As an artist, there’s nothing better than the feeling you get when you receive genuine appreciation for you craft. I think that ultimately, that’s really what every artist is chasing. Whether it’s fame and fortune you’re after, or just appreciation from your peers or friends and family, that’s what drives us. In my opinion, that’s one of the main reasons why there is such a strong desire for feedback communities online. The other main reason I think people would like to be a part of feedback communities, is because they simply want to improve, and really become great at the art form. They want to learn to make music that people will love. But I think the unfortunate truth is that trying to improve by posting online in order to get feedback, hurts the chances that people will listen to amateur music, which means it makes it more difficult to experience that appreciation for your music online. It’s also not actually all that useful as a method for learning the craft.

Honest feedback in music can be hard to find

Good honest feedback can sometimes be really difficult to find. Feedback forums are not exactly a hot spot where music experts congregate. It’s generally populated by people that are just starting out, and are looking for feedback also. So, there are no guarantees that you will be getting good advice. Even if you try to follow popular opinion, that can mislead you, because the common opinion in a feedback forum, is the common opinion of people looking for feedback, not that of tried and true professionals.
“The most valuable feedback you can hope for is simply whether or not someone likes your music.
Some people are only there to get feedback themselves as well, and they aren’t generally going to take the time to really listen to, and dissect your music. A lot of people will just leave any sort of feedback, in the hopes you return the favor, and listen to their music. Really, the most valuable feedback you can hope for is simply whether or not someone likes your music. You don’t need to be a world class chef to know whether or not you enjoyed a meal. But, even that, isn’t always the most useful piece of information.
“Every artist, no matter how successful they are, will get negative feedback from some people.”
Some people will always say whatever it is you’re doing is great no matter what, just to be kind and polite. Some people won’t like what genre of music you make, and might give you negative feedback for that reason alone. You also need a really large sample size of a lot of different kinds of people, in order to really get a feel for if your music is well received or not. Think about it this way; every artist, no matter how successful they are, will get negative feedback from some people. It doesn’t matter who you are, or how revered you are, you will get people that don’t like your music, for whatever reason it is. What’s really important, at the end of the day, is that you like your music. That’s really what being an artist is all about.

An original way to respond to criticism.

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Everyone is different: follow your own musical taste

Being a songwriter isn’t about polling the world about what they want to hear, or just blindly following advice of people you encounter on the internet. There is no book or method you can follow that generates “good music everyone will like”. Being an artist is about creating something that you think is moving, something that you like, and that you find compelling. That’s really the only way to write. If you were a blind man, it would be very difficult to try and paint a masterpiece by asking random strangers for pointers on how to make something everyone loves.
Every person would have different taste, and some people you’d meet would be more artistic than others. Some might be colorblind, or have terribly blurred vision. You really need to be able to look at what you’re doing, and use your own sensibilities to guide you, to decide which colors to use, and where to apply them. There is no right or wrong, either. There are all sorts of styles of painting, from realism, to impressionism, to cartoon, to abstract. There are all kinds of ways to make a great piece of artwork, and they are all valid. To me, knowing what makes it great, is really the fundamental role of the artist.

For some, Munch’s “the scream” is a masterpiece for others it’s unsettling.

Anyone can trace a drawing, what’s difficult is knowing where to put the lines to make something compelling from scratch. You are the source of the artwork. Your own sensibilities are the measuring stick that shapes your work of art. But that isn’t to say that there is nothing that you can learn from others. Though, feedback forums are not the really best way to go around doing that.
When you ask someone; “how do I improve this?”. It’s very open ended, and you are really leaving it up to their own preferences to decide what to change. These may not agree with your own. It may also just be bad advice which would not even improve your work according to their own tastes. That approach can kind of takes the art of it out of your hands. There is a better approach to learning from other artists. The first can be simply to study and analyze music you like, and try and see why you like it, and compare to your own work. The other is to identify what you like about something, and ask people how to do that one specific thing, and then incorporated that into your work.

Internet forums won’t offer professional feedback in music

If you hear something you like, something you would like to accomplish, or add to your style, or add to a song, and you try and seek out that specific thing, you will be able to learn about making music, while maintaining full control of your creative process. Ideally, you could ask the specific person responsible for creating what it is you want to learn about. If you ask an internet forum, you may again encounter a less knowledgeable group of people, all providing their input, some of which might be great, but it might be difficult for you to distinguish the good advice from the bad advice. If you are speaking to the person responsible for the creation, then you can be sure they know the answer you’re looking for. But these people can sometimes be difficult to find. One place you can find people like that, is at schools or colleges. Here, you can meet professors, and students that will be able to teach you a lot about your craft. Another way is purchase online courses, sometimes created by top tier professionals in your genre, but this would be only a one way interaction. Another great way to come into contact with people like that, is at your local open mics.

Coming out of your shell: the open mics option

Open mics are great places to network, to get feedback, to learn from other musicians, and get used to performing in front of others. Whether you are a singer/songwriter, or a producer, or an instrumentalist, it’s a really great way to grow as a musician. Even if you don’t perform, and don’t aspire to perform, you can meet potential vocalists there, and see what sorts of things get people going. You can also go and support local artists that are just starting out in your genre, and try and learn from them.

When you perform live, that’s when you really get to be able to enjoy the satisfaction of being appreciated. You can see people dance to your music, get comments after your performance and experience applause after your set. There are always musicians of all sorts there as well, and they possess all kinds of knowledge for you to absorb. What’s more, is that you can watch them perform, and see exactly what sort of things they know how to do that you can learn from. It’s not blind information from anonymous sources. You can watch a performer do something you’d really like to know how to do, and you can go and ask them about how they achieved that.

local live performances can help boost your career (and confidence)

So forget about feedback threads on the internet, and head out to your local open mics. The feedback you’re looking for is there. There, you can learn from others, people will listen to your entire songs, and you will have the opportunity to experience that great feeling of being appreciated. It also puts you out in the world, and brings money into venues that host open mics and other live shows, which helps your local musical community and adds value to all musicians. Plus, if more people refrained from trying to use the internet as a feedback learning tool, there may also be the added bonus that communities, where artists post music for free, would have higher quality content, potentially even making it an attractive destination for people looking to find new great up and coming artists. That would definitely come in handy for anyone trying to build a fanbase, once they reach that stage of their musical career and leave the feedback era behind.
Terence Dechef

Terence Dechef


Acoustic guitarist, singer/songwriter from Montreal, Canada.


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