Sunday, March 13, 2016

DrScythe Thoughts - Part IV: Critique

First of all: critiques, reviews, feedback – whatever you want to call it - is important. It’s what helps you improving and keeps you moving on. Ideally.

In today’s world it’s a little more complex. Earlier in the history of mankind you weren’t able to learn about the opinions of the masses and you had to rely on magazines or shows. I’ll ignore fan mail and threatening letters for obvious reasons. Nowadays everyone blogs, posts and comments everywhere. So you have to filter out the relevant information yourself. That includes the magazines etc. as they tend to exaggerate their statements to get more attention too.
Look at the wisdom written on the left
In the very early stages (like where I am now) you can read everything and pick out what to take from that. Let’s use examples:

“Great!” “Love it” “Wow!”
Nice for encouragement and motivation. Might want to say thanks… ;)

“I don’t like your voice and your face is just a balloon with hair on it.”
Ignore this. And don’t mistakes comments like that for statements about your singing skills.

“The song is great but your guitar sound sucks.”
As long as you use decent equipment (e.g. interface + free amp sims by LePou+IRs) and just dialed in a tone to your liking dismiss this. If you’re using a Fuzz Pedal into the mic in of your computer you might want to check your setup. Those ‘mixed’ comments which include pros and cons might contain important information especially if a positive general statement is followed by criticizing a specific element. But it could also be a matter of taste. Definitely investigate.

“The bass is boring”
This is one of the more difficult ones and it would help a lot if you had background information about the person posting this. There are not enough insults to be meant as trolling/hate comment but barely more than that. Is it about the sound, about what is played, the whole song or a part? If it’s the only comment - or if it bothers you enough - you can try to investigate the background either by asking or by checking the profile. If the person coincidentally plays the criticized instrument part it’s highly likely that this comment is somewhere in between of “if I played this song I’ve done something different” and “I know the instrument way better than you”. And what to take away from that heavily depends on what the comment was about. If you just implemented the said instrument for this one song to add a little more color to the overall sound it’s pretty pointless to think about it long. If it’s a reoccurring basic instrument (like bass) you should investigate if you didn’t cut back on this part on purpose to make room for something else.

“Long and constructive criticism”
Although it should be obvious that if someone takes the time to write a long text and even suggests something you should at least answer “thanks I’ll look into it” I suggest you really check the stuff pointed out and address it in an answer. Some things you might do on purpose and it would be good if people knew that. Other things you never thought about and those are really moments to thank the person for pointing out.

The more people you’ll reach the more comments you’ll get and the more you’ll need to filter. And then it’s still another balance to keep: where does “accepting foreign ideas” stop and “humoring critics” begin? In the beginning you want to find your own style later on you want to evolve. And there’ll always be people who first write stuff like “new/refreshing but needs a little more finesse” and later “lost track, forgot own roots”. So in the end it’s – like most of the time – up to you and your goals. Do you just want to express yourself and be happy with the responses you get? Do you want to appeal to the masses? Bend the border of the genre you’re into?

At the moment I focus on establishing DrScythe and improve my mixing skills. So I read everything but sort out most of the comments on songwriting and style. As I release one song per month and only I know that the next one will be completely different it doesn’t make a lot of sense to listen to stuff about these topics by now. Also I want to achieve better mixes but not in terms of ‘modern, loudness to the max’-style. I don’t have to care about radio stations and my songs not jumping into the faces of listeners. I just want everything to be ‘glued together’ and besides that to sound like I want it. I really don’t like ultra-modern sounds like extremely gated kick drums, buzzsaw electric guitars and everything just running into a limiter until it’s a squished and stirred acoustic mess.

I am consciously taking the risk of people disliking it just because of that right now. But I started my project because I wanted to hear my songs coming to life and the sound is part of that. This doesn’t mean that I am completely happy with the mixes of the released tracks so far…

So long

PS: I left out one critical point on purpose. Genres. There’ll always be people who just stumble across your work (e.g. in your attempt to promote it) and who have no idea about what you’re doing. And this stretches to things far beyond music. Ask street photographers and nature photographers (esp. with a focus on animals) about equipment and approach to their hobby. 

PPS: Self promotion for good measure

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