, she will need it doubly bad. Take the baby for a drive or just send your wife to the bath (better yet a nap) even an hour will do wonders. 

3) You are secondary to the whole experience for the first year minimum - You are the B-Team. You are the support staff. You are the guy who gets the baby from the bassinet at three in the morning so your wife can stay up and feed them. You are the guy who gets the last wet wipes from the car during a blizzard then thaws them apart because they froze into a singe block. (Buy the big cases of wipes from Costco it may look like a lot of wipes but trust me you'll be back again and again and again).

4) You probably won't love your baby right away - This is a hard one to explain but I think it's the most important. A baby is a person. A baby is a person you just met. You had to learn to love your wife and other friendships of yours have grown over time. Babies are people thrown into your life and as such you need to develop your relationship with them. There will be emotion don't get me wrong, there will be lots of emotion. You'll feel compelled to protect them and your heart will swell when they grab your finger but you may wonder where the Love is. You won't feel empty you'll just feel like something isn't quite there. Then one day it will arrive when you aren't looking. It will be so overwhelming you'll wonder how you could love something so much. You'll know that you couldn't possibly love them more than you do in that moment. Then the next day it will happen again. Everyday after that you will love them even more.

Everyday after that they will make you laugh with them, cry for them and yell at them. (Remember points 1 & 2 and the yelling part will be easier to control)

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.

The Persian flaw.

My last post was about letting go of perfection. This post is a bit of a continuation of that theme. 

There is a tradition among craftsmen to purposefully put mistakes into their work. A stutter in a pattern. A double stitch among single stitches. An upside down tile among hundreds. This tradition is called the Persian Flaw. The story goes that Persian weavers, being very devout, believed that only God could create something perfect. They would then show respect by purposely introducing these little errors. 

You could look at this like they were apologizing for their talents and limiting themselves. I prefer to look at it like they were admitting that it’s better to be done than to be perfect. The fact that they were finished was more important than having the item be perfect.

I’m sure people still marveled at the craftsmanship. People still purchased, shared and cherished the items. 

Don’t let your pursuit for perfection create a barrier to completing something. It’s better to be done than perfect. And in my experience people are often more impressed with the fact that you did something than they are with the thing you did.

Have you ever put 'Done' on a project you felt wasn't perfect? Or do you still have incomplete projects waiting to be 'Perfect'? Let me know in the comments on Facebook

Sometimes good enough is good enough

Often I would keep projects on the back burner because I was waiting to get more skilled. Or I would keep projects in a state of incompletedness because I thought if I worked on it 'just a bit more' I would make something perfect. 

I could have started and the fact that I did it would have improved my skill. I could have moved on to a new and better project if I had just called 'done'1 on something knowing it wasn't going to be perfect. 

Sometimes good enough is good enough. 

Does that mean I give a good effort and put it out there? No of course not. You give it your all and make it the best it can be with the talent and resources you have at the time. 

You don't kill your movie script because you can't contact Speilberg. You find your friends and rent some lights and make the best movie you can with the talent and resourses you have at the time. 

You don't abandon your novel because Random House hasn't answered your letters enquiring about submission requirements. You just write the damn thing and put it out as a Kindle book. 

You don't keep your stuff from people because it 'needs more polish' you just show everyone who'll look and take all the feedback you can get. 

You don't drop your dream because you're not good enough. You get good enough by just keeping at it. 

You don't not ship because it's not perfect. Because ... sometimes good enough is good enough. 

 What do you think? Do you agree or am I full of it? Let me know at Facebook.com/SongsTuckerWrote

1 Calling 'done' on something means either shipping it or scrapping it. It doesn't mean keeping it in a drawer to revisit every few weeks for a couple years. Ship it or Scrap it. 

What's in the Box?

I read an interesting blog post by Seth Godin. He's a best selling author of many many books and has been writing a blog on marketing, business and life for about 10 years. This particular post was called What's In The Box? It's premise is that if you spend all your time worrying about what's going to happen ... then nothing is going to happen. And you've just worried yourself the whole time and still didn't get anywhere. You may as well have just gone ahead and done something and saw what happened. (here's a quote because he says it better than I do)

"...All the wishing and planning and imagining isn't going to change what's already in the box. The act of opening it doesn't deserve anxiety because the contents of the box were determined a long time ago."

That's not to say that life is predetermined and you get what you get no matter what. It also doesn't mean that you don't have to plan anything. It just means that worrying about an outcome isn't worth the time. Planning yourself into paralysis isn't worthwhile either. Just do something and see what happens. Then adjust from there.

Feel the uneasyness but move forward toward done.

I've written similarly about this previously If you want to do something. You have to do something. And Sometimes good enough is good enough. (Hmmm, after looking for the link, it seems I haven't actually written about the second one. You can look for that blog post in the next couple weeks.)

Basically what I'm saying is I've been too busy planning and worrying lately with not enough time spent actually doing.

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. 

Reversing My Rathers

I’ve noticed that when given a choice I’ll say “I’d rather” and then choose the thing I’m more comfortable with. It feels positive to me because I’m not saying ‘no’ to anything I’m saying ‘yes’ to something.

What I’ve come to realize is that I’m cheating myself because I’m rarely choosing the thing that will let me grow. I’ve also come to realize that failure is growth and by always choosing the path I know the best I’m reducing my chances of learning.

My next step is to reverse my rathers. Instead of “I’d rather do what I’ve done to get what I’ve got” I'm moving towards “I’d rather do what I haven’t done to get something new.”

Do you have a phrase similar to “I’d rather”? Is there a comfortable saying you use to keep you from pushing yourself that extra little bit? Let me know in the comments or email me, I’d love to hear how you could reverse your rathers.

I sing other peoples' songs sometimes too.

I feel like I've been sharing a lot of semi-motivational stuff lately so I thought I would just share music this week.

Me and a friend of mine, Stu, did some covers and we shared them on Youtube. On my Facebook page I did a vote where I asked what song I should cover and the winner was One Headlight by The Wallflowers. It's an interesting song because it feels like he wrote it as a poem first then wrote music to it after. There are fair amount of extra words that I, as a songwriter, would have chopped mercilessly.

 

Next up is Norwegian Wood by The Beatles. While we were doing One Headlight we decided to just do this one for fun. I always liked this song because the guy burns all the girls furniture after she leads him on for the evening. 

 

Well, that's it for this week. I hope you enjoy the songs. If you have a song you'd like Stu and I to cover let me know via twitter, facebook or in the comments below. 

Sometimes it's not what you get in the end. It's what you do to get there.

"Daddy. Can we play cutting and glueing?"My daughter loves cutting and glueing. Sometimes she makes things. A snowman, her mom or a princess. But sometimes she just cuts and glues. She'll spend half an hour just cutting chunks of foam and paper into different shapes "Look! I made a triangle!" Then she dunks the shapes into a dish of glue and sticks it to some paper. That's all she'll do and when she's done she has something.

What she winds up with isn't always a picture of anything and it'll most likely get tossed in a week or so. But what she got in that half an hour will be with her for ever. Every time she uses scissors she holds them better and cuts straighter. Every time she tries to glue something uses a more appropriate amount. Every time we play cutting and glueing she gets better at it. 

As I've mentioned in a previous article, the secret to getting good at something is to do it then do it again. The secret to doing things again and again is to find something you love to do. 

The big lesson I learned from my daughter is that, as you do your thing again and again, sometimes you don't even have to wind up with anything you'd ever want to show people. You may even wind up with something you want to throw away immediately. But what you have to realize is that is absolutely okay. In fact it's better than okay it should be expected, especially whe you are first staring out.

Sometimes, it's not what you get in the end. It's what you did to get there that is important. 

Tucker, I told you there was nothing to be afraid of.

Last week I told you about how I had finished my newsletter but was scared to send it out because Fear Is Scary. Writing the post about being scared gave me the little push I needed to send it out. So with a trembling finger poised over the 'deliver' button I let go and sent it. You can read it if you'd like and if you enjoy it you can subscribe on the right.  

You know what happened? No one called me a loser. No one laughed at me. In fact much to my surprise two people responded and both used the word 'inspiring'. Me. Inspiring. How good does that make you feel? Pretty darn good. 

But you know what was most interesting? They weren't so much inspired by the content. They were inspired by the fact that I had done something. The fact that I finished something made them want to make something of their own. 

So, let me know in the comments: What are you scared to do?

Because, if you do that scary something ... someone may just thank you for it.

tucker, fear is scary.

A couple nights ago I finished my first email newsletter. It's complete with a story of me, a story of a comment on a video and something to inspire you. I have the list of emails it's to be sent to and one person I talked to is already excited to read it.

Why haven't I sent it yet? Fear ... and fear is scary. What if people don't like what I have to say? What if the HTML breaks and people think it's ugly. What if, what if, what if.

I'm proud of it and I have some good ideas for upcoming newsletters. People get a free song download when they sign up and I'm excited to hear the stories people share back.

One of the quotes I shared in my Youtube Video a few weeks ago is "Real Artists Ship" - Steve Jobs. It's great to have an idea. It's awesome to work on something. It's fantastic when it completed. When it's shared it's your art. When it's on your work bench or hard drive it's a project. When it's in the hands and minds of others affecting them in some way it's art. 

That's some strong talk for a simple newsletter but basically if I don't ship it's just another half done thing on my list of half done things. I just need to man up and pull the trigger. 

If you'd like to read my newsletter when I send it1 you can sign up on the right. After you read it feel free to reply and let me know what you thought and what you might be interested in talking about in a future issue.

1 I sent the newsletter on the same night as I wrote this post just so I'd stop worrying about it. You can read it here 

Tucker, if you finish something you can start something new.

You know what's scary? Yeah that. Right ... that too. OK wait, let's start again. 

You know what I found scary a couple weeks ago? I was sitting in my basement with my friend Stu so we could record a cover of One Headlight by The Wallflowers. Why was it scary? I have no clue. I've spontaniously got up with my guitar and sang my songs in front of tens of people. I used to host my own open stage where I would learn a cover song for each one. Why was it so scary to sit in my own basement with a friend and sing a cover song? I answered that already ... I don't know. 

What I do know is that I was so nervous I almost called Stu and cancelled. I'm so glad I didn't 'cause now that it's done I'm free to move on to something new. I don't have the spectre of the unfinished hanging over me. It's hard to start something new when you are carrying around all your 'almosts' and your 'pretty soons'. 

Because that is behind me, this week I was free to start a new project. I'm calling it the Songwriter's Commentary Edition of my Born To The World EP. It started out like a commentary on a DVD but it's changed into something cooler and I think you're going to like it. I've finished the first track and I'm really happy with it so I should have them ready to share soon. 

Until then here is the thing I finished that let me move on to this next thing. 

Tucker, once you've learned it you have to do it.

I spent the last nine weeks learning about how to leverage a social media presence in PR and Marketing. The previous year was filled with books by Seth Godin and Chris Anderson and Derek Sivers and many others.

I've learned about how to build an audience, keep an audience, engage an audience. I've learned about multiple possible income streams for songwriters and artists. I've put together a framework of how my different social profiles and website work together. I've, quite successfully, experimented with Facebook ads. I have a lengthy list of ideas of how to share my music. I have people willing to help me and a small amount of success behind me that motivates me to keep going. I, once again, see ideas I've had in the past being done by others.

I feel a bit like I've graduated and I've put all the time and effort into lab work and theory that I can. It's time to put it all into action. Because, while it's vitally important to keep learning in life but it is equally important to get shit done.

Here's to getting it done. Wish me luck, I could use the encouragement.