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Forums » Lounge » Effective Criticism

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I found this on the streets of Northampton today...




Smile Sad
Latest Song: Dandelion (edit)
Artist Page Send Message Aug 15, 2008 | 12:31 pm
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zallaz wrote:
I found this on the streets of Northampton today...


Smile Sad


On the street you found this image of a pavement with a graphic sign that say's everyone's got an opinion what's yours worth? LOL
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Artist Page Send Message Aug 15, 2008 | 5:28 pm
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Yep, that's about how it happened, slow day. Smile
Latest Song: Dandelion (edit)
Artist Page Send Message Aug 15, 2008 | 6:03 pm
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Well let's get back on topic shall we?Wink
Latest Song: Lippedy Spit Collab
Artist Page Send Message Aug 18, 2008 | 11:20 pm
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(Reposting my comment from the blog by request. I didn't realize it was in the forums. Oops!)

Thanks for posting this, I appreciate it.

Where we disagree is regarding what you call the "PR sandwich" formula. In my experience this doesn't work really well; putting "good" bookends on the "bad" most often leads the hearer to the conclusion that the "bad" really isn't all that bad.

If you have something that you'd like to help someone improve on, the really tricky thing is to say it in such a way that it's respectful, honest, and encouraging at the same time. In my opinion, you should do this immediately after any brief (but neutral/pleasant) preface that may be necessary to introduce yourself. Get the "bad" out of the way first, and do it in a way that says "i really am interested to find out what you do with this."

After this, of course, it's appropriate to write any specific, honest, positive feedback that you have. i have no problem with ending on a positive note, and indeed i encourage it. After any sort of criticism, some people really do need something to perk themselves up a bit, and most appreciate it even if they don't need it. It's just a downright decent thing to do.

One other random observation: i strive to do what you've said here, each and every time i comment on a song. My particular way of listening carefully is typically to listen to a song with full attention at least 5 times (usually closer to 10) before i even start to put together a comment on it. Of course the problem with my method is that it take time -- a lot of time -- and you can see how many comments i've done lately as a result.

And you know, sometimes what i might say really doesn't add anything to what's been said, in which case I'll post something like "i agree with X on (these points)" or "i really enjoyed this, thanks."

Again, thanks. This is really one of the best-written blog/forum entries I've seen on iC.
Latest Song: Theme #13
Artist Page Send Message Sep 12, 2008 | 10:55 am
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Let me run this by you.
I was just thinking about this again after catching up on the recent posts.
Perhaps the way to recognize those seeking constructive criticism and reduce the chance of offending the sensitive should start with the artist posting.
Ok... wait , let me try and say this right.
Don't we all kind of know... I mean.. ok heres an example.
Shadow has a kool way of letting me know that he hears what he knows I must also hear is wrong with a song I post. Sometimes it's along the lines of ... strong on bravado, weak on song.... my words, not his ok... but I get the jist. I hear the mistake or know something is wrong.
But he shouldn't even be having to say or hint at something that I should say when I post. That is if I sincerely want advisement.
I am gonna edit my recent upload L L to illustrate what I mean. Otherwise if the original artist hears nothing wrong why would anyone else presume to do so. And how does that benefit the commentor anyways?
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Artist Page Send Message Sep 12, 2008 | 7:44 pm
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I was just reading this thread, and this quote caught my eye"Otherwise if the original artist hears nothing wrong why would anyone else presume to do so. And how does that benefit the commentor anyways?"....Just speaking for myself, I know I have a tough time bridging what I "hear" in my head (what I envisioned for the song) and what I actually "hear" with my ears (the actual results of what I've done so far) Not sure if that makes any sense at this juncture of the evening, but I do find other artists constructive advice helping me break down the differences for more objective listening on my part. Any and all critiques are always appreciated!!
Artist Page Send Message Sep 12, 2008 | 8:40 pm
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Ya, I see what you mean Deuce. But how well does saying "any and all critiques are always welcome" service the artist unless you have first stated at length what it is you are trying to achieve.
If as you mention, an artist has difficulty bridging the original vision with what you actually hear than you are asking others to presume as well as advise.
Is the constructive criticism more useful when it helps you get where you wanna go or when it is offered based upon where others think you should be?
What I am suggesting is that acknowledging the weaknesses first might provide a better starting point.
Just thinking out loud.
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Artist Page Send Message Sep 12, 2008 | 9:10 pm
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I try to follow Eido's method with opening the door to criticism with writing about what's good and then going into the criticisms. But nothing's formulaic...
Latest Song: Lippedy Spit Collab
Artist Page Send Message Sep 12, 2008 | 9:17 pm
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Hi Jd,

That certainly sounds like good advice.
But let me ask you something. This whole thing about first saying what is good and then going into criticisms... doesn't that position lead back to what I and others have previously mentioned about "not being qualified to criticize"?
Isn't an artist who convey's their awareness of a projects shorcomings in a better position to receive and make use of constructive criticism?
Does doing so better afford the opportunity to advance communication beyond the superficial?
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Artist Page Send Message Sep 12, 2008 | 10:29 pm
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For me, it's not so much thinking that any one is or isn't "qualified". Shoot, what's that mean anyway?! Isn't it all about personal likes and dislikes? We all like things to be one way or the other. Lots of bass (heh! jd Wink), thumping hip hop, bright pop, dark rock, dreamy ambient, big orchestral, funky jazz, minimal avant garde, or wall-of-sound metal, just for examples. We all like what we like. And in liking what we like we usually listen to a lot of it. We each have our own levels of experience in listening.

Now, granted there are technical informations that folks experienced in such can explain more accurately in their critiques. Though, I don't think that limits anyone else from saying there is too much reverb on the lead vocal or that the kick would get my heart gong better if it had heavier ramps in the low EQs. After all, whatever anyone says is just an opinion. A personal reaction. Personal taste. Even for the technical minded.

I think if we all listened to the same tune, we would be impressed or unimpressed with differing things about that tune. Our reactions would be our own, unique. Not better than the other's. Not even right or wrong. Just reactions.

When I'm poking around iComp listening to tunes, usually I pass on the ones that aren't interesting to me. That's not to say the tune isn't good or to say anything other than it's just not my thing. I just don't have enough time in the day to listen to everything. When a tune grabs my attention, I listen and leave some words to show that I was there. And then sometimes I may also say if some aspect(s) of the tune would sound better to me done a different way. That's only saying sounds better to me. Only my opinion. Not right or wrong. Just an impression that I'm willing to share.

There are times when I come across an artist whom asks specifically for suggestions and reactions. I try to give my time and listening experience to them when I can. It isn't about me knowing anything more than the next person, it's that I am willing to share my reaction. All of our reactions are what makes the popular charts what they are. We all know something about what we like.

Any time any of us comment on someone's tune it can put us in that preverbal vulnerable spot of stepping on toes and feelings. Most of us don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. When we keep our attention on the spirit of critical constructive comments, whatever style or format you choose to use, in both the giving and the receiving, we'll all grow in our musical knowledge and experiences together.
Latest Song: Arriving (AITW)
Artist Page Send Message Sep 13, 2008 | 1:42 am
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Short answer: what becwil said. Smile

Long answer:

'I'm not qualified to criticise.' I'd actually appreciate it if someone who believes this about him/herself could tell me why you think this. What qualification would you like to have? As far as I'm concerned, if you've listened to my song, that's all the qualification you need. And I mean that sincerely. I don't care whether you're a multi-platinum recording engineer or you first picked up a guitar yesterday. If you've taken the time to listen to my song, I'd like to know what you thought about it, and that includes what didn't work as well as what did. It doesn't matter to me whether you use complicated technical language to express yourself or if you just say something like 'the acoustic guitar at the start is too loud' -- it's all good.

But let me put it to you another way. Perhaps you don't believe that you can leave a useful critical comment on one of my songs. I believe that you can. If you refuse to do so, we'll never know who's right. Best case scenario, you were right and I wouldn't have got anything from it; worst case scenario, I'm missing out on something useful because you're choosing to withhold it. So please, for my sake, I'm asking you to leave critical comments.

'Any and all critiques are welcome.' When I say this, I mean it. If I think there's a problem with my song, frankly, I'll probably go away and fix it before I post it. I'm like that. But whether I'm aware of a problem or not, I'm still interested in comments on all aspects, and I certainly don't want to prejudice my listeners by saying 'Please listen exclusively to the bass, which I don't feel is prominent enough, and ignore the compositional and performance aspects.' Even if I left out the last part, it would still be there implicitly if I told people that I wanted comments on the bass, and why would I want to limit the scope of the advice people can give me?

For example, my last upload, Diminished Returns. (Full disclosure: it has a day left in the top songs list, so if you're planning to look it up feel free not to listen until tomorrow when it won't make a difference to the stats.) I was rushing to make a deadline, and didn't have quite as much time as I'd have liked to work on the mix; as a result, I felt that the distorted rhythm guitars weren't quite there tonally, but that everything else sounded pretty good.

As usual, I opened the floor for people to leave constructive comments on whatever they liked. I got back the following:

* A large number of very nice compliments. (Thanks!)
* Several comments that the acoustic guitar in the intro is too loud. (Totally true, and when I reopened the mix a few days later I fixed it. My bad, and I'm glad people pointed it out because I'd got used to how it sounds.)
* A lack of consensus over whether the intro works. Some people would like to see something more involved, perhaps with strings; some people like the sparseness. (I'm in the latter camp, of course, but the comments from the former make me wonder whether I didn't quite successfully capture the 'live jam' feel that I was shooting for. This has given me something to think about for future projects; at some point I'll have an idea for a way I could have done it better, and then I can try it out on a future song.)
* Some advice on mixing the low end. (I know I suck at this but thought I'd done a tolerable job, so I've followed this one up with the commenter in the hope of learning some more.)
* Several comments regarding the emotion in the music. (This was something I was specifically trying to bring out, so it's good to see; on the other hand, I made a big deal about how I'd been criticised for lack of emotion in the past, so some percentage of those comments will be sympathy vote. But still, enough people mentioned it that I feel I've done a good job.)
* No-one mentioned the rhythm guitar tone at all. (This suggests to me that my agonising over a little bump at 2kHz wasn't anywhere near as big a deal as I was making it. That said, I still fixed it when I reopened the mix, and I'm happier now.)

I've got a lot out of these comments. The praise has inflated my ego and encouraged me to continue, but -- much more importantly -- the critical comments have made me go back to my song and listen to it dispassionately, removing myself from the mix I spent hours tweaking. I now have plenty to think about, some new stuff to try on the next project, and a confirmation that I'm still moving in the right direction but I have a way to go.

And that's a great feeling. I'm making progress -- I'm learning and growing as an artist, not stagnating, and the comments from this fine community are helping me to do that.

And that's the power of effective criticism.

-Eido
Artist Page Send Message Sep 13, 2008 | 3:10 am
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@becwil
@Eldo
@everyone

Thank you for the perspective!
Your responses are very informative and have helped me get past my own pre-conceptions, mis-conceptions and inexperience.
I am frequently impressed with the quality of music being created by many of the artists here. But it is the accessibility, insight and patience of many of you highly talented people that often leaves me in awe.
Thanks!
Latest Song: Can Last
Artist Page Send Message Sep 13, 2008 | 4:30 pm
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This is an interesting forum. My 2 cents worth is this. I came to this site a year ago and found it to be just what I was looking for. My very first piece, which I took down last month was entitled A tribute to James Brown. I was totally afraid to put it up as it didn't really represent my true abilities, but I wanted to get a start.

It was rightfully criticised for its use of nonconforming loop patterns and drum loops taken from different sets. Some of the criticism was good, as previously mentioned. What happened with this piece was a gigantic learning experience.

When I made Come back to Me, I asked for the community to tell me how to improve it. I got back 10 different answers as well as advice in the feedback. It was priceless! I added reverb, distanced my guitars, compressed the drums and added echoes. Even my Mother started dancing Smile.

Someone PM'ed me once about red lining the bass on one of my pieces a few months ago. The person prefaced the critique in the mail by stating, "I hope you are not offended..." Trust me, I didn't hear the buzz, but he was totally right. But I told him that next time, put it in the critique, because his advice ended up helping two other people.

Criticism is something that everyone who joins this site should either deal with or welcome, as long as it is not retaliatory or just mean spirited. For me, I now look at what I consider to be basic settings before recording a song or editing one. All of this from ADVICE on the board.

As for not being qualified, I used to think that I was not qualified as well, but then I began thinking, who buys or listens to the music? If you are a professional, 3/4 of your listening public couldn't tell a semi quaver from a treble clef. Yet these are the people who will end up buying or leaving your music. It is criticism that can be divided into listener mediated or socratic. Either way, your response to it or what you take from either should still be a learning experience.

/rick.
Latest Song: Whales Crying
Artist Page Send Message Sep 15, 2008 | 3:46 am
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It's not just critiques on your own songs (which I personally whole heartedly welcome) .. but also on other peoples songs. When listening to a song that's not your own, it's interesting to see what others are hearing and how they're reacting. I've picked up loads of tips and ideas on mix and production this way.

For me, Eido has summed it up perfectly, you're qualified to review and critique by virtue of your interest in and / or love of music.
Latest Song: Seven Deadly Sins
Artist Page Send Message Sep 15, 2008 | 8:39 am
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