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#789518 - 01/21/10 09:09 PM Why is it so hard to judge your own work?  
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 301
billrocker Offline
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billrocker  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2007
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Nashville TN
I did a critique on a song yesterday and the writer wrote back and said (an I'm rephrasing) that it was frustrating to feel like he nailed it, only to have someone find stuff in there that was problematic...stuff he agreed with, but it was stuff he thought he should have caught himself. It made me think. I didn't quite know how to reply but I gave it a shot:

I don't feel by any means like Iím the master writer dude or any kind of definitive expert. But I've learned that songwriting is a craft and there is so much more to the picture than meets the eye. I had no idea, when I moved [to Nashville] in 1996, just how much there is to it. I became a student of songwriting and took classes, went to seminars, read books, and I wrote many many songs. Just in the last couple years do I feel like Iím starting to get it...and I emphasise the word STARTING.

Nashville songwriting can be a very complex thing, but at the same time it couldnít be simpler. Write from your heart, write what you know, and donít let your rhyme scheme drive the content of your song. After 14 years that's my personal conclusion anyway. I don't presume to think that's all there is to it or that everyone will agree, but for me, that seems to be the starting platform. Any song in which I've failed to abide by any of these constructs has turned out to be a song that I couldn't seem to get off the ground.

Of course there's much more to it than that.

All the ins and outs are what the craft of songwriting are all about. Just as if you were building a china cabinet, you have to have the right tools, you have to make some crappy ones before you can make a nice one, and the more you make the better they get. But when it's done, even if you've built the most beautiful china cabinet this side of heaven, you still may have a hard time finding someone who appreciates its beauty.

I've said it before, so please excuse the redundancy department of redundancy, but I believe that many people highly underestimate the craft element of songwriting. Many writers that I review think theyíre already there because they heard some crappy song on the radio and said, ďMy songís better than that." For many of those people songwriting seems to soon become more about the lack of accessibility to industry contacts, the ruthless politics, and the general unfairness of the business....than about how to write a great 2nd verse. It always surprises me to see how many people figure all their songs are already great and now itís just a matter of cracking the combination that locks the room holding the brass ring. The truth is, meeting industry pros is easy compared to writing a good enough song to play for those pros. Another think that I've come to believe is that anyone can get a sit down appointment with a top producer, publisher or record company exec if they are tenacious enough. But very few get invited back for a second meeting.

It seems sometimes that in no other arena have so many been so mistaken in assessing their own capacity for success than in the arena of songwriting. This without a doubt includes myself. I submitted a song last month to 2 producers and in that song was a line that I truly believed was one of the best lines I'd ever come up with. Both reviewers had serious issues with my song. They didn't like the line that I thought was pure gold. How could I have been so wrong?

SO my quesion is this: why is it so hard for songwriters to judge their own work?

Bill Renfrew
www.writethismusic.com

#789523 - 01/21/10 09:29 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: billrocker]  
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Mark Kaufman Offline
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I think it's because we rarely write dispassionately--we generally try to write our best (whether it is or isn't). So, we end up putting a piece of ourselves in it, and when we offer that, we tend to value it more than anyone else does.

Personally, I cannot fully disengage myself enough from the writing process of my own songs. I can view someone else's song easily...but my own is always clouded by the close connection. It's sort of like making an observation about a stranger's kid, then one about your own...mighty different way of seeing.

#789526 - 01/21/10 09:48 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: billrocker]  
Joined: May 2006
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Colin Ward Offline
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Saint Petersburg. FL
There's no accounting for taste. If I write the perfect blues song and you hate blues, my song is a flop. If I write a line that is very clever and you don't like clever lines, then it is a flop too.

I suspect producers and publishers are always focused on the opportunity of the moment (Kelly Swift is about to record her next album), so they are judging your song by how well it fits Kelly's style, not just by how good the song is.



Colin

I try to critique as if you mean business.....

http://colinwardmusic.com/

http://rosewoodcreekband.com/


#789548 - 01/21/10 11:02 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Colin Ward]  
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Two Singers Offline
Two Singers  Offline

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Northern Alabama
Bill,

The only thing I disagree with is the part where you said "...write what you know...". It is my personal opinion that you don't have to have to "know" the anguish of love gone bad to write about it. I also write novels. I write in two genres; Drama Fiction set in the 1950s and 1960s, and Contemporary Humorous Detective novels. I've never been a PI or known one personally. I've never been in law enforcement. But I can write a pretty darned entertaining book about it!

Perhaps, on the other hand, I am misunderstanding your definition of "know". Maybe it's just a matter of semantics. I fully agree with everything else you said.

I think timing and luck are just about as important as the quality of the song. If you write the best song ever written but it's not right for any of the contemporary artists, or doesn't tickle the fancy of the suits ion Nashville for any reason, it's not gonna happen. However, if you've written a really nice song, but perhaps not exceptional, it still has a chance if it's the exact subject matter ,genre, hook, tempo & style, etc., that the singer is looking for, it at least has a chance. They might want to rework it a bit (with co-write credit, of course), but if it has everything else, and your timing is right and your lucky enough to have it heard (maybe at an open mic) by someone with decision making privilege, the possibility exists that you might get a cut.

Am I off-base? Or, perhaps, am I misunderstanding the intended message in your post? If I'm full of crap, just say so...I'm used to it...I'm married!

Alan

#789552 - 01/21/10 11:30 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Two Singers]  
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Ray E. Strode Offline
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Ray E. Strode  Offline
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Brunswick, Ga. USA
Well,
If I were critiqueing songs I would first listen to see if it did anything for me. That is how the Public sees it. If they like the song/artist they may buy it.

I don't think you can learn to write songs by reading books, it takes experence and living it for some time before you can write effectively, if at all. And some songs, on the radio, by major artists, sound like they were written by amatuers.

I went and listened to an Artist that is looking for songa and making a comeback. I was not moved by what I heard. But then, that is what makes it so hard to write a good song. You don't write a great song everyday.


Ray E. Strode
#789560 - 01/21/10 11:59 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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Douglas Murphy Offline
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Douglas Murphy  Offline
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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I think it has to do with the connection we have with what we create. We can be our own worth critique and in the same breath be blinded by the feeling we get for creating.

I for one always look for the comments/critiques of others and, when someone hits the nail straight on, look forward to re-writing. (Especially when I really see potential in the lyric.)

"Why is it difficult to critique your own work?" Because no matter how good you think the piece is it always takes another set of eyes to see everything you don't.

Doug


"Is this a practice? They are all practices." John Denver

www.soundclick.com/dougmurphy

Skype Contact: douglas.murphy8
#789562 - 01/22/10 12:03 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
Joined: Jan 2009
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Nashville, Tn.
It is an interesting problem.

First of all, most writers get "songwriter's tunnel vision." They are consumed by the emotion, the visuals, the elements that make up the song. They are not side tracked by market, other writers, competing interests, etc.

People who do this for a living (myself included) have to look at it from a variety of perspectives. I personally take several points of view:

#1 Entertainer. As an artist, how would this play in front of a crowd in a club or a place where people are pre-disposed to ignore the song. Would it hold up? Would it get attention?

#2 Writer. Does it make sense musically, lyrically? Is it something I would feel comfortable turning into a publisher? Over my own other songs?

#3 A potential co-writer. Would this song make me want to get to know that writer better, possibly to pair up in a collaboration? Or would I look elsewhere?

#4 Publisher. Would I feel comfortable investing money in a demo, having my staff put theirs and my reputation on the line on this song? Or if it was a freind of mine trying to get a deal, what would I tell them?

#5 Song plugger. Would I chance never getting another one of those all so rare appointments again on this song? If I am paid a retainer based upon results, would this get results?

#6 Record producer. Would this be a song I would cut on my artist, rising up above his or her own songs, even if I knew it would be risking a large amount of money with them having a song they did not have writer's share on? If I could be fired from the project for a failed song?

#7. Label exectutive. Would I stake my job or that of my staff, their kids, their relationships, on this song as it is a part of the overall package.

The more you do this, the more you gain inner instincts on all of this. If you are in the public eye a good deal, it gets easier. You know what works and what doesn't. If you deal with the industry, you get their perspectives easier. It becomes faster, which is how the industry views songs. If you can;t get and keep attention through a busy day with someone who's job is a constant immersion in the music industry, how are you going to get and keep the attention of the housewife getting her kids to school, the business executive listening for news and weather stuck in traffic, the teen ager who wants songs for his/her I pod's, the person looking for a new favorite song. It all comes through in the blink of an eye.

Songwriters who get defensive and can't see all that, are in the wrong business.
But almost all writers have the same problems. They all have trouble judging their own work. And it is born out over and over. With almost every hit writer and artist, you will hear continuous stories that the song they had cut is not the one they thought would be cut ,and the one they thought would be cut was the one that was not cut.

Weird business.

MAB

#789566 - 01/22/10 12:07 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Two Singers]  
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Gary E. Andrews Offline
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Portsmouth, Ohio, USA
We're probably focused on parts of the song, as opposed to assessing the whole. We overlook the line we just accepted for the sake of rhyme, even though it doesn't do much to advance the storyline.

Often, I read lyrics on these sites that don't have a good storyline. They rhyme, sometimes in the right places, and they have the requisite number of verses and choruses and bridges and codas but the whole of it doesn't succeed in hooking my interest.

It may be played in a blues tempo and style, the lyric constructed in the line, repeat line, and different line style of the blues, but doesn't tell the story, or the story it tells isn't interesting, or it lacks one of the requisite components that could maintain my interest.

The grab-a-rhyme box should be put in the closet, and the closet locked, to prevent anyone from ever again writing 'feeling inside' or 'strive.' There are others but I'm afraid to look in the box for fear they'll get stuck to the back of my eyeballs and pop up in my next song.

I contend that, if you just tell the story, if you 'get' the story, you will find the rhyme that magically exists within it.

But, again, we get focused on our good lines and 'accept' others because they seem to work, even though they're not strong in the context of the story.

When I write I'm usually hooked by some line that I ad lib, that first line, and the story implied in it.

"I got the word in Delacroix, She'd be waitin' in New Orleans."

The first-person style creates the character whose story it is. He has a love interest, and she's waiting in New Orleans, but he's in Delacroix. It hooked me, the first listener, making me want to know what the story was. I may have ad libbed the next line or two, and gotten stuck, having to wait a while for the story to incubate, for me to 'get' the story so I could write it.

"We could use a little rain." I got a farmer's story, the rain just one of the problems he faced. It took a while to 'get' that it was his wife, Sarah, who listened to him make that obvious statement a hundred times, and still kept him going. Now I think it's more her song than his.

"I'm goin' back, To New Orleans. My folk need, My helpin' hand." I got the story, and wanted to know where it might go.

"Put on a hat! Take off your coat! Babe, let's you and I rent a boat. I'll row us to the Kentucky side." I got it. A romantic night for two lovers, a river, a boat, the moon, a fire. It made sense.

I had no idea what the hook, THE hook, would be. On that one it turned out to be "Over The River Tonight." That line came to me when it was time for it to come, and made summary sense of what had come before.

Craft is definitely an element songwriters overlook in the beginning, and are reluctant to explore later. We're very resistant to changing songs once they have been set up. I remember realizing I didn't want to write down or play for anyone else a song in a format that I had not settled on yet. That act of putting it in what copyright law calls 'fixed form' seemed to lock it in and make it harder to 'craft' it later.

Someone said, 'Songwriting IS re-writing.' Sometimes you get an inspiration and it comes in a nearly perfect prosody of lyric and melody, and accompaniment. More likely, it comes with a certain amount of inspiration, a certain amount of desire to write something so we accept/grab-a-rhyme, and may add a little bit of craft or intention to write.

After 40 years of songwriting I think I do a lot of crafting as I write. I get that first line that hooks me on the story. I 'get' the story, either immediately or after some incubation, and I'm crafting as I go, rejecting lines or rhymes that don't do what I want it to do, searching and finding lines that do.

And I'm always looking for the whole, the advancement of the story, a play in three acts, so to speak, 3 verses, each moving the characters forward in the story.

Crafting becomes second nature, part of the process, as opposed to something done afterward. But doing it afterward, letting the song flow and go where it might, then going back and crafting it where you like and dislike what you ad libbed, is how you learn to do spontaneous crafting as you write.

Melodies come the same way. We accept inspiration and ad lib as they come. But then you can tweak a note in duration or pitch to make it do a better job in enunciation of the word it is married to. That crafting may be the difference in a mediocre song and a great one. I discovered that 'grow,' sung in a sustained note, developed a 'u' sound instead of an 'o' sound. So I had to concentrate on maintaining it as an 'o' to get it to do what I felt it should do. I discovered that the note at the end of a line disappeared if it went down to a lower pitch, and, by tweaking that note to go up in pitch it better delivered the word meaning, so strategic to the rhyme and sentence it completed.

We don't examine our own songs critically, the way we do other peoples'. That's another benefit of critiquing others' works, that we learn things to apply in critiquing/crafting our own.


There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
#789567 - 01/22/10 12:08 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: billrocker]  
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"Tampa Stan" Good (D) Offline
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"Tampa Stan" Good (D)  Offline
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HiDee Bro Bill!

I don't think any 2 people really ever think ALIKE...so ya get any 2 people together to judge a song, you'll get a pair of differing opinions. Whether that's SLIGHTLY-Differing..or VERY Differing...it's always Difficult to predict. Your 14 years' Experience have helped ya Narrow-Down "What People Like"..& it hopefully gets Easier-By-The-Year...heh!

For Every Tale of "They BOTH Hated the same line" I hear, there's ALSO the "This Producer Passed on this song TWICE until (Fill in the Name) brought it to him..& THEN he said He-Loved-It & It Got Cut."

But, back to Judging One's Own Work: Practice-Makes-Perfect..'Pays to LISTEN to Free Advice..Ya learn to "Filter" it as the years roll-by...& STILL Go-with-Your-Gut.. I always keep Songs in the Perspective that this is FOR ENTERTAINMENT/Will a LARGE Audience Potentially LIKE (Or DISLIKE) what's Being Said Here?

If-It's "LARGE", prolly FEWER Flaws are gonna get Picked-On.

Too-Personal/Too Hard-to-Relate-To...Too-Negative/Too-Suggestive...Too-Poetic...Too-Amateur/Too-"Dated"...Too-Long/Too-Short...Too BAD!

I take delight in knowin' even the GREATS penned at least a few Really-Crappy Songs, too. Ya just never heard 'em/they just never saw the Light of Day. OR..they got cut & it went out & became a HIT. (I just dug up Michael Jackson's "Beat It" Lyric yesterday...chock fulla YodaSpeak...)

Waal..back to creating The Perfect "Filter"...

Best Wishes & a Big Guy-Hug,
Stan




#789591 - 01/22/10 01:06 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: ]  
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Dave Rice (D) Offline
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Dave Rice (D)  Offline
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Hi Bill and fellow contributors:

It's difficult to be objective when judging your own songwriting efforts. If we, as individuals, could detach ourselves from our creation(s) and wait until the euphoria subsides, it would make things a little easier... but objectivity is difficult because of our emotional attachment to the song.

It's sorta like a golfer. If one could step out of his/her skin and move a few yards away and watch what happens as we swing the club... we could all probably be fairly good golfers.

Often, when I finish writing and recording a new song... I'll wait a few days to listen again carefully. Very few songs will sound just right to me after a few days have passed. Sometimes, I only need to re-cut the song but many times, all or part needs rewriting in any one of the main elements. I believe I've learned to be more critical as time has passed. Only time will tell... when (and if) a song of mine ever makes it to one of the charts.

#789607 - 01/22/10 02:26 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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Jean Bullock Offline
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One of the problems with judging one's own work often lies in the lyrical part of the song. Sometimes in writing lyrics, the writer forgets to include enough information to let the listener know what he or she means. The writer knows the underlying story but if he or she doesn't include enough clues, the listener won't. So the writer needs to look at the lyric and see if enough information is given so the listener can connect to the story or the meaning of the song. The writer needs to remember that everyone has different experiences and may not relate to implied meanings. Too much subtlety may leave the listener behind and unable to connect to the emotional impact the writer is feeling. The writer has to be able to lead the listener to feel what he or she was feeling when the song was being composed. This is why songwriters are often encouraged to write about experiences or feelings that are universal to most people. If the song is extremely personal and filled with the writers unique personal symbolism, often only those who have had the same experience will be able to connect to it. The songwriter is already moved by the inspiration that led him or her to write it and may not be aware that the song is not moving the listener.

Another problem is the melody of the song. By the time a song is "finished," the writer will have sung the melody many times and may think it's memorable enough. If after hearing a song, the average listener can hum some of the most important musical phrases, then it probably meets the "memorable" test. If not, then the melody may need some adjustment. It's hard for the writer to determine the memorability of the melody because he or she has already memorized it as it was developed. Just like the lyric situation, prior knowledge may interfere with judgement.

When it comes to the accompaniment, some composers are so "into" the musical extras and their own virtuosity, that they can lose a sense of balance with the whole of the song. Intros and musical interludes become the focal point of the song rather than the enhancement. Rather than letting the melody and lyric shine as the jewel of the "ring" and letting the accompaniment be the setting for it, some composers do just the opposite. Sometimes the extras or worth it, but more often they are not.

Vocal performance can be hard to judge as well. Some singers are so hard on themselves that they nitpick every little note and fail to appreciate the overall positive effect of their singing. Some singers are too easy on themselves, congratulating themselves while listeners try politely not to cringe.

These are some of the reasons, we are unable to objectively evaluate our own songs and must field test the songs on impartial listeners who are honest in their emotional responses to the song. Friends and families are often not impartial. They are either proud of our attempt regardless of the quality of the work, or are afraid to hurt our feelings.

I don't regard "professionals" as the last word on whether a song is good. There are many songs that slipped by them and became hits. For me the acid test of whether or not the song is good is the reaction of live audiences, especially those who are not already "fans." If many become fans because of the song, that is a good indicator that the song is very good - perhaps even great.

PS: LOL, in the time I took to write this quite a few others responded. I hadn't read theirs yet, so there may be a lot of points others have covered.







Last edited by Jean Bullock; 01/22/10 02:28 AM.

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#789612 - 01/22/10 02:53 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Hummingbird Offline
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this thread should be required reading wink


Vikki Flawith: Songwriter/Composer, Singer/Voice Teacher

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#789668 - 01/22/10 10:35 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Hummingbird]  
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Douglas Murphy Offline
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I agree HB.

This is very enlightening.

Doug


"Is this a practice? They are all practices." John Denver

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#789695 - 01/22/10 01:34 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: billrocker]  
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Joanne Lurgio Offline
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Vikki! I agree!!
Bill, this is a wonderful thread and you did a great job posing the question..
I have already read through all the responses and there are LOTS of really good thoughts..

I think it is very difficult for a writer to reach the point to be able to step far enough away from their work to be open minded to receive and welcome constructive critism.. It is an art all in itself wink

I always remember a speaker at Pineyfest talking on the subject...even he, a most successful songwriter, has a critiquing process for his songs.. Using an 8 person system ..
One Person is an opinion.. but if you receive the same comment from several people, it is worth some consideration .. keep or sweep love




#789717 - 01/22/10 02:29 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Joanne Lurgio]  
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Mike Dunbar Offline
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We just don't see ourselves or hear ourselves the way other people do.

When people listen to my stories about my 5 month old grandson, about how cute and smart he is and how he laughs, after about a half hour or so, they just aren't interested. It amazes me just how dense and insensitive people are! They should be completely enthralled for hours as I describe his hair!

And it is worse with my music. When folks hear my voice, they don't hear my mama in there the way I do. What's the matter with them? I listen to my songs and they are great, truly classics, it amazes me that absolutely no one else likes them! What is the matter with those people?

Then there are lyrics. I mean, read this:

I Feel Sad When I Feel Good
(c) 2010 words and music by Mike Dunbar

I Feel Sad When I Feel Good,
I know that you must love me,
But you don't show it,
I would be so good for you,
And you must know it,
You don't treat me like you should,
I Feel Sad When I Feel Good,

When my heart is full of love,
It is aching,
When it is pouring out to you,
It is breaking,
When my heart is on my sleeve,
Don't you see it?
My love is stuck inside my heart,
Why don't you free it.

I Feel Sad When I Feel Good,
I know that you must love me,
But you don't show it,
I would be so good for you,
And you must know it,
You don't treat me like you should,
I Feel Sad When I Feel Good,

Bridge,
Ah, Oh, I Feel Sad
Ah Oh, I Feel Good

I Feel Sad When I Feel Good,
I know that you must love me,
But you don't show it,
I would be so good for you,
And you must know it,
You don't treat me like you should,
I Feel Sad When I Feel Good,


I mean, doesn't that just get you? I'm almost crying now from typing it!!!


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#789724 - 01/22/10 02:55 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Aw Gee Mike,
You remind me of that Webb Pierce song IT'S MY WAY (of loving you). Keep writing! Don't give up! I ain't.


Ray E. Strode
#789733 - 01/22/10 04:06 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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yann Offline
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france
Hey Bill,

glad to read you over here.

As I see it, there are 4 levels:
1) we don't know that we don't know how to do it (jackass level)
2) we know that we don't know how to do it (student level)
3) we know that we know how to do it (professional level)
4) we've forgotten that we know how to do it, we just do it (master level)

Problem is, we absolutely need people belonging to the categories above ours to help us improve, and we can only judge at our own level and below.
In your case (you are a pro), 3 possibilities: these producers are masters and their feedback is very valuable; these producers are professionals and it's all a matter of taste; these producers belong to one of the first two categories, which is impossible: either they wouldn't make a living from music at all or you wouldn't have gone to them in the first place, lol.

I think it's always a good idea to ask for the opinions of others, PROVIDED you have a clue about WHO they are. It's especially important that we trust the people we ask for feedback, otherwise - creators are always unsure about their work - we could get hit by unresponsible comments.

Of course, that doesn't apply to me. As I'm still stuck somewhere in the lower regions of level 2, I may ask almost everybody for their opinion, I've got nothing to lose, lol.

PS: some people I trust more than others, you're one of them ;-)


"Honey, I know, I know, I know times are changin' / It's time we all reach out 4 something new" (Prince)

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Yann-Causeret/113543418669413?ref=nf
#789735 - 01/22/10 04:15 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: yann]  
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Because we're all delusional!


bc
#789743 - 01/22/10 04:40 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Bob Cushing]  
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Jack Swain Offline
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Because.

#789905 - 01/23/10 07:25 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Jack Swain]  
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Very interesting thread!

I think judging og any kind, no matter who does it, is hard (well it's very easy to be careless about, but it's equally hard to depend on). To judge something as.. something, we need to peel off context to land on a description. When one person does that, it will always be too narrow a reduction of what matters.

I think Marc's post on judging from an 360degree angle is brilliant, as it really matters WHO is doing the judging! If a guy down my local bar don't like the song, I couldn't care less. If I don't like the song, it will be hard to work out the demo myself, but there are ways around that. If a publisher and an artist don't like it.. Im out of business!

So, a million people could dislike your song, but if just ONE person who can make the calls, does like it.. you may have a successful one.

I'd like to ask you Marc, would you rank those points of view you list, depending on your position, circumstances and career level?

I wonder if it could be more important for an outside writer to depend on the publishers point of view, if the circumstance is to get past that milestone. And therefore put more emphasis on that point of view?

Likewise a songwriter who has a publisher and is closer to a cut, may put more emphasis on the artist's point of view?

So, Marc, would that consideration be valid or would that be to take it too far?
Maybe you could also elaborate on how you think these points of view differ?

#789916 - 01/23/10 10:47 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Kolstad]  
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Colin Ward Offline
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as Peter Green said:

I can't help about the shape I'm in
I can't sing, I ain't pretty and my legs are thin
But don't ask me what I think of you
I might not give the answer that you want me to

Oh Well


Colin

I try to critique as if you mean business.....

http://colinwardmusic.com/

http://rosewoodcreekband.com/


#789921 - 01/23/10 11:09 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Colin Ward]  
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Crozet, VA
Maybe that's why co-writing is so important. That way, at least on these co-written songs, you are getting a fresh set of eyes, feedback, defending lyrical/melodic choices,etc -- while the song is in progress (If you have a good relationship with your co-writer, that is). And if you co-write with lots of people, your eyes get opened up more and more to what works and what doesn't. I only have a handful of lyrical co-writes, but I think they have been pretty decent experiences.

Kevin


"Good science comes in peer reviewed journals. Conspiracy theories come in YouTube videos. "
Kevin @ bandcamp: Crows Say Vee-Eh (and Kevin @50/90 2019)
#790431 - 01/25/10 06:20 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Two Singers]  
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billrocker Offline
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Al,

Hee Hee....I'm married too so I know what you mean.

I love your thoughful reply. Thanks. I also agree with your disagreement. After I wrote that I thought I should rephrase it but I never got around to it. I think we need to write what we "know of in a personal way" more than write "what we know". I bet you've learned a bit about crime solving, detective work and leaving and finding clues as you've embarked on writing detective novels, as well as some thoughful study of the criminal mind. I'd also venture a guess that you're pretty darned interested in that stuff too. But I fully agree...we don't have to experience that stuff personally.

I've written about stuff I don't personally know from my own experience but there's almost always something in my personal life experience that sheds some kind of light on what I'm writing about. Sometimes my experience is what I've seen happen to someone else, so to that end I've come to know about losing a parent through someone close even though I may not have lost a parent...that kind of thing.

What spurned that comment was the fact that I get way too many songs about the rodeo from writers who've clearly never been involved in rodeo, been involved with people who were in the rodeo, or even read books about the rodeo. They're not even really that interested in the rodeo. So why are they writing about the rodeo? Good question. I think it's because they think that's what Nashville wants...songs about the rodeo.

I think what Nashville really wants is the influence of a person's unique life experience or viewpoint on just about anything...but in country music it helps of course if there's that rural thread in there. I'm a city boy and it's a constant struggle for me to adopt a rural viewpoint, not so much for the "knowledge" of rural life but for the language that one who has grown up in a rural area uses...the natural way they have of expressing a thought. And I don't mean saying 'rekon', 'how do?', or 'git me' something. I mean the actual perspective, not not just a bunch of cliches. It's kind of like an actor who's developing a character...he think's like a vampire, he acts like a vampire, he reads about vampires, he watches vampire movies, and more than anything else, he becomes interested in understanding vampires from the inside out. In that he comes to 'know' vampires...although we can only hope he doesn't have personal experience in that area.

I think the disagreement might have actually an agreement but poor semantics on my part.

With much respect,

Bill Renfrew
www.writethismusic.com

#790432 - 01/25/10 06:24 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Douglas Murphy]  
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billrocker Offline
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Originally Posted by Doug Dude
"Why is it difficult to critique your own work?" Because no matter how good you think the piece is it always takes another set of eyes to see everything you don't.

Doug


Well said. I'd say Bingo but that would be a cliche...so's this: Ya never know how much gusto your flag has til ya run it up the pole and see who salutes, eh?

bill renfrew
www.writethismusic.com

#790434 - 01/25/10 06:47 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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billrocker Offline
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Originally Posted by Marc Barnette
They are not side tracked by market, other writers, competing interests, etc.

MAB


Hey Marc. Hope all is well.

I agree in principal that you have to think about who you're pitching to, and your points are great. I've never seen it laid out in such an organized fasion and that is a big help.

But as you know it's a walk on a tightrope. I think people can get WAY too distracted by market and by what others will think. There was a time when I'd sit down to write a song and I write the word 'The' and my first thought would be, "Hmmmmm....would they cut a song that starts with the word 'The' in Nashville?" I exaggerate of course but you get my point. I now write what I want to write, period. But it's not because I'm taking some moral high ground or displaying some profound artistic integrity or any of that crap. It's because I love writing again and that's exactly why. I'd rather never get a cut and personally love what I've written than the alternative. (I'll take it if the alternative happens though.) That sounds brash and I don't mean it to be all nose in the air artsy fartsy or whatever. But I listen to some of my older demos and I don't even like some of those songs all that much...but I was absoultely sure Nashville would. Something wrong in my thinking there....how can I expect Nashville to like something I don't even like that much?

Matraca Berg ("Strawberry Wine", "Wild Angels", etc. etc. etc) told me she couldn't get a cut no matter what she did, back when she was trying to satisfy all the powers that be in Nashville. So she finally got discouraged and gave up. She went back to writing what she loved and wanted to write, with absolutely no regard for what "Nashville would think". Funny...she told me that's when the phone started ringing off the hook. She broke every rule in the book she says, but people heard something they liked in her songs. I'd guess it had something to do with the fact that she was writing from her heart. Naturally those Nashville constraints and guidelines were in her brain and probably influenced her subconciously...but when she was letting those constraints dictate what she wrote she couldn't get anywhere.

But, I agree with you. If you go down your list and learn to think that way you'll probably have more luck from a market perspective. I'm just suggesting that if thinking that way becomes the end all and starts significantly affecting the creativity aspect it might work against you. that seems to have been the case in at least one example as mentioned above.

WIth respect,

Bill Renfrew
www.writethismusic.com

#790437 - 01/25/10 07:09 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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billrocker Offline
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Originally Posted by Jean Bullock
Sometimes in writing lyrics, the writer forgets to include enough information to let the listener know what he or she means. The writer knows the underlying story but if he or she doesn't include enough clues, the listener won't.


YES YES YES!!!! I couldn't agree more!!! THANK YOU! I got a song the other day that was real generic...seasons changing, heart hurting, some vague reference to a girl who left and didn't say why, etc. I wrote back and said, "What's this song about?" The writer wrote back and in longhand penned the most interesting story I'd heard on some time. I couldn't believe that NONE of it was in the song!

Quote

Another problem is the melody of the song. By the time a song is "finished," the writer will have sung the melody many times and may think it's memorable enough. If after hearing a song, the average listener can hum some of the most important musical phrases, then it probably meets the "memorable" test. If not, then the melody may need some adjustment. Rather than letting the melody and lyric shine as the jewel of the "ring" and letting the accompaniment be the setting for it, some composers do just the opposite. Sometimes the extras or worth it, but more often they are not.


I totally agree but I look at that as more of a rookie mistake in some ways. I used to obsess about my 'productions', not my songs. And it showed in the lack of atteintion to the songs themselves. Over time I learned that if the song doesn't work with a guitar and a voice it probably isn't going to happen, at least in country music. I get songs with 16 bar intros, solos, etc. And at the end of the day the melody almost seemed like an afterthought...like they just started singing and that's what came out, so that's the meldoy. It was 5 years in Nashville before I started really thinking about melody. And I mean REALLY thinking about it. Now I'll obsess for 2 weeks over 2 notes...maybe I've taken it too far but to me melody is everything. It's like a magic combination that you have to find, and if and when you find it it's such a great thing. If you just lay something out there that goes up and down the scale and sorta sounds like a lot of other songs it just ain't gonna happen.

Quote

Vocal performance can be hard to judge as well. Some singers are so hard on themselves that they nitpick every little note and fail to appreciate the overall positive effect of their singing. Some singers are too easy on themselves, congratulating themselves while listeners try politely not to cringe.


I agree. I'm so guilty of this but with me it's all about guitar tone. if I think my guitar sounds great, well damn it, it must be a great song! Yeah, right.

bill renfrew
www.writethismusic.com








#790441 - 01/25/10 07:23 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: yann]  
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billrocker Offline
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Originally Posted by yann

As I see it, there are 4 levels:
1) we don't know that we don't know how to do it (jackass level)
2) we know that we don't know how to do it (student level)
3) we know that we know how to do it (professional level)
4) we've forgotten that we know how to do it, we just do it (master level)

Yann...this is brilliant!!!! I'd insert a 2.5 though:

2.5 We THINK we know how to do it and think we have done it even though we actually haven't done it. (ie blind to any and all criticism).

I kid around but I'm also being as serious as a heart attack. The more I learn, the more I know. The more I know (2 choices) a) the less I THINK I have to learn, OR b) the MORE I KNOW I have to learn. Some choose a. Some choose b. Those that choose b continue to learn. Those that choose a dont.

I appreciate your kind words more than you know.

Sincerely,

Bill Renfrew
www.writethismusic.com


#790444 - 01/25/10 07:33 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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billrocker Offline
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Mike,

I love your song. I especially love your line:

My love is stuck inside my heart,

Wow. Great line because it says so much more than what it actually says. I have some thoughts about this song that you may or may not want to hear but since you didn't for them I won't voice my comments publicly. Email me if you're curious. My spam catcher email is billorders@comcast.net. Use that...it won't think you're spam. I always forget to check my PMs here.

bill renfrew
www.writethismusic.com

#790448 - 01/25/10 07:58 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Kolstad]  
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billrocker Offline
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Songcabinet:

You said:
Originally Posted by the songcabinet
Very interesting thread!

If a guy down my local bar don't like the song, I couldn't care less.


I'm not saying I have the better take on this, just different...you may be on the mark. But to me, the guy down at the bar is THE ONE SINGLE OPINION that I value the VERY MOST. I make more of a point to play my songs for music lovers than music professinals, but not just any music lovers. They have to be people who I trust as discerning and honest in expressing their opionions.

If all the music pros are saying, "It's a hit!" but Joe Average on the street doesn't dig it, then I'm concerned. I have about 8 people I send my new songs out to. I call them my 'posse'. They're people ranging from secretaries to bankers, to house wives, to computer programmers to college roomates. One of them is a non pro guitar player that has a local band. The one commmon denominator is they won't say they like it if they don't. (I have my mom for that). And they don't have agendas.

It's amazing to me how consistent the opinions and remarks are from these 8 people. If one says "I don't get the line about the duck" I can almost bet that 5 or 6 more will have the same remark. Cultivating this group of listeners has been a process that I've undergone for the last 8 or 10 years. Some have come and gone. Some have been there since the beginning. And none of them know they're in this exclusive little group. They just think that Bill sent them another song. But by now I trust their opionions more than most people who say they're serious music people. Some are harsher than others. Some are more forgiving...but not a single one will offer false praise. They'll apologize and say they don't like it before they'll lie.

When I consider and incorporate the comments I get from my posse in my rewrite, some of which I'll accept and some which I reject of course, I'll then move on to the professinals. But in so doing I have the confidence that, if nothing else, my song appeals to 'Joe the Plumer". And in my short time on this earth I've learned that pleaseing Joe the Plumer is no minor task. And he's the one who may or may not be buying my CD.

Regards,

Bill Renfrew
www.writethismusic.com

#790509 - 01/25/10 01:28 PM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: billrocker]  
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Mike Dunbar Offline
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Originally Posted by billrocker
Mike,

I love your song. I especially love your line:

My love is stuck inside my heart,

Wow. Great line because it says so much more than what it actually says. I have some thoughts about this song that you may or may not want to hear but since you didn't for them I won't voice my comments publicly. Email me if you're curious. My spam catcher email is billorders@comcast.net. Use that...it won't think you're spam. I always forget to check my PMs here.

bill renfrew
www.writethismusic.com


Bill, actually, I just knocked the song off here as a joke. A song I thought was "great" that was seriously flawed. Writing about my feelings but never showing them. Not making any progression or development. I thought, as I wrote it, that some of the lines, that one included, were actually good, but overall, it was a hyperbolic joke. smile


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#790692 - 01/26/10 07:50 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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billrocker Offline
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Mike,

I had a feeling it was tailor written in honor of the discussion, but it still caught my eye. There's something about it which speaks volumes about the everyday stuff we go through, not just as writers...I just had this crazy idea for a twist....

b

#790699 - 01/26/10 09:21 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: billrocker]  
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Posts: 8,463
Edinburgh, Scotland. UK
What is the definition of a good song? It is a matter of opinion and opinions differ. All songs and tastes are just objective opinions. For everyone that loves a particular thing there are probably a few that hate it. So ALL songwriters are working with a handicap already. You cannot please all of the people all of the time. It amazes me listening to the charts how most of that crap can even be listened to never mind make it big and sell millions.
Instead of writing from the heart and using our own subject matter and unique styles we try to mould our songs to fit preconceived ideas and requirements in the hope that we will be similar enough to existing songs to get notice.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies and constantly sell ourselves short. We try to be clever but usually just outsmart ourselves.

We pay too much attention to what others think and too little time on what we think and want.

Whilst critiques are a valuable tool they are not bibles and we should not take them as gospel. Some people just back pat and give a false sense of security. Some are just downright contradictory and confusing.
On a recent song crit one person wanted more drums.....the next person felt there was too much drumming. Both critiquers were well respected folk whos opinions count.

Who do we write songs for?
Own amusement.....well anything goes as long as the writer is happy.
Public consumption.....well anything goes as the public are pretty easily led and will buy anything as long as it is hyped and marketed correctly.
Specific artist or label.....just cliche their last song's hooks and pray you have the connections to get it in front of them.

I have heard many great songs here at JPF. The only difference betwen them and a lot of the so called great hits is luck and connections. Craft and talent has little to do with success.

#790702 - 01/26/10 09:39 AM Re: Why is it so hard to judge your own work? [Re: billrocker]  
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 3,817
Kolstad Offline
Top 100 Poster
Kolstad  Offline
Top 100 Poster

Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 3,817
Denmark
Bill,

Thanks for letting me clarify.. I used the local bar image as an example to say that praise and criticism is free (and unreliable sources to improve your craft) for those who have noting invested in music business. Remember the ole story of Frank Zappa being the only one in a bar listening to some band (don't remeber which it was)? Everyone else left, but Frank signed them on the spot, thinking, that if noone would listen to the band here, they will have a following some other place. That story makes a lot of sense to me..

Im a sceptic by nature, and the moment someone is willing to take action on what he/she is saying, THATs the moment I start believing. Everything else is just fooling around to me.

I may have chosen a better image to say it, as I never meant to imply that I don't value floor man's opinion, on the contrary!

In the end, it's not experts who's doing the buying!


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