Kim Lajoie's blog

Three ways to critique your music (or: how to shake up your subjectivity)

by Kim Lajoie on January 23, 2015

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Of course your should be critiquing your own work. You probably do it constantly.

But you probably rely too much on your intuition. Going with your gut and what feels right. While this is important, you should also be aware that our intuition can be skewed by factors such as tiredness and conditioning (listening too much to the same song). Sometimes it’s useful to be able to get out of your own head and approach your music with a fresh perspective. Here are three tips to try:

Forget the effort it took

When you present your music to a fresh listener, they don’t know how long it took you to write or record or edit or mix it. They don’t know how difficult or easy it was. Sometimes something that was quick and easy to make can resonate strongly with people. Sometimes something that was difficult or arduous don’t catch. Try to listen as if it’s someone else’s music. This can be difficult – especially if you’ve spent a long time very close to your work. It can be useful to give yourself some space from the music – whether it be an hour or a week – and come back to it fresh. Other strategies can include listening on a sound system that you’re unfamiliar with, or including it in a shuffled playlist of other reference tracks.

Have the courage to delete good work

Just because you like the sound of a section or an instrument doesn’t mean it’s right for the song. Just because you spent a lot of time on it doesn’t make the result is worthwhile. Sometimes you need to press delete. Don’t be precious about it – focus on the creative direction of the music. Does it support the song? Sometimes you can make it better by removing instead of adding. Muster the courage. If you’re working in a DAW (or most other digital systems) you can easily save alternate versions so you don’t have to worry about going back to a previous iteration.

Don’t seek advice from anyone and everyone

Especially not in the early production stages. And especially not from people who are unqualified to give you useful feedback. One of the wonderful things about music is that everyone hears it differently. Everyone responds in different ways. There are as many unique perspectives as there are listeners. So you have to be careful about who you get feedback from, and how you ask for that feedback. Most casual (non-musician) listeners have difficulty articulating even basic musical concepts. Incorrect terminology can easily take you down the wrong path. Musicians will usually be more precise, but they might not share your context or creative direction. Without that, it’s likely that people will give you advice that makes you sound more like how they want you to sound, rather than how you want to sound. If you want some outside assistance, make sure you only approach people who understand your music and your creative direction.

-Kim.

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