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john

The Importance Of Giving Quality, Detailed Critique

15 posts in this topic

Hi Gang

I'd like to make 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.

  • Offering critique informs both the writer AND the critiquer

  • It trains your ear, your eye and your mind

  • Do you want to raise the quality of your own songs? Critique of the work of others is the biggest single thing you can do to improve your own work

  • 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.

  • Critique is about: Observation, Analysis, and Finding Solutions by Discussion

  • Offering Critique is for Experts and Beginners.

So please, do yourself a favor. Take a look at the article on critique, the post with common questions you can ask and answer during critique.

Cheers

John

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Hey John :) Have a question. Do you have any suggestions on critiquing outside of our own comfort zones and genres? Is there an article for this subject? I would like to critique more songs and practice writing outside of the, singer/songwriter/ and country genre, but I'm sort of at a loss of how to even begin.

It also very hard to critique some of the songs posted because the member does not specify what genre the song is for.

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Hi Carrie

We don't have a specific article on that topic, but it's a good sughestion for one :)

Meanwhile.... it comes down in part to awareness of what the differences are. They vary from genre to genre. A song however doesn't need to be written for a genre to be performed in a genre.

For example Hayseed Dixie doing Motorhead's "Ace Of Spades":

It's not written for the genre of performance, but the performance works. Sometimes songs can be written in such a way as to lend to performance in multiple genres. Others are far more tightly bound to the original genre. In general most songs can be performed in different genres, it just takes the vision to do so, and lets face it, some just won't go. Some genres are very flexible in adapting a song (for example Jazz) others are more restrictive, even if for a reason outside songwriting, such as christian rock. The key differentiator being the language and theme.

So.... learn about those differences. Language. Phrasing. Theme. Structure. Those then become factors you consider while writting the song. Get yourself into the mind set. Of course listening to lots of tracks from that genre will help lots. It helps you absorb those differences more naturally.

Write out the differences so you can constantly refer to those factors during writing and make judgement calls on which to apply and when. The same is true no matter if it is the lyric or music you are writing, or both for that matter.

Critique wise, remember critique is supposed to be a discussion. Often it is as much a joint exploration of why a song works and why it doesn't work. This can clarify to writers why they do something in a particular way, and that explanation can also make it click for the critiquer. So don't hang back.

Remember:

Observe, Analyse, Offer comments and suggestions.

You can see how this helps to formalize your understanding. Each phase exercises YOUR abilities. Your ability to spot what works, what doesn't and in both cases why, and your ability to use your creativity and knowledge to find a solution. It's not your song, so there is none of the "precious" feeling that you could get with your own work. ie we are more brutal in the changes we are prepared to make to the lyrics/music of others. We grow attached to, and invested in, our own works. Some writers are more prone to this than others.

So.... don't hold back from doing critique on songs not of your chosen genres. In fact, choose ones that are out your comfort zone. Chances are much of what you know will translate. It is also the best way to learn. You get to understand other ways of working, other writing approaches, other genres, other languages 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 them :) Perhaps leave a general impression comment if suitable but ask them if they would want some more detailed analysis and discussion. Or ask them to fill out the critique question in their profile. "I would like to offer some comments and suggestions but I don't know what level of critique you are prepared for, or if you would like to focus on something in particular? Can you please give an indication before I spend a long time looking at something when all you want is a general impression comment or a pat on the back"

Try not to highlight potential issues without also offering a way to resolve those issues.

Just a few suggestions. I'm happy to expand on or explore each. :)

What

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Thanks for the suggestions and advice John. Lets say I don't necessarily like a particular genre, Heavy Metal for example, and one who writes for this genre gives me a great critique. I feel like I should then give them I good critique, but I don't know how. These boards are supposed to be "You pat my back, I pat yours." (At least that is the way I see it.) What do you suggest in this situation?

Just a few suggestions. I'm happy to expand on or explore each. :)

What

By the way, I noticed you changed your name to "What". I prefer, John... LOL :D

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lol

I must have been going to started to type something... then I dunno.

Well, it's not necessarily you pat mine I'll pat yours, it's certainly not a compliment trade. If by pat you mean critique then, many do do that.

Firstly state that it's not your normal genre. Apart from anything else that gives you the perfect opportunity to frame your thoughts related to your experiences and invite their opinion and reasoning. Explain your own reasoning, your own opinions, and be willing to admit that some may be due to ignorance of the genre. Members usually accept that for what it is and work with it.

:)

John

(The SiteCrew Formerly Known As What)

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Hi john im new to this. And i have a problem. I like to write. Wats on my mind wat goes on in my evryday life nd wat i go threw and have been threw. Im intrested in rap. But i do write love songs for my soon to b wife. And ive read a few to a few people. Kuz im kinda shy who i read it to. Id like to knw how and wer i can post sum of my lyrics and get honest feed back on them. I really wana knw if i should stop kuz im no good. Or if people actually think i gt potentual. So please help me. Thanks.

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Hi john im new to this. And i have a problem. I like to write. Wats on my mind wat goes on in my evryday life nd wat i go threw and have been threw. Im intrested in rap. But i do write love songs for my soon to b wife. And ive read a few to a few people. Kuz im kinda shy who i read it to. Id like to knw how and wer i can post sum of my lyrics and get honest feed back on them. I really wana knw if i should stop kuz im no good. Or if people actually think i gt potentual. So please help me. Thanks.

Simple, you post your lyrics for critique as new topics in this board (not this topic) :) or within the lyrics critique (members only) board. Then you will get feedback and opinion from a number of members. The members only board tends to be quieter. Importantly you can also learn to critique the work of others which is a great way to use your songwriting skills without attachment to the piece (as it isn't something that you have written). I would also suggest simply reading over some of the other songs and critiques to help you get an idea of common issues writers have.

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John, Great forum...great article about Critique... I'd never thought of it as helping the critiquer (is that the right word?) until I tried it! You're absolutely right of course!

 

Have to say though...I think Hayseed Dixie murdered the Ace of Spades. And I can't articulate a good critique as to why! ;)  (sorry!)

 

Thanks for getting this place going...I've looked around for ages until finding this forum.

 

Cheers,

 

Dek

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John, Great forum...great article about Critique... I'd never thought of it as helping the critiquer (is that the right word?) until I tried it! You're absolutely right of course!

Have to say though...I think Hayseed Dixie murdered the Ace of Spades. And I can't articulate a good critique as to why! ;) (sorry!)

Thanks for getting this place going...I've looked around for ages until finding this forum.

Cheers,

Dek

Many thanks Dek. I'm glad you took both the time to try it and to post your conclusions. The more members that try new ideas and concepts and post their observations and comments, the more each member and the community itself benefits.

To all members I would also suggest that where you see good advice, share it. The more songwriters that understand and follow good ideas, good techniques and good practices the better for them and songwriting as a whole.

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I have a few suggestions for critiquing outside of your comfort zone, when I was on soundclick I had to do that all the time because if I didn't specify in my rules I wouldn't critique a genre then I looked cruel saying "yeah I won't critique this"  So I critiqued country, avante garde sound pieces, easy listening, jazz, even spoken word soundscapes.  At first I wouldn't critique rap but then I opened up to doing that as well.  

 

My suggestion is this, familiarize yourself with some of the popular artists of that genre, lets say someone puts a rap song in here, and you know nothing about that type of music and you don't like it, but you want to give them a fair critique.  Look up 2 or 3 rap songs that are popular, pick an old one, and a new one.  Then don't listen through your opinion, think for a second about what type of person would listen to this, put yourself in their shoes, then listen and go "ok what was executed about this, and why did it appeal to people."  After you've done that, go back and compare what the other person has posted, to what you just listened to that you know was publically acclaimed and think "How do they measure up to this?  Did they achieve the same level of impact?"  

 

Also, be honest about what you don't know, but say it anyway.  For example, don't say "I don't like this, I don't get it"  Or "Try telling a story, there's no story to this and that's not good"  But instead say something like "In the music I listen to, I'm used to a story being told, and without that, it was hard for me to really understand the appeal of this, but that doesn't mean it's not good, it's just not what I usually look for in music"  

 

And then here's the thing, the more you critique the same genre you aren't familiar with, the more you start to notice things you like about it.  You know when you first meet people, join a church, start a job etc, it seems so foreign you feel really out of place and stuff?  But then as you immerse yourself in it, it becomes more like home?  That's how this is.  The more you hear the styles you aren't used to, the less foreign they begin to seem, and the more you are able to start figuring out what's good and not so good about them to you from an unbiased viewpoint.  

 

These tips may not apply to everyone in all situations, but they are how things have worked for me so I hope it helps!

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Symphonius, you've provided excellent suggestions and observations. :)  I suspect though that the average reviewer would not have time to go looking up songs/genres on the internet, then listening to a few, then comparing them with the song/lyric at hand, and then writing a comprehensive and informed critique. It's an ideal scenario, of course, but - I imagine - largely impractical. 

 

But maybe a compromise would work.  What if lyricists/songwriters themselves tried to meet potential reviewers half-way, by providing a link or two to the type of song or sound they're aiming for, or that influenced them? I for one would be willing - and curious enough - to open a link that's in front of me. ;) But given my own time constraints, I'd be unwilling to spend much if any time looking up songs in various genres online simply for the purpose of commenting on someone's song. 

 

Nevertheless, your points are well considered and valid. :)

 

Donna

Edited by DonnaMarilyn
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Symphonius, you've provided excellent suggestions and observations. :)  I suspect though that the average reviewer would not have time to go looking up songs/genres on the internet, then listening to a few, then comparing them with the song/lyric at hand, and then writing a comprehensive and informed critique. It's an ideal scenario, of course, but - I imagine - largely impractical. 

 

But maybe a compromise would work.  What if lyricists/songwriters themselves tried to meet potential reviewers half-way, by providing a link or two to the type of song or sound they're aiming for, or that influenced them? I for one would be willing - and curious enough - to open a link that's in front of me. ;) But given my own time constraints, I'd be unwilling to spend much if any time looking up songs in various genres online simply for the purpose of commenting on someone's song. 

 

Nevertheless, your points are well considered and valid. :)

 

Donna

What if you request it!  Like, if you really WANT to understand someone's song, but you're so unfamiliar with the genre that you can't tell if the reason you don't get it is poor execution or that you don't get the genre you could say "Could you link me to an artist that sounds like what you were going for?  An influence of yours you feel is similar to this?"  Etc, then you just don't say anything else until they provide a link.  I like your thinking :)  

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That of course is one way to go. :)

 

In an ideal world, though, I'd like to see people providing links when they post their songs/lyrics initially. ;) Perhaps a request/suggestion could be made at the top of the forums? (Along with the common-sense reminder to post lyrics in a standard lyrics format. :P )

 

You see, if I click on something once and note that it's way out of my area of expertise, so to speak, I'm not going to wait and then go back to review the song. I'd rather move on to the next one in the time that's available to me. 

 

Perhaps that sounds unfair, but it's how I need to prioritise my time. :) Each person, of course, will have her/his own approach. :)

 

Donna

Edited by DonnaMarilyn

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That of course is one way to go. :)

 

In an ideal world, though, I'd like to see people providing links when they post their songs/lyrics initially. ;) Perhaps a request/suggestion could be made at the top of the forums? (Along with the common-sense reminder to post lyrics in a standard lyrics format. :P )

 

You see, if I click on something once and note that it's way out of my area of expertise, so to speak, I'm not going to wait and then go back to review the song. I'd rather move on to the next one in the time that's available to me. 

 

Perhaps that sounds unfair, but it's how I need to prioritise my time. :) Each person, of course, will have her/his own approach. :)

 

Donna

I understand where you're coming from, but now we're at an impass haha, for I'm not going to look for a song that's similar to my song every time I post one either, especially since I'm not even sure what genre all my songs are, I think the truth in this is just that well... not everyone is gonna be able to critique every genre well all the time, and some of us who are busy like yourself may just have to do the best they can.  One thing I did think when reading this response is just like... you'll get notifications in that thread, so it's not like you can't "move on to other songs" while still waiting for the OP's example.  

 

But if it's a hassle it's really not the end of the world, at the end of the day we just have to do the best we can with the tools we have and every person is different.  I think through our conversation we've given great suggestions to anyone who needed them, if someone wants to post similar content from the first post, go for it, if someone wants to make the request when reviewing, have at.  Thanks for your input :)  

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