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How to give good Constructive Criticism
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Poirier812
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#1
14th December 2011
Old 14th December 2011
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How to give good Constructive Criticism

I've searched for a thread like this, but haven't really found one.

It seems as though everyone wants your opinion, but if you don't say things just right they often times take it the wrong way. Whether it be an artist you produce, or if a colleague has created any type of media. I have done well so far, but I feel like a collection of tips from seasoned pros and beginners alike will help us all develop some new strategies on giving creative feedback.

Thanks in advance to anyone who posts. I feel like this topic needs to be discussed more often.
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14th December 2011
Old 14th December 2011
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Remind them that they're asking you because they want to know the truth and they're asking you because they may respect your opinion, or feel you might offer another perspective.

They don't have to like what you say, or even agree, whatever you're saying isn't the end all-be all.
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14th December 2011
Old 14th December 2011
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Poirier812 View Post
I've searched for a thread like this, but haven't really found one.

It seems as though everyone wants your opinion, but if you don't say things just right they often times take it the wrong way. Whether it be an artist you produce, or if a colleague has created any type of media. I have done well so far, but I feel like a collection of tips from seasoned pros and beginners alike will help us all develop some new strategies on giving creative feedback.

Thanks in advance to anyone who posts. I feel like this topic needs to be discussed more often.
I find it's best to let the artist do whatever they want unless I'm specifically to 'produce' which I rarely am, I just keep my mouth shut and engineer. Usually wait for the question for them and answer based on that. Artist: "Was that a good take?" ..."how was that?"..... so then you can just say yeah good or , well try it again I think you can do better...

If it's an arrangement or song thing that is a touchy area. You need to make sure you are diverse before you comment to an artist. I recall back in the day when I was 17 and 18 and played metal it was early 80s and a turning point. I was not an engineer and it seemed all the studios in my area were the typical studio they had no concept of metal.

So they didn't get double bass drums or the cookie monster or sucking the mid range out of the gtr tone. For instance me and the other gtrist we used to use graphic eqs and suck out 2k-4k well what does the engineer do? he put is back in cuz Neil young is his fav gtr player or he thinks George Harrison had good gtr tone. So it became a battle. And he tell us we play to muffled and tight? Also we did stuff like tempo changes and screamed alot, they didn't' get that in 1983 84

Same with kick drum we wanted clicky tight double bass drums like Tommy Aldridge and what does the engineer do? he throws a u87s on the outside and doesn't cut the low mid cardboard cuz he likes ringos drum sound? so...... subjective

point being you have to make sure you are in tune with what the artists is after, It may be something the artist is after and is unique.

To be fair if I was producing Jack White the project would never be finished since I would stop at every take and ask "can you tune up", "do you have to play so sloppy", "can we use a jcm 800 or a boogie....? "Can you play tighter" ..Can you sing in key" or "can you redo that and sing in tune" "Can we change the s strings on that bass" etc.... so who am I? no one.... who is he? a famous gtr player who dared to be different.

Same with kobain I would have been like can you tune up? can we intonate your gtr? can you actually sing that in key ?...can we change those stupid lyrics mosquito and mullato??? "Does the drummer have to use the crash as a ride cymbal or can he use a ride cymbal as a ride cymbal" etc.... they dared to be different for a pop band. So you have to really know what you are doing before you comment or rather understand what they are trying to do and where they may be coming from before you comment.

It's all subjective. If you are a producer and you swear by what you think is good it can be a bumpy road with some artists and frankly you may be the one that's wrong?? If it's a vanilla artist like a modern country thing or coldplay thing or a R&B cliche thing it's easy to recommend things since they are not trying to be different, it's formulated cookie cutter stuff. It's the people who dare to be different who you have to tread lightly with and usually those are the more sensitive artists so you have to be careful how you say things and approach constructive criticism.
#4
14th December 2011
Old 14th December 2011
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For me it all depends on the situation and the pesron you critizise. For instance when I recorded a rnb singer with a massive ego

I quote "I'm the star here, I'm the stare here, you here me! I got three songs playing on the raidio right now so I'm the star here allright"

You could'nt realy say that some thing didd'nt sound good. If you said that he would filpp out. It was a colaboration project and it was up to me to make it sound good.

What I did was: I'd pick the thing I liked most and praise it to the sky. Then ask if he could'nt do it more like that. You could even make up stuff that was'nt there as long as you made him beleave that it was his idea.

I know it's manipulative but It got the job done. Im usualy more strate forward but it all depends on what kind of connection you can get with the artist and what type of person your dealing with.

One thing I allmost allways do is to praise the stuff that I thought was good before I thell them what was bad. I try to not make them feel like they are bad, it's just this they could think about to make every thing better.

I might come across ass a manupilative bastard but it is quite effective. Specialy during recording when you want the artist to be secure and confident.
#5
14th December 2011
Old 14th December 2011
  #5
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How to deal with artists...

Random thoughts and collected wisdoms...

* No matter how bad they are you can't take way from someone the fact that there IS a possibility of them getting signed up by a big record label (even if it is a billion to one chance and you would bet your life on it not ever happening)

* Dont help someone if it will piss you off if they become successful later.

* Be as honest as is tactful / appropriate for that person at that time.

* "I took the liberty of bull-shiting you" (The Blues Brothers movie) 50 Funniest Movie One-Liners | TotalFilm.com
#6
14th December 2011
Old 14th December 2011
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This depends on your task in the collaborative workprocess too. Don’t step over the boundaries, because that will cause confusion and rock the chain of command in the whole thing. Unless that is what you want of course, but it could cause hierarchy problems even then.

It’s important to figure out, or “feel”, why the question is being asked. There are people who ask very seriously about critique, but what they are really after is backpatting. It’s like being in traffic; it’s not enough that you do everything right, you gotta be prepared for that others may not do it right too, and you need to help others get it right in those situations as well.

When responding, a good rule of thumb is A) don’t step on their pride, and B) don’t poke a hole in their darlings. Don’t idealize and don’t torment. People are “strange”, and you are strange to others just as well, and everybody feels they are right.

Most people will sense that you’re holding back, so be open with that this is what you’re doing, show it with facial expressions, tone of voice etc. That’s a good way to avoid getting dragged into those devastating “Why can’t you just spit it out?” debates.

If you feel that what’s going on nowhere near the mark, and what is needed is a radical change of direction, then you shouldn’t say that. Instead, you should leave the project. You shouldn’t even have gotten into it in the first place, but one can’t know everything in advance. You should leave because not even you yourself would be able to make such a drastic change that you’ll be asking of the other part. They won’t be able to either, in the time your collaboration spans.
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Poirier812
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#7
15th December 2011
Old 15th December 2011
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Thanks a lot everyone!

These are some great suggestions. It seems like to really learn a skill like this it will take a lot more time on working with clients, and implementing these to see which work when and where.

I feel like this skill is just as important as any other, because if you can't communicate with the client then youre setting yourself up for a disaster.

Thanks again everyone. I hope more people can post!
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