Songwriters are usually looking for as many ways as possible to improve what they do. Listening to great songs, reading interviews with veteran songwriters, reading books that dissect the craft of composition, and so on. One of the best ways I know to improve songwriting skills is to get an honest critique from a respectful listener.
To be clear about this, I do not necessarily mean to post your songs on YouTube and then read the comments. Keep in mind that the average YouTube listener will have little of value to impart to a songwriter looking to improve. Those comments usually vacillate from “I really liked it” to “I really hated it”, neither of which is of any value if you want to polish your skills.
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But there are several ways you can get an opinion that is valuable to you:
- Get involved in songwriters circles. You can often find them in your area with an online search, and you’ll find that the kind of evaluation and assessment you get from these events are absolutely invaluable. There’s nothing like getting feedback from a fellow songwriter for giving you a boost!
- Create your own songwriters circle. If you can’t find one in your area, you might discover that many songwriters around you are looking for this kind of event, but no one has stepped forward to organize it.
- Play for friends. Host an evening in your home, invite your friends, and tell them you want some honest feedback. While many of your friends may not be musicians, they can still offer opinions that can translate into improvements for your music. For example, an opinion like, “I didn’t feel like the melody connected with me” may simply mean that your tune lacked a climactic moment.
- Record your music, and learn to listen objectively. It’s hard to listen to your own music objectively, but it’s important that you develop this skill. We all have a tendency to listen to our own music and either be too hard on ourselves, or otherwise refuse to critique ourselves honestly.
- Use social media. It’s a good idea to protect your music with copyright registration before posting it online. But once you’ve done that, use your own Twitter feed, Facebook page, or other online social media site to get your music out there for others to hear. This tends to be a better experience than a YouTube upload, because listeners feel more like a guest in your “house” when they’re on your own site.
Remember that when you ask for feedback, you need to be prepared for whatever people may say. If you’re not prepared to accept negative opinions about your music, don’t do it.
But getting honest feedback, especially from people that have a bit of experience and knowledge, can be a tremendously important learning tool for songwriters. It can be exactly what you need to move your songs from being OK to being exciting and exceptional.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter
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