songwriter - lyricist

Being Your Own Best Critic

Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how a good hook can make the difference between songwriting success and failure. With great examples from pop music history.


If you’re like most songwriters out there, you’re probably dealing a lot with your “inner critic.” That term simply refers to your tendency to be your own toughest judge. And most significantly, it usually means judging something about the song you’re currently working on as being not good enough.

The problem with your inner critic is that it usually results in making you feel inadequate. And that’s the core of the problem: the only way to get better at songwriting is to be able to judge your efforts objectively, but that act of judging is making you feel negative toward your own music.

So how do you assess your songs without also feeling negative or defeated even before you’ve got your song written?

The answer is this: Every time you write a song, mentally divide your time up into two main events:

  1. The creative stage
  2. The evaluation stage

The creative stage is where you create ideas and pull them together without being overly critical of how it’s sounding yet. Of course, you do need to be judging how things are going, but you need to allow the creative process to play out without being excessively critical.

By allowing this creative stage to happen unencumbered by your own critical assessments, your song will benefit from the sheer number of imaginative ideas that happen. You’ll still accept some ideas and reject others, but you’ll feel freer to give some of those weirder, more spontaneous ideas the benefit of the doubt.

Once you’ve gotten most of your song finished, then it’s time to move to the evaluation stage, and then really put the magnifying glass on what you’ve written.

By delaying the evaluation stage you’ve been able to benefit from your creative mind being able to cut loose and generate some unique musical moments for your song. And part of being a better songwriter is the uniqueness of what you do.

There is nothing wrong with being critical of your own music, but it is definitely a question of balance and timing. Allow your creative process to play out — try weird and extraordinary things — and be courageous to see where those extraordinary things take your song.

In the end, you’ll always have time to be critical — in a positive way — and that gives you the best chance of writing something great, where the entire process has been more enjoyable.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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