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How do I improve at critiquing music?


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I feel like the better I am with supporting others, the better I'll be with supporting myself as a musician. 

Outside of simply critiquing others more consistently now, what are some other sources or ways that I can quickly improve?  Anything that's helped anyone here?

I've been reading some of the critique reviews from the "Judges Decision" section, and I'd love to be at that kind of level.  I love the attention to details.

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I wrote a bit on feedback in my remixing guide, back when. It's less about giving good feedback and more about identifying it among the feedback you get, but it might still be useful to you.

Quote

-good feedback-

I'm sure I've said it a few times already, but let me reiterate: listening to other ppl's music and putting into words what you think about it, the issues you hear, and the solutions you can come up with is great, both for your own artistic growth and for that of your fellow artists. By providing useful feedback you can make them feel familiar with you, even indebted to you so they'll respond in kind with feedback on your remixes.

So what is good feedback? The ocr staff has put together a checklist of common problems with mixes submitted to the site. The checklist lets you mark what issues you hear in a mix. This means you have some help in finding (or avoiding) those things, and suggests things to listen for (eg clipping or noticeable compression). As you use it, you can learn to hear these things even when not prompted by the checklist, and to avoid those problems in your own mixes.

Good feedback points out the problems. It can be offered in a very nice tone, or... a not very nice tone. It can be detailed and elaborate, or succinct. It can address everything, or just one thing you need to hear. It can encourage you, it can challenge you, it can even offend you. How you feel about it isn't what matters. It doesn't have to point out what you're doing right (tho that's usually appreciated). It's doesn't even even have to point out what you're doing wrong. Ultimately, good feedback tells you what and/or how to improve.

Another way to define good feedback is to define bad feedback. Incorrect, incoherent or irrelevant feedback is bad feedback. Imprecise isn't good, but it's better to hear that "your mixing is bad" than to not hear anything about the mixing at all. That's assuming the person offering the feedback doesn't get his terms mixed up and meant your writing instead. Inexistent feedback also counts, as you won't even learn whether random ppl like your mix or not if they don't say anything. Praise (even sincere, if excessive) is also bad feedback - hearing that your mix is the greatest thing ever does not help you grow as an artist. I mean, what do you learn from hearing that you know everything?

You should always question the feedback you're getting, if all you're getting is "it sucks" or "it rocks", ask why, ask what specifically sucks or rock, ask what you can do to improve it. Don't take anything at face value, question everything and stick to what makes sense. Try to understand all feedback you're getting, even if you don't agree with it or know what the big words mean. And nothing's stopping you from reading feedback on other ppl's works and trying to hear the things they hear.

Repeat: try to understand _all_ feedback.

The checklist mentioned above.

I think good feedback comes from good listening. This means understanding what you're listening to, understanding the artist's intention but also a typical listener's reaction and negotiating some kind of useful response out of that. Knowledge, whether music theory, audio engineering, performance, sound design, mixing, music history or anything else is also useful, so learning any of that will help.

Be aware of the artist's intention. On this site you might come across releases, works-in-progress, experiments and all kinds of things, and some of it is made with to suit ocr's standards and some of it isn't. And elsewhere on the internet ocr's standards aren't relevant (the vgm interpretation stuff anyway).

Then comes the psychology of how to actually deliver the feedback in a way that's constructive. I've screwed up on this a few times (apparently the word mediocre means bad), and you will too, probably. Don't tell the artist what to do. Offer your perspective. Suggestions are fine, but be more descriptive than prescriptive. There's a saying about how usually when people say something's wrong they're right, and when they say what's wrong they're not. I try to offer multiple solutions when I identify a problem, as in "you might be able to solve this by EQ-carving some space in the other instruments, or side-chain compressing them out of the way". That gives the artist options to consider rather than directives to obey.

If you make music (I haven't seen you around), think about the feedback you'd want on your mixes, and how you'd want it delivered. And then write it a little softer, a little nicer than that, because tone is difficult to convey in text.

I'm not exactly in my best head space right now, so this might not be entirely coherent. I hope it's still useful.

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1 hour ago, Rozovian said:

I wrote a bit on feedback in my remixing guide, back when. It's less about giving good feedback and more about identifying it among the feedback you get, but it might still be useful to you.

The checklist mentioned above.

I think good feedback comes from good listening. This means understanding what you're listening to, understanding the artist's intention but also a typical listener's reaction and negotiating some kind of useful response out of that. Knowledge, whether music theory, audio engineering, performance, sound design, mixing, music history or anything else is also useful, so learning any of that will help.

Be aware of the artist's intention. On this site you might come across releases, works-in-progress, experiments and all kinds of things, and some of it is made with to suit ocr's standards and some of it isn't. And elsewhere on the internet ocr's standards aren't relevant (the vgm interpretation stuff anyway).

Then comes the psychology of how to actually deliver the feedback in a way that's constructive. I've screwed up on this a few times (apparently the word mediocre means bad), and you will too, probably. Don't tell the artist what to do. Offer your perspective. Suggestions are fine, but be more descriptive than prescriptive. There's a saying about how usually when people say something's wrong they're right, and when they say what's wrong they're not. I try to offer multiple solutions when I identify a problem, as in "you might be able to solve this by EQ-carving some space in the other instruments, or side-chain compressing them out of the way". That gives the artist options to consider rather than directives to obey.

If you make music (I haven't seen you around), think about the feedback you'd want on your mixes, and how you'd want it delivered. And then write it a little softer, a little nicer than that, because tone is difficult to convey in text.

I'm not exactly in my best head space right now, so this might not be entirely coherent. I hope it's still useful.

This is beautifully written, thank you for taking the time to go to this level of depth. I'll definitely start using the checklist. I am new here, and I do create remixes -- I think I can grow better if I grow in critiquing as well, so thank you!

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  • 4 weeks later...

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