Make Better Music 5: Be Your Own Worst Critic

make better music. Trebuchet magazine
make better music. Trebuchet magazine

Being a musician is about dealing with emotion. It’s often about connecting with the listener and telling them a story that connects emotionally with them. Whether it’s a classical symphony or a dancefloor banger – you’ve got to connect with that unknown person on the other end of the line.

Unfortunately, the process of making music can be a highly emotional one in itself, and you can easily get caught up in a terrible trap. The trap of knowing what your intentions are with your piece of music.

When this happens, you forget the listeners point of view, and you start thinking:

Oh hell yeah, I’m nailing this track, I’m on a roll and I’m completely awesome!

Sure it sounds like that when you know what the message is, and how you did it, and how much work you put into it….and you’ve just spent all night on it.

The casual listener will have no interest in whether or not you’ve written better or worse tracks…they won’t care if you stayed up all night trying to get one particular detail right.

They’ll react to it instinctively, right!?

This is where the sobered up “morning after” listen comes in. If your track still kicks ass at 7:30am the next morning (and you’ve actually been to sleep for a decent period of time – all nighters don’t count here) then you have probably hit your mark.

There is not a creative musician in the land who has not experienced the “I’m a genius” moment in the heat of creation, only to be brought crushingly down to earth the next morning.

The message here is – listen to your music like a stranger would. Don’t be soft on yourself… be your own harshest critic, and you’ll already have faced the worst criticism.

About Dave.
David Learnt composition (harmony, counterpoint and orchestration) to degree level through studying Schoenbergs Fundamentals of Musical Composition. He is a founder member of avant pop duo Cnut, and orchestral doombience outfit Regolith.

Make Better Music is updated every Tuesday.
Image: Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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About Dave Graham 70 Articles
David Learnt composition (harmony, counterpoint and orchestration) to degree level through studying Schoenbergs Fundamentals of Musical Composition, the classic text on twentieth century harmony by Vincent Persichetti, Henry Mancini's Sounds and Scores, Rimsky-Korsakov's excellent books on orchestration as well as studying any scores that intrigued me. He is a founder member of two bands, avant pop duo Cnut, and orchestral doombience outfit Regolith, and have performed across Europe with them.

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