In my last article I talked about questioning your tracks and wondering if what you are doing is any good. I briefly talked about asking people for their opinion on your track. I was asked to dive a little deeper on this and wanted to share some things I have learned along the way about asking for peoples opinion.
The first thing to keep in mind here is what my last article talked about, and that is staying true to yourself. Of course, some people will like it, some people will hate parts about it. Everyone has their own taste in music. Let your taste be your final guide.
There are some great advantages in asking for people’s opinions though, and when you ask the right way you will get some useful information. Here are the 6 things to practice when looking for feedback to your music.
These concepts can be used any time you are looking for feedback for any creative endeavor, not just music. The same ideas apply when asking for feedback for a painting, poetry, or anything else.
1. Asking for Feedback When You Are Ready
When you are asking someone to take time out of their day to listen to your music, you are asking a lot. It might not seem like a lot of effort on their part, but for anyone to “listen” it takes a some effort in this day and age. Because of this you should really make it easy and ready for them to give feedback.
Make sure the track is loud enough to hear. That is an easy to forget a step in pre production. Try to just polish all the little things so they don’t get caught on something like volume and can answer the bigger questions. This will make it more enjoyable to the listener and get you better feedback.
You will also only get peoples attention for so long. After the 4th version of the track they just might not care anymore.
2. Know Your Goals
When you need other people’s opinion on a track, you really need to ask yourself why. Why do you want friends to listen to it? Is there something wrong with it? Do you want to show it off? Are you uncertain if the B part of the track works? And so on.
You need to make sure you are coming from a grounded understanding of what you are looking for, and what you are not looking for. Anything is a valid question, just know that the question is to inform the next things you need to do to get the best feedback you can.
3. Select Your Audience Carefully
If you know why you want feedback, it will help you know who to ask. So if you are looking for help with a track’s composition you will want to talk to someone who knows that language. Like another musician. Asking a close friend that knows nothing about Chorus / Verse / Variation / Breakdown won’t help you very much with your question.
Also look for diversity in whoever you ask to listen to your tracks. Having one person that knows composition from an academic standpoint can be great, but balancing it with your friend that is a singer songwriter will give you a much wider picture.
It’s also best to ask at least 3 or more people. That way you get a wider understanding to the question and you will be less unsettled if one person hates it.
Being more selective will give you more precise information. Shooting a blank out into the Facebook and social media world will get you very confusing and too wide of answers to really make sense of.
4.Setting the Scope
Now that you know why you want someones advice and who you want that person to be, you are ready to ask for their opinion. One thing that will help both you, and the person you are asking is to have a clear understanding of what you want them to listen to. This way you can have them pay attention to the thing you really want to know. If you just give people a track and say how do you like it?” You are asking for hundreds of answers that might not serve you.
If you ask: When you hear this song, does the percussion move you? Does it make you want to dance?
By framing the question you are insuring they stay on task as a listener. It’s sometimes helpful for you to say what you do not want to hear about. If you are a great sound designer and you know that is great, but still need help with composition, you can tell them you don’t want to hear about the quality of the sounds, but more about how the overall parts fit together. This will insure you the most on point answers to your questions. It also will help you from second guessing the things you already feel confident about.
5. Provide Instructions
If you can sum up in a sentence what you want from the person you asked to critique, you will make it easier on them and you. I have asked people about a track and literally gotten a 2 page answer. It was about all these little things, like this level was too high… this sounds needs to go to the left a little, and so on. Maybe they were trying to impress me with their knowledge, or maybe they assumed that is what I was asking about. If you can give them a little instruction in the beginning, it will make things easier.
Try a sentence or two like this;
Can you check out this tracK (link). I am wondering what you think about the bass sounds I use. Could you send me a paragraph, or a little something about how it sounded? Did it make you want to dance? Could you hear it?
This gives them very clear instruction on what to listen to and how to tell me about it. Really helps everyone stay on the same page.
6. Give Back
If someone checks out your music and leaves you feedback that helps keep you on track, then you should give that energy back. If you are just constantly asking for feedback, but don’t ever check out what other people are doing you will quickly alienate people.
If you ask your artist friends for opinions on your music, then help them out with your opinion on their paintings, or writings. This will give you deeper connections with friends / fans, and make them a lot more likely to lend an ear in the future.
These 6 things will ensure you get feedback that answers your question, and keeps you away from a confusing conversation that can get you second guessing. After years of asking for feedback I’ve found that taking this little extra effort will help you, and the person you are asking feel really great about checking out your track.
Overview and Giving Constructive Feedback:
In a few days I am going to talk about the other side of this, which is how to give constructive feedback. It’s important that we know not just how to ask for it, but how to give it as well. That way when we give back, we can share the feedback in such a way that will really help the artist. It also gives us insight into how we would like to be treated, and move people towards that when we ask for feedback.
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