Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com

Songwriters...how do you get/take feedback?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Flat6Driver, Sep 8, 2017.

  1. Harry Styron

    Harry Styron Tele-Holic

    686
    Aug 2, 2011
    Branson, Mo
    To follow up on 1995's point that useful criticism is very difficult to obtain in any endeavor, why would songwriting be any different?

    Nobody (almost) has the time, energy or insight to help you with your songwriting except to teach you some terminology so that you have a vocabulary for talking analyzing songs (terms or concepts such as AABA, near rhyme, prosody, prechorus, etc.). You can learn these things from books and careful listening.

    Collaboration gives you an opportunity to discover the strengths and weaknesses of your co-writers and yourself. If you're lucky, you may find a level of commitment that matches your own. Writing with others will teach you things that are helpful when you write alone, too.

    I was in a songwriting association for a few years that met monthly and did critiques and also sponsored writers' nights. Many of the participants improved tremendously over a period of several months. Listening critically to others and making helpful comments in a supportive setting is a great process. It also helped me to become more confident about performing original music. I also learned that some of the most insightful critics were not necessarily the best writers.
     
    JustABluesGuy, teletimetx and 1955 like this.

  2. cousinpaul

    cousinpaul Friend of Leo's

    Jun 19, 2009
    Nashville TN
    Getting honest feedback can be a tough one. Friends and family will generally tend to be supportive. As far as audiences go, it's usually a bad sign if they talk through your performance. The room will quiet down when they're actually listening to someone. You also have to separate the the song from the performance. A good looking kid with strong vocal chops is always going to get attention although many of the best writers here are sketchy performers at best. Just the way it goes... Also, a lot of people will frequent writer's gatherings to showcase themselves as artists. Sometimes the audience can't recognize the difference.

    Regarding co-writes, just remember they are forever. I've got good songs tangled up with deceased co-writers whose copyrights have passed to family members with unrealistic expectations. Others have relocated or moved on from the music biz. It can be a lot to keep track of but, in general, writing with someone more experienced or better connected than you can be a good way to advance. It's called "writing up."
     
    JustABluesGuy likes this.

  3. Wyzsard

    Wyzsard Friend of Leo's

    Friends and family will always pat you on the back and tell you how great your songs are.

    Take your songs to an open mic on the other side of town where you don't know anybody in the bar. Go out of town if you have to. Look at your audience while you are performing your stuff. That will give you an indication the wether or not you are getting through to them. Don't wait until you are finished performing your material for your feedback.

    What you want, is them to listen to your songs. Are those sitting at the bar looking at the ball game on the TV screens while you are performing ? Or are they listening to your songs and watching you perform ?

    What percentage of the crowd has your attention ? There's your valuable feedback right there.

    When I started writing I would post my lyrics on Just Plain Folks and Tunesmith forums. I welcomed blatantly honest feedback. If I wrote a turd I wanted to know it.

    Anyhow any time the subject comes up on a new thread here, the good lot of positive discussion. It really does make for great discussion, and it would be cool if we had a songwriter sub forum. Songwriting is a craft and I think it would be a great addition to TDPRI.

    I asked Paul a few years ago if he would give us a forum for songwriters and he said it depended on if there was enough interest iirc.

    I'll post a poll thread and maybe we'll generate enough interest.
     

  4. Jakeboy

    Jakeboy Tele-Holic

    968
    Jul 26, 2008
    Sedalia, MO
    I write, play, and record a lot considering I work a FT day job.
    I believe in my songs yet I see the need for collaboration. Sometimes I can be lazy and a simple one or two word change can make all the difference. That happened recently.
    Collaborating on BGVs has been very helpful.

    I take feedback well if the song is in the creation stage....if the song is 100% done, then do NOT mess with it. I know that's weird, but it's true.
    If someone took one of my songs and recorded it themselves, I have no issue with any changes.
     
    Wyzsard likes this.

  5. Wyzsard

    Wyzsard Friend of Leo's

    Back when I was posting my lyrics on a lyric critique forum, I was pretty stubborn. If I was okay with the song and thought it was finished, I didn't want to hear anything about rewriting or polishing. I know exactly where you're coming from there.

    The last few months I've looked back at a lot of my material that I never recorded demos of or anything. Just kind of left them on the shelf. As I'm digging them out, a whole lot of them, I'm glad I never did record them. I'm looking at them now and rewriting lines in a lot of them.

    But again I hear you. I've got songs I wrote 15 years ago that I wouldn't change a word on.

    Also have a pile of them that have the first verse or the first verse and chorus, and just can't seem to finish them. Don't know where to take them. Funny thing is, some of those I think or the best lyrics written.

    I'm My Own Worst Critic I reckon
     
    Jakeboy likes this.

  6. Johnson johnson

    Johnson johnson Tele-Meister

    Age:
    45
    493
    Dec 30, 2016
    Memphis
    I picked up the guitar years ago for the sole purpose of writing songs, a tool for the task.
    I've got a couple of binders, one for completed and one for in progress/ideas. As crappy as it may sound my creative process is very insular as I've learned that no one "hears" it the way I do in my head. As I'm writing (most done on acoustic btw) I'm figuring what the bass is doing, what the drums are doing, counter melodies for whatever accompanying instruments, etc. For me it's a very private, tunnel vision kind of thing, that doesn't take well to interruption, whether it's creative or not.

    Now, when it's done I'm open to any kind of input from someone I respect. But, it's still my tune.

    Sounds really despotic when I put it this way...
    Different strokes, different folks.
     
    JustABluesGuy, Jakeboy and Wyzsard like this.

  7. chulaivet1966

    chulaivet1966 Tele-Holic

    703
    Nov 17, 2011
    California
    Yes....as to the above and your quoted statement of jakedog.

    Generally speaking, if anyone comments on one of my songs it just provides a good feeling that someone showed a modicum of interest at all.
    Friends, family who don't play an instrument or write may say....'that's a great song' but are just being polite and don't really care.
    That's fine, but it's still good to hear for our ego though. :)

    To emphasize.....the most important, most valid, most welcomed comments/compliments is when one of my peers (musician friends, people on this forum) takes the time to listen, offer a suggestion, critique, comments favorably or confidently says......"you don't suck at all." :)
    The experienced song writers/musicians involved here have the most valid, qulaified opinions to me.

    Although I haven't actually promoted my songs in a long time I have posted here a couple of times to get opinions on the mix of a couple of my songs and appreciated their comments greatly....even if they thought the songs sucked....they provided mix suggestions.

    Ok....mas cafe para me....a good day to all....
     
    JustABluesGuy and Wyzsard like this.

  8. beyer160

    beyer160 Tele-Holic

    834
    Aug 11, 2010
    On Location
    Lots of really great advice in this thread.

    Everybody has their own way of working, and you have to do what feels right to you. However, there wouldn't be a "fiction" section in the library if no writer ever indulged their imagination to create (just ask JRR Tolkein). I can think of all kinds of great songs that employ a perspective other than the writer's- the first ones that come to mind are these:








    Not trying to bust your balls ('cause you've contributed a lot of really good ideas here), but that statement seems to contradict this one-

    My $.02 on that is there are different ways to judge a song. Chuck Berry maintained that "My Ding-A-Ling" was the best song he ever wrote, because unlike his "better" songs, he actually made money off it. Likewise, I'm sure we can all name obscure "deep cuts" and B-sides that are terrific songs, but never became hits. You have to decide what you want to do with your songs, and that'll determine how you write them and what kind of feedback you're looking for.


    Family and friends are hardly ever a good source of feedback on any endeavor. My wife is an amateur writer, and I have a degree in journalism (which seemed like a good idea at the time). One thing I learned in J school besides how to hold my liquor was editing. Editing, to the first timer, is rather akin to having someone come to your house, line up your family and shoot them in front of you. Done right, the process is unforgiving and sometimes brutal... but the right editor can help an author (or songwriter) hone their work to something far better than what they could have done alone. Stephen King's On Writing goes pretty deeply into his writing process, and he isn't shy about crediting his editor with helping him focus and sharpen his work.

    Anyway, the first time I edited one of my wife's pieces, she was very distraught. I think she was expecting "wow, that's really good!" but instead I told her honestly where it needed work. I explained the editing process to her, and said "If you don't want to show me your stuff anymore that's OK, but if you do I'm going to be honest. I owe you that." She quickly realized the value of constructive criticism, and we now have a good working relationship. It's unusual for a spouse to fill this role though, maybe it's because I enjoy being a dick.

    The drummer I play with is that guy for me. Early on, I brought in a new song and asked the other guys what they thought. There was general head-nodding except for Tim, who said "I dunno, it's kinda repetitive and the chorus doesn't really stand out." The other guys looked like Tim had just committed a major social faux pas ("he doesn't even WRITE songs, who is he to criticize?") but I immediately knew this was a guy I wanted to work with, and we're friends to this day.
     
    JustABluesGuy, drmoniker and brogh like this.

  9. Flat6Driver

    Flat6Driver Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    44
    Jan 14, 2013
    DC Burbs

    Through, my amazing powers of Google-fu (I have very few powers otherwise), I was able to find what I was talking about. I need to re-read it myself.

    https://www.taylorguitars.com/community/step-forward/marty
     
    elihu and Wyzsard like this.

  10. ronzhd

    ronzhd Tele-Meister Ad Free + Supporter

    138
    Nov 16, 2008
    Spring, Texas
    Personally, from the "tone", I perceived from your writing in your opening post. I wouldn't want you critiquing any of the song writers I know, much less myself. You might know a lot about music and song writing, but you don't seem to have any tact, in my opinion. That leads to other implications, such as "in order for me to value your opinion", I would have to respect your opinion. Since this all started with a perceived "tone", in an online guitar forum....... Do you see where I'm going with this? Trying to make a point. This is how I feel about outside individuals wanting to make suggestions. In my so called inner circle, brutality exists. There is no holding back, and I think this works best, besides your gonna find out if it has any legs when you get on stage. If it made it this far, your bandmates thought it was good enough to make the set list, now for the real test, the 7 people your playing to in the ice house, and two of them are your friends, good luck.
     

  11. Flat6Driver

    Flat6Driver Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    44
    Jan 14, 2013
    DC Burbs

    Wow, that's a pretty bold assessment of my opening post and I'm actually pretty stunned by it.
     

  12. brogh

    brogh Super Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 26, 2010
    italy
    Sure ! completely agree what i was trying to say is not that you can't, you can of course, but first hand life experience stories is what drives me, of course i could write about Texas fields and skies without never having been there:)

    thanks for the eric bogle tune !
     
    beyer160 likes this.

  13. 1955

    1955 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 10, 2010
    Certain uncertainty
    As an aside, the melody of "My Ding A Ling" is reminiscent of an 1800's song "Little Brown Jug," the lyrics (and even raunchier version than Chuck Berry's) got legs from Dave Bartholomew in the early '50's. Doug Clark and His Hot Nuts followed that version fairly closely and helped popularize it on college campuses in the southeast in the early '60's on the "Nuts To You" album. Chuck Berry recorded an early version in the late '60's, but psychologically (and monetarily) holds the credentials to it by virtue of his known exploits haha. Check out the earlier version, a more swingin' type of terrible for you laquer-lovers out there!
     
    JustABluesGuy and beyer160 like this.

  14. duncan121

    duncan121 Tele-Meister

    154
    Mar 8, 2011
    Tulsa, OK
    Lot of inspiration and encouragement in this thread...Wish there were more nuts and bolts...like how you approach crafting a song or how you flesh outa lyric...Anyone want to add there thoughts....I'm a long time singer songwriter and I am fascinated by others approach to writing and translating a thought or observation into a verse/chorus
     

  15. chulaivet1966

    chulaivet1966 Tele-Holic

    703
    Nov 17, 2011
    California
    For me....that exact mental process of fleshing a lyric story line would be very difficult to articulate.
    It may be easier to understand how one approached it if someone just volunteered to post the lyrics to one of their songs here. :)
    It could be an example only....their lyrical story could reveal the mental approach path.

    I might consider that thought if the interest is expressed here and no one else takes that baton.

    Back to it.....
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017

  16. 1955

    1955 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 10, 2010
    Certain uncertainty
    To flesh out a lyric you do any and every darn thing you can think of, that's the part that is nuts but true in my case.
     

  17. beyer160

    beyer160 Tele-Holic

    834
    Aug 11, 2010
    On Location
    I'm sure everyone knows the story of Paul McCartney writing "Yesterday," and how the original first two lines went-

    "Ham and eggs, ooh baby I love your legs"

    He carried that around for a while until he rewrote the lyric into the version we all know. That's one school of thought- strike while the iron's hot, get down as much as you can in the initial rush of inspiration and edit it into shape later. That's basically the approach Stephen King uses to write novels (and I consider him an excellent writer and storyteller). The other extreme is the guys who labor over each verse until it's perfect, and then go on to the next. I tend to favor the first method, but my first run at editing happens almost immediately after getting the idea down. I just couldn't deal with having, even temporarily, a song that went "Ham and eggs..."
     
    JustABluesGuy likes this.

  18. cousinpaul

    cousinpaul Friend of Leo's

    Jun 19, 2009
    Nashville TN
    Books can only take you so far but Jimmy Webb's is a real good one.
     

  19. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Age:
    39
    Oct 27, 2015
    Melbourne, Austraila
    The best, most honest feedback you will get is by playing the song live. If it's a good song, people will dance, cheer, be compelled to talk to you afterwards, etc. (There are exceptions of course - slow songs when the crowd wants to dance, metal song at a blues night - doesn't mean they're bad songs but not the right context).

    Feedback from friends and family can be helpful but you've got to have a strong sense of your own songwriting to know whether to take their comments on board or not.
     

  20. Harry Styron

    Harry Styron Tele-Holic

    686
    Aug 2, 2011
    Branson, Mo
    I'll be the guinea pig:

    Where the Country's Gone

    She was a country girl
    Shy as a fawn
    I won't forget the first time
    I saw her face at dawn
    Now something's come between us
    And she acts so put upon
    I look at her and I wonder
    Where the country's gone

    We were so proud to have
    A home of our own
    A little place outside of town
    But now the town has grown
    Shady lanes and meadows
    Are now avenues and lawns
    I look around and I wonder
    Where the country's gone

    Chorus:
    Where has the country gone
    The country that I counted on
    To be there
    In the love we shared
    I'm lost without that country feeling
    I only know that I'm not willing
    To stay here
    Where the country's gone

    She says she likes the city
    And she's tired of me
    She doesn't want to go back
    To the way things used to be
    So I'm heading for the hills and trees
    And I'll have to go alone
    I know I can't stay here
    Where the country's gone

    Repeat chorus

    Critique away!
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017

IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.