Guitar, Pencil & Paper

Who Do You Ask?

If you visit any of the many online songwriting forums, you’ll know that the most common comment/question you’ll find is some variation on “What do you think of my new song?”

Who do you ask when you need help with a song? The songwriters asking for online opinions tend to be newbies who are genuinely wondering if they’ve written something that others might like to hear. I’m assuming that they’re hoping they get a lot of replies that say something along the lines of “Hey, it’s fantastic!”

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There’s nothing wrong with trying to write songs that others will love. But how relevant is it if someone says, “I really don’t like it…”?

Asking the world if they like your song means you then have to decide which replies are valid. Many of those replies may have been from people who have little experience with your genre of choice. How do you evaluate someone’s assessment of your music?

The answer lies in knowing who to ask. If your question to that online forum is simply meant to be a poll, hoping that a majority of other musicians like what you do, then I say go ahead and ask. You likely won’t get a helpful sampling, but no harm done.

But if your question is meant to help you write music that is more structurally sound, more imaginative and innovative, you need to be more judicious about who you ask.

If you were a composition student at a university, your professor would have the job of trying to determine your musical intentions. What are you trying to “say?” Are you developing your ideas properly? They may or may not like the music you’re writing, but that (believe it or not) is secondary to the real question: is the music structurally and artistically solid? Are you achieving what you’ve set up as your goal?

As a songwriter, you probably don’t have a professor helping you. So who do you ask when you really want to know if your song is a good one? Some tips:

  1. Attend songwriting circles. You’ll get honest but usually very respectful responses to your songs. You’ll have a better chance of evaluating those responses regarding how applicable they are to what you’re trying to achieve with your song.
  2. Seek out other songwriters whose music you value and respect. Be careful – I’m not advocating sending song files randomly to professionals you find online unless they’re actively accepting submissions. But in your musical circles, find those individuals who have a knack for writing good music, and ask them for an honest assessment.
  3. Don’t forget good non-songwriting musicians. Performers can be a great source of musical opinion. They know from experience what works and what doesn’t. They’ve played a lot of music by a lot of different songwriters, so they’ll have a good shot at identifying what you’re really trying to do with your songs. Their opinions can be very relevant and helpful.
  4. Someone not liking your song is not an indication that you’ve written a bad one. Remember that in the arts, everyone has an opinion. If someone dislikes your song, that’s not necessarily a sign that you need to change it or throw it out.

In short, it’s not the fact that someone likes or hates your song that’s relevant or important; it’s what they have to say about why. If someone tells you that they don’t like all the metaphors you’ve used in your lyric, you may suddenly realize that you’ve done a poor job of integrating all those disconnected metaphors. That would be helpful advice.

But a general plea to an online forum will not necessarily (or often) give you such insightful analysis.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

EEssential Secrets of Songwriting Bundleach eBook in “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Bundle shows you the fundamental principles that make great songs great.

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One Comment

  1. So very true , the answers to an honest critique can often run

    into more words than they have in the song or they plainly ignore

    it , Others just feed on the back slapping , be very careful on the

    comment ” I Like This , I can hear George Strait or some other

    big name doing it, ” If that was the case and the song was that

    well written a real Pro Minded Writer would know if the song was ready

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