Critique As A Discussion
Critique is much more than an opinion. It is supposed to be a discussion. A joint exploration of why a song (or any other creative) works and why it doesn’t work. This can reveal or clarify to writers, artists or producers why they do something in a particular way, and that explanation can also make it click for the critiquer. Both can discover new things. New techniques. New reasoning and understanding.
Benefits To Giving Critique
Normally, when you look at your own songs, you don’t look at them from a neutral perspective. You will have formed an attachment to the song, to individual phrases or lines, to the melody, to the chords. When you look at your own song you are more likely to go easy on yourself, to pull your punches. These attachments color your opinions, and your willingness to change anything in the song, making it very hard to move forward. You develop your skills within a very biased environment. We grow attached to, and invested in, our own works much more readily than we do with the works of others. We lose our ability to be objective. Some creators are more prone to this than others.
When you are involved in critiquing someone else’s song, it is liberating. It’s not your song, so there is none of the “precious” feeling that you could get with your own work. We are less emotional, more brutal, in how we appraise the work, and in the changes we are prepared to make to the lyrics or music. We are exposed to different ideas, different methods, different reasoning. You get to fully exercise your skills without the attachment to the work you get when it is your own songs.
You stand to learn more from the experience of offering critique than the person whose work you are critiquing.
Important Things To Consider
The fact is, if you want to raise the quality of your own songs, critiquing the work of others is the biggest single thing you can do to improve your own work.
A few points about GIVING critique:
- The main benefit of giving a quality, thoughtful critique… is to YOU
- Critique is a massively important tool. It exercises all your skills, with every critique you take part in.
- Offering critique informs both the writer AND the critiquer
- Critique trains your ear, your eye and your mind
- Be constructive. That doesn’t mean positive, or negative comments. it’s about the PURPOSE. Don’t just point out faults. Dn’t just say “I like it” I don’t like it” Say what works, what doesn’t, why they work or don’t, and offer and discuss suggestions for IMPROVEMENT.
- Offering Critique is for Experts and Beginners.
You can see how this helps to formalize your understanding. Each phase of the process exercises YOUR abilities.
For example, your ability to:
- Spot what works, and understand why it works
- Spot what doesn’t work, and understand why it doesn’t work
- Use your creativity and knowledge to find good solutions to any issues
Tips For Giving Song Critique
Be A Part Of The Conversation
Don’t hold back from offering a critique on songs, not in your normal genre(s). In fact, choosing songs that are out of your comfort zone is more of a stretch. The chances are that a lot of what you know will translate. It is also a fantastic way to learn. You get to understand other ways of working, other writing approaches, the rules and limits of new genres, even other languages and modes of expression, etc. That is invaluable when it comes to adding something of true value to your songwriting toolkit.
If you want to leave a comment but you are not sure what sort of feedback they want… ask the author. Perhaps leave a general impression comment, if suitable, but ask them if they would want some more detailed analysis and discussion. Be willing to explore.
Try not to highlight potential issues without also offering a way to resolve those issues. You are not a God giving your devotee absolute truth. While you may offer opinions, reasoning, and perspective, it is not your song. You get to walk away. There is no need to force your opinion on the author. Instead, explore why they feel so rigid, even defensive or hostile. In the end, understanding will be reached. Helping a creator to see they are being influenced, biased, is a precious gift.
Likewise, don’t be precious with your own opinions and ideas. It is not your song, so be open-minded. Explore.
Critique can be fun and enjoyable. Especially with open-minded creators and friendly, constructive critiques. You can learn a lot about songwriting, arrangement, recording, and production. Not only that, you can learn a lot about yourself as a songwriter, arranger, mixer, and producer. You can learn a lot about the nature of creativity, your own strengths, weaknesses, and prejudices.
More than anything, critique will help you to improve.
Join the Discussion
We also have a critique board that is only visible to members. Thus may be particularly useful for songwriters who are restricted by a record contract or publishing contract.