If the spirit moves ya, here’s the tip jar. 🙏💙
Hey folks –
A quick Happy Birthday shoutout to my sister Ingrid. She and I are 16 months apart. That didn’t sound strange to me until I had my own kids. Then one night a few years back at the dinner table, my father confirmed that, yes I was in fact “unplanned.”
On that note, here’s what’s in this week’s (very planned) newsletter:
- Beginning Guitar: A Hack for Building Calluses
- Patron Perks: Livestream Replay
- On Songwriting: What to Put In and Leave Out of Your Song
All right, let’s get to it!
1 of 3
A Hack for Building Calluses
My sister-in-law started playing guitar recently. She made me remember that one of the biggest struggles people have when learning to play guitar is building up calluses on their fingertips. It can be painful. All you want to do is hold a G chord for longer than a second, but your soft fingertips are burning.
Here’s a little hack. I still do this when it’s been a while since I played guitar, and my fingers are a bit out of shape.
STEP 1: Tune the guitar down one whole step from E to D. I use this app. Instead of EADGBE, the notes will be DGCFAD. Why? It loosens the strings and allows you to press them down more easily.
STEP 2: Practice the guitar for 5-20 minutes/day for two weeks.
STEP 3: As your calluses build up, you can tighten the strings back to standard tuning.
BONUS: How long are your fingernails? Cut your fingernails on your chord-forming hand short. There should be at least 1/16th to an 1/8th of an inch of skin protruding. For reference, this is how short mine are.
2 of 3
That was fun. Thanks to all of you who made it. It was great to see your faces though I didn’t get to see all of them because I’m a noob with complicated technology like “view all.” But we should do this again and it will be bigger and better!
If you missed it, I put the replay on our Secret Songs page with the usual password.
Here’s the program 🙂
Not a patron, but want access to the livestream replay? Sign up here.
3 of 3
What to Put In and Leave Out of Your Song
A well-crafted song is like a dad joke. Take this one I heard recently.
Where do generals keep their armies?
In their sleevies.
I laughed the first time I heard that joke. And that was the point. To surprise me. To make me laugh, or at least be amused.
But let’s pretend the writer of the joke decided it should go like this:
Where do American, four-star generals, who are over the age of 57 and have a good sense of humor—where do they, especially during wartimes, keep their armies?
In their sleevies.
Huh? The joke doesn’t work, does it.
Instead of priming the listener for the punch line, it has them way off thinking about other things. The only information they need to hear is information that leads them to the punch line.
Like jokes, songs can only be about one thing. Not a punch line, per se, but a surprise. A controlling idea or theme; a new way of looking at the world. All the information should point to that in some relevant way. If it doesn’t, the song becomes diluted.
This is most difficult when you’ve come up with lines you’re proud of, but then realize in the context of the entire song they don’t work. A mature songwriter will get rid of them. A less-mature one will hang on to them.
This happens to me a lot. I get so zoomed in on a line or two that I forget people won’t be experiencing the song under a microscope. So I have to constantly zoom in and out of my lyrics to get perspective. I play it down from the top. I take a break. I grab my yo-yo.
Ever heard the writing advice “kill your darlings”? Apply it. Nix those lines. Unnecessary information—no matter how good you think it is—is superfluous, just like all the extra info about the generals.
Ok, that’s it for this week. Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the above. Hit reply and it goes straight to me.
P.S. You might be interested: