The Compositional Drummer

The Compositional Drummer

Information for the career minded drummer and musician

Great, Good or Not Good

Don't let criticism get to your head...


So you've written a piece of music and you think it's the greatest thing ever... Until you let others hear it. Family and friends normally smile, nod in a positive affirming way you then walk away feeling good about yourself... until you hear those dreaded negative words of criticism come from people who owe you no allegiance. 


As a writer, when hearing not so nice words about your work you might walk away from such experience feeling hurt and offended and put off by such comments. But, should you?


Criticism, whether maliciously hidden in the guise of constructive or not should always be weighed in the careful balance of whom it is coming from.  I will repeat myself. Weigh all criticism in the balance of whom it is coming from. If Quincy Jones says, "Ummm not exactly", chances are you are off the mark. However, musician friends frustrated by their own lack of progress often visit their misery on other fellow musicians in the form of negative criticism. Some musicians might "high-five" you then as soon as you turn your back... talk about you like a dog. Family and friends will always spare your feelings by offering positive affirming words but is that really helpful? Unfortunately, it is a skewed view of reality and just as damming and harmful as the critical, back biting, miserable musician comment.


In my experience, criticism coming from an informed individual is best and even better when the person has your best interest at heart.


While in college I remember being in music composition class one semester during listening day (the day each composer had to bring in an audio recording of a completed work). The stress level was so highly visible on the faces of the presenters it was borderline comical.  Some pieces were good, some were great, some were not good. But nevertheless the instructor encouraged nothing but constructive criticism. He suggested that we should make only comments aimed at helping someone grow.  On group projects He would pair a strong writer with one not so strong and by the end of the semester the final juries had everyone showing huge improvements in all aspects of their writing.


So what's my point? If you are serious about your growth, as a beginning writer avoid playing your music for the overly critical, the miserable musician acquaintances, family and close friends... if possible. Instead try joining an online songwriting community group or find a composition teacher whom specializes in your genre and ask for honest feedback.  Everyone might not like your music and for those who don't you should ask that they explain why in a constructive, open, honest and helpful way. It is only then will leave you feeling good about this musical journey you are on. 


Final note, although it might be hard, criticism should NEVER!!! get to your head and don't be afraid of being on the receiving end of criticism. Having attended a master class by Grammy nominated Jazz pianist Fred Hersch,  he said it best after criticizing a performance of a colleague... "It's one man's opinion.” and that it truly is.


I promise we’ll get back to the technical aspects of writing shortly. I’m hoping these last few inspirational posts are helping someone. Please tell me what you think in the comments below


Legendary Jazz Pianist Fred Hersch

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