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How to Handle Feedback

Sep 04, 2021

Sometimes people are going to give you feedback. Some you asked for, others because people like giving unwarranted opinions. There are a few things to understand when receiving feedback.


Everyone Has Something To Offer

Whether it’s your best friend who is also a songwriter, your mom who doesn’t care for “those noises” (electric guitar) in your songs, or someone who is an author and doesn’t know a lick about music, everyone has something to offer.

You wouldn’t say you need to be a cook to have valid feedback on food, would you? Imagine the chef asking you how the food is and responding with “huh! What culinary arts school did YOU go to?”

If anything, you should be weary of only accepting feedback from those who are similar to yourself. What a fellow author may look for in a book might be very different than what readers may want.

A fellow author may think a 20 page description of how the sun dances on the butterfly is captivating, but the readers have now decided they can scroll up and down their Facebook news feed if they want 20 pages of nonsense.

Similarly, there is a danger in assuming valid feedback can only come from those who normally like your type of music. Just because you write country and your friend is more of a rap guy, doesn’t mean his feedback can’t be valuable.


Understand the Point of View of the Feedback Giver

It is very important to understand someone’s point of view when interpreting their feedback.

For example, if a stranger compliments your music, and has nothing to gain from saying anything to you at all, you can probably take that to heart. If they have no reason to pander to you, they probably mean what they say.

When mom likes your music, she just means she likes you.

In the same way, you have to understand where the person is coming from. If they are into the same genre and say your guitar riffs leave something to be desired, that might be something to consider.

If someone who only listens to Metalcore says your piano ballad bores them, you probably don’t need to worry too much about that.

With that being said, sometimes people outside of your genre can give some very helpful feedback. For example, someone who exclusively listens to pop probably isn’t a great person to judge on quality of lyric, but they probably do have a pretty good feel about what is and isn’t catchy.

So, if your chorus was supposed to be catchy and get people to sing along and tap their foot, and your Ariana-Grande-loving friend was bored throughout the song, maybe you should should figure out a way to turn up the catchy factor.

Some people weigh deep or thoughtful lyrics highly, some people don’t care. Some people want a song to make them happy, others want a song to make them think deeply about the human condition.

All of this is worth considering when you are filtering someone’s feedback.


Not All Feedback is Created Equal

Every human is created equal. Their feedback on your music is not.

Some people don’t like music at all. Others love almost all music, regardless of genre or quality. Some people can’t see past the “sound” or “genre” of a song and others simply like whatever reminds them of what dad used to play on the radio.

Some people will pay enough attention to the music to give well-thought-out feedback. Others just want to cut you down to size and move on.

Some people are good critics of a lyric, others wouldn’t know a good lyric if it hit them in the face.

Though everyone does have SOMETHING to offer, it doesn’t mean everyone has an equal amount to offer. Some people are just better at critiquing. Some people are better at looking past their biases.

Sometimes people will even critique something that they wouldn’t even know about. I once heard someone critique a song for not having a tempo change as if that was a crime. This just in: the vast majority of songs don’t have a tempo change. And most that DO have such a subtle one that you wouldn’t even notice it.

This person had no idea what they were talking about. They were being pretentious for pretentious sake.

Kind of like those people who look down on artists for “using Autotune” as if the artists they listen to don’t use pitch correction. 3 things on this:

  1. Autotune is the name of a pitch correction tool, not the name for pitch correction in general. Calling pitch correction “Autotune” is like calling a tissue a “Kleenex”
  2. Basically every single song released from 1999 on is pitch corrected. Just because they might not use it as evidently as the on-purpose “autotune effect” that some pop artists do, doesn’t mean they are going au-natural. They aren’t. I promise. Stop being pretentious AND ignorant.
  3. Pitch correction isn’t nearly as magical as you think. You can’t take a bad take and make it a good one.

I give you full permission to send that exact response to the next person who talks ignorantly about pitch correction to you. You can even claim it as your own, I don’t care. Just fight the ignorance with me. Here’s a short, solid post on pitch correction from Graham at the Recording Revolution.

All to say that you have to be able to filter the feedback you get. Some people like being haters. Others compliment everything. Some people can look past biases and can give thoughtful feedback and others can’t.

Filter the feedback you get by thinking through these 3 main points. And, no matter what, keep going. No one started out as great at anything. It takes practice. You didn’t expect to be great at piano, guitar, or violin overnight, why expect that for songwriting?

You got this.

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