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Songwriting basics
Mapping songs
Creating tension
Writing melodies
Now what?

Critiquing others and being critiqued

A small % of people do critique. Remember, it's like tithing, the more you
give the more you get back.

I critique when I have time, and too much even when I don't to be honest.
I also consider those I think have an open mind to hearing honest tough
critiques, and I honestly consider those who help in the critiquing job more
as well.

It's nobody's job here, people give their own time to help others, and we
ALL should help.

You're not qualified? $#@%&! LOL! Yes you are. You have ears, you have an
opinion, you have your tastes that tell you when to buy a CD and when not
to, you have your opinion that decides when to turn the radio station and
when not to, you are as qualified as any one. The more you do, the better
YOU'RE writing will get as well, and the better you'll be at it too! :-)

Just say "I'm new to critiquing, but this is my opinion ..."

Critiquing my baby

As writers we often want other people's opinion of our songs. Sometimes because we're so proud of it, we want others to enjoy it and feel good like we do. We want them to "celebrate" with us. Another reason we ask for critique, and actually the better reason is to ask for their opinion. This is asking for a critique. Now you can get 2 different types of critique. An honest critique and a sugar coated critique. The honest critique is harder to give and harder to receive. This is an honest critique that is honest enough to point out a problem if one is seen. Now, understand that one person's garbage is another's prize possession. My wife and I talk about old things a lot. She says one thing is an antique, and I say "honey, it's just old." But, if we were talking about guitars, maybe I'd have a different viewpoint. Anyhow, the other type is a sugarcoated critique. Kind of like you're neighbor waves to you and says, "hi how are you today" and you smile and say "fine" and continue on your way to grab the newspaper. You don't say that you're actually having a bad day because you missed you're promotion yesterday, you're concerned about your dad's health, and you're football team just lost their 4th straight game and you're afternoon is going down hill fast. You just sugar coated you're answer. A real friend might see you walking down the street and say "hey, how are you REALLY doing. You don't seem yourself today. Tell me what's going on." That's a real friend that cares about you. A critique that does anyone any good isn't full of "oh what a nice song, you're so good." It may do wonders for you're ego though. Now if someone honestly looks at a song and sees nothing that they can point to and suggest they'd be best saying "I took an honest look at your song and really have no suggestions. It seems very good as it is, I really don't have any input for you differently." If the person sees things that TO THEM don't seem right, or has suggestions an alternative ideas they should let you know them, hopefully in a caring way. Not "your song stinks!" but more like, I think you could work on this section, or this, etc."

One problem is that songs to songwriter sometimes seem like our babies. It's not fun listening to someone say there's a blemish on your baby. "Your child is spoiled" for instance. BUT, if someone cares, they'd point it out to you in a caring manner so that you could correct the problem. Remember though that in the end it's YOUR SONG! But don't forget to have an open mind. If someone was struck with the feeling that your song didn't sound right, chances are it may hit many others that way too. Consider carefully their opinion and then decide if you agree with it. I find it best to print up the response and think them over for a couple days. When I critique songs I try to give the person options. As writers we often get tunnel vision thinking one way. I try to say "why not try such an such" or "It doesn't seem that you stayed with your rhyme scheme" or "I don't think your title is focused on enough" and so on. Sometimes I get specific ideas and will suggest a different type of verse, or story line and make specific suggestions. "Instead xyz, try abc, or so on." I don't think it's the critiqers job to rewrite your song, but if they get an idea they should pass it on. But don't think that just because someone pointed out an error for you that they should also fix it for you. That's your job, and more importantly your decision to decide if it was an error, or beauty mark. LOL!

Have an open mind, thank them for taking their time and being a friend enough to give you their honest opinion, carefully consider their opinion, and then decide having seen the alternatives. It's your song, make it a good one.

Dave Byers

Dave is the founder of " and the Christian Songwriters Organization. He has been writing songs since 1979. His book "Songwriting fundamentals" is available by clicking here.


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