Here at Tonic Audio Labs, we’re pretty passionate about helping music creators all around the world to create more music and better music. Among the tools we’ve built to support this endeavor, we want to dig in on the issue of asking for quality feedback for your songs.
This is the start of a series of blog posts that get into the details of song feedback. We want to help everyone learn how to utilize this amazing resource to make better music–each other.
Before we can talk about how to give good feedback to others, we need to talk about how to ask for good feedback.
For many of us, the thought of asking for feedback can induce a ton of anxiety! That’s totally normal, and most people we’ve worked with on music together all have certain…let’s call them neuroses…when it comes to receiving feedback. No matter how long you’ve been creating music, you likely have some vulnerability around sharing your work in progress with the world before it’s absolutely done.
Madonna puts it quite eloquently:
Songwriting is a really intimate experience, it’s kind of like sitting down with a stranger and telling them every secret of your soul…you have to be not afraid to make a fool of yourself.”Time Magazine, March 2015
There’s something really calming knowing that the most successful, prolific artists in the world have the same insecurities as you and I. That’s amazing! That shows not only that we’re all human, but we’re all capable of greatness when it comes to our craft.
But almost always, we need feedback from trusted people in order to make better art. And by better art, I mean art that more authentically portrays what you’re trying to get across in your lyrics and music. At Tonic Audio, we believe the more accurate a song comes across with regard to the songwriter’s original intention, the better it is. We’re not talking about it being better in any commercial sense. That comes later.
So how exactly do you ask for better, more useful feedback? Here are a couple tips:
Get your ego out of it
This might be extremely difficult for some of us, that’s why it leads our list. Say to yourself, “You are more than your art as it stands today.” This is a really important thing to internalize. You are a wonderful human being, rich with experiences, complex in nature, with many facets of hopes, fears, loves, and indifferences. You’re not perfect and you likely have regrets about your past. This is what makes you so well-positioned to tell stories through music.
You are indeed more than your art as it stands today. The skill of songwriting is to get better at how to use musical instruments, inspiration, tools, and other people to tell the stories you want to tell through sound. You’ll never “arrive” at being a perfect producer. So practice taking your ego out of the equation when you share your works-in-progress with others.
For one, people who offer useful quality feedback will already understand it’s a work in progress–and the better ones will know how to best suggest areas that could use improvement. They’re not interested in tearing you down. Unfortunately, there are people who do enjoy–for whatever reason–insulting others’ works. But that likely comes from a place of damage or insecurity on their part.
It doesn’t matter. Forget the haters, and take your ego out of the situation. Once the song is started and you know there’s a good nugget in there, it’s now your job to get it to a point of excellence. And you can do that quickly by asking for quality feedback from supportive, critical listeners.
Know what aspects of the song you cherish
Nothing’s worse than asking a friend, “What do you think of my song?” and dropping an MP3 onto their avatar. Most friends will give you kudos, some may elaborate a bit, but I’m willing to bet that you’ll get something like “Great banger! Love it! ✨” back.
Now, this isn’t terrible. Sometimes we just need a pat on the back, and this is basically what it is. But as far as feedback goes, it’s neither actionable nor useful to better the song. You’re probably not going to get anything great out of a “Like my song?” request.
Decide what parts of the song you’re super excited about–maybe it’s this killer melody on the chorus, and you really want to keep that. But you’re unhappy about the pre-chorus, or the choice of synths, or perhaps the performance. Say so! Ask your friend, “Hey, what do you think about the chorus of this song? I’m really loving the melody but I feel like it could use a different arrangement or instrumentation to really set the mood.” With this request, you’ll likely get much more detailed feedback with some approaches you may not have even considered.
You get better feedback if you ask for comments in specific areas
You now know to state to others what parts of the song you cherish and the parts you don’t want to lose. But also, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on areas that you feel indifferent about.
I know when I write, I often lay down extremely simple drums while I write the harmony and melody. Oftentimes I end up unmotivated to go back and liven up the drums. If you suspect something like this in your work, ask for feedback on these parts too! Sometimes small suggestions can really increase the parts of the song you don’t know what to do with.
Also, remember that there are several parts to a song’s structure. We at Tonic Audio tend to think of them in five distinct parts: melody, harmony, rhythm, lyric, and timbre (more on this later!) But it’s completely okay to ask for feedback on the melody only, or perhaps specific to the timbre of a lead instrument. Specific requests will often receive specific answers.
Next time we’ll get into some tips on how to give good feedback. Be sure to read up on our How to be a better songwriter and collaborator. Until then, happy creating! 💜