A Tension

January 19th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized

I love our language. So much of it makes so much sense to me. It’s like the writing is on the wall. Look at it from the perspective of a writer. Here is an example-

She’s sitting in a room reading a romance novel whilst Tom Waites quietly plays in the background.

So far this simple line of prose doesn’t lead to much, but if we simply add the line-

…and then, HE walks in, and sets his suitcase down.

Now the story starts to develop and might get our attention. Music works much in the same way. There is not much tension when you have just one note. However, when you introduce a cluster of notes it creates tension. In many ways music is built on the ability to create and resolve tension.

So how do you get somebodies attention? By creating a tension.

One of the best formulas that works really well for songwriting is Bait, Hook and Release.

I remember being a kid and hanging out at one of my best friends, Richard Garza’s house. His brother John had just bought Ozzie Osbourne’s debut album “Blizzard of Oz.” When he dropped that needle on that vinyl for the first time and I heard the song “Crazy Train” it completely got my attention. I still get goosebumps when I think about it.

You see, it was great bait. A good riff demands your attention. You still hear “Crazy Train” played at sporting events all the time. I have even heard rappers sample it. Why would a rapper sample something? The answer is easy, they are using a proven attention getting snippet from a previous time in music.

When you have a great riff and use it to get someones attention, then it is time to hook them. We hook people by being authentic and real and telling our story. To me this is what the verse does in a song. Randy Rhoads was a brilliant guitar player and he cleverly had the verse section of “Crazy Train” modulate to A Major from the opening riff which is in f# minor.

The chorus is like the release and everyone can join in and sing along. Great songs adhere to this formula quite well whether it be “Crazy Train” or “We Will Rock You.”

The reason that I think it is so important to realize the power of tension is because you can use it to create lasting change in your own life. It is about having the courage to be real and authentic and put your stuff out there. What you create might stir the waters, might be a little controversial, might even make some folks mad, but that is how you know you are doing something. Playing it safe is boring. No balls- no babies.

I was talking to one of my friends the other day about the old caveat “Fortune favors the bold.” There is a little catch to that. Fortune favors the bold and SMART plan that is wisely executed. Just being bold is no guarantee of success.

So allow yourself to say what is on your mind and be real and you will create more tension in your life which will lead to more attention. To your projects, the book your writing, the song you create. We are attracted to that which is real.

Here is a great example from a guy I like a lot named Robert Cialdini. It goes something like this-

Robert is a master of influence and from time to time would infiltrate different organizations and study how they utilized influence. He got a job in retail working at a department store. This was in the days that VCR’s were a big deal and they were having a sale on VCR’s and they had a gigantic stack of them out on the showroom floor with a big sign that said “SALE” and the darn things just weren’t moving.

So Robert asked his manager if he could try out an idea he had to get the VCR’S to fly off the shelves. His manager told him “Sure man, knock yourself out.” So here is what Robert did. He took all the VCR’s into the back warehouse and left only one VCR out there by itself next to the “SALE” sign. Whenever somebody asked about the last VCR Robert would say- “Oh that’s the last one, and I am holding that for somebody who said they would be back in 10 minutes. That was 10 minutes ago, so if they are not here in 5 minutes I can sell it to you, according to my managers wishes.” This worked all day and he sold all the VCR’s.

You see how brilliant this is. Sure he created a little white lie to do it, but by utilizing scarcity and sprinkling on the added drama of the last VCR already being spoken for, he definitely created tension, and that definitely got the customers attention.

Here is another short but fun example. I used to work at this guitar store teaching lessons when I was a kid and the owner was a brilliant salesman. From time to time there would be some obscure guitar that would be hanging on the wall for over a year and no one ever played it, touched it or asked anything about it. We had a few semi-celebrities and the like come through the door and the owner would get one of these hot shots to sign the guitar. This was usually a guitar that was worth around $300. He then built a special singular display case with a glass enclosure and a bright light shining upwards onto the guitar.

Immediately after he did this everyone would start asking about the guitar. When he put the guitar in the shiny case he always doubled the price, sometimes even tripling it. The customer would then ask how he got the autograph and the owner would tell a story about the celebrity coming in and playing the guitar and within a few days it was sold.

This is a very classic sales phenomena that has stood the test of time. Some of the great early jewelers used to call this romancing the stone. You see, they knew that people don’t buy things, they buy feelings. People don’t buy the stone, they buy the story behind the stone.

So remember you are your attention.

All the best,

Eric

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