We all want our music to make a strong impression on listeners. After all, we pour our heart, sweat, and tears into producing the music that we are most passionate about. Obtaining feedback can be a great way to improve various aspects of your music, but asking for feedback can be tricky!
In this blog post, I'll share some tips for effectively asking for feedback on your demos as well as your latest release.
Why is it beneficial to obtain artistic feedback?
It's important to remember that when we're in the process of writing music, we often look through rose-tinted glasses. Either that, or our ears become so used to what we hear that we lose some perspective.
It's beneficial to have a fresh set of ears to lend an opinion on music. Whether it's the songwriting, performance on a recording, or the sonics of a mix, it's helpful to receive constructive feedback.
Honest feedback, both positive and negative, can help create new ideas and reveal issues you may not have been aware of. Most importantly, it's a crucial part of your artist development, and it will help you to write the best music you possibly can.
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Here are some things you should consider when it comes to obtaining creative feedback on your music.
1. Consider what it is you're hoping to achieve with feedback
There may be different aspects of the music you'll want to address. For example, are you asking for technical feedback? Do you want to know how your song makes a listener feel in terms of emotions? Or perhaps you're keen to learn whether or not the mix complements the music and has the right balance?
These are all excellent reasons for obtaining a second opinion from a trusted and valued set of ears - that can listen objectively.
With this in mind, you should know why you are sending a song to a specific person. For example, you may want to send a draft mix for feedback to someone with experience as a mixing engineer. Or you might want to ask a vocalist whether or not your lyrics are coherent. Therefore, consider what skills a person has and how they can contribute.
I personally like to obtain general feedback during the demo stage of my songwriting. This helps to provide clarity on the direction of the song, and gives a greater insight into which sections of the song resonate well with a listener.
I also want to get different opinions on a mix/master during the final stages of wrapping up production, and ideally while people listen on different headphones and speakers to help to ensure the mix sounds great across various devices.
Lastly, when recording an EP or an album, it's good to get some opinion feedback on all of the songs as a whole. This can also be particularly useful for clarifying which songs are the strongest, especially when considering tracks for singles and music videos.
After all, remember that even when requesting specific feedback, you might receive feedback on other aspects of the music that you hadn't asked for, or been made aware of something you didn't consider. This naturally leads us on to the next point...
2. Be prepared to hear the truth
If someone is offering creative feedback on your music and there's something about it that bothers them, or they simply don't like it, don't be offended - just listen! It's essential not to take criticism personally when getting feedback from others. Ultimately, they're just trying to give you advice so that your music can be the best it can be.
Responding defensively to a person's feedback will make them feel uncomfortable and as if you're not listening to their opinion. In addition, they'll likely be frustrated with your reaction, which will, in turn, prevent them from giving their opinion in the future.
My friend recently offered some pretty harsh (but honest) constructive feedback on one of my demos, and he told me, "I really hate the beginning," with the lead guitar clashing with the rhythm guitars and sounding like two different songs mashed up together. I hadn't considered this before, but it made me aware that this section did indeed sound muddied up and over-complexified.
Don't take criticism personally - even if you disagree with the person's opinion, just try to take what they have said into consideration. At the very least, it will make you think about how you can improve an aspect of your music.
3. Ask properly, and don't be pushy when asking an individual for feedback
You can get honest feedback from music listeners online on Facebook forums, Reddit, music blogs, and Soundcloud, amongst others. But if you're reaching out to someone who isn't a friend, be concise in your approach, making sure not to come across as demanding with a five-paragraph email!
Of course, make the message personal and friendly so the person you're reaching out to feels more open and willing to comply.
It's also worth mentioning why you think you would benefit from their feedback. For example, are you struggling with where to go with the direction of the song? Do you think they could offer a solution you would benefit from?
Remember that people have lives outside of music as well, so it's not their priority to jump at your request. If a person doesn't respond, don't be pushy and hassle them. Give them time to get back to you.
Wait until a reasonable amount of time has passed before following up. Being pushy can cause a person to get defensive which is never good! A general rule of thumb is about one week before following up with them again, but it might be better to wait longer if they are really busy.
When making new connections, let them know you value their time and opinion. Being friendly and polite will help you to build your network and make new connections. You can also add value to encourage them to help you. For example, going to see them live in concert, buying merchandise, or even simply sharing their latest music.
When you ask for feedback on your music, try to keep an open mind. The person may be giving helpful advice that will help you improve as an artist, or just have a different perspective than what you're used to in the industry. It can also help with your own self-reflection!
Music is subjective, and not everyone has the same ideas. Not everyone will truly "get" your vision with what you are trying to create. But hopefully, positive constructive feedback will help you to figure out your creative processes better, identifying both your strengths and weaknesses.
Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer and music educator, who holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Westminster. You can find more of his advice over at Drum Helper - one of the web's most popular free online drumming resources.
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