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On (Not) Getting Criticism

Phil Edwards 09 Feb 14 - 06:48 PM
Don Firth 09 Feb 14 - 07:16 PM
GUEST,leeneia 09 Feb 14 - 09:15 PM
Bert 09 Feb 14 - 09:23 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 09 Feb 14 - 09:28 PM
GUEST,Gerry 09 Feb 14 - 09:42 PM
Bert 09 Feb 14 - 09:51 PM
Leadfingers 09 Feb 14 - 10:24 PM
Bert 09 Feb 14 - 11:13 PM
GUEST 09 Feb 14 - 11:21 PM
Will Fly 10 Feb 14 - 04:17 AM
GUEST,matt milton 10 Feb 14 - 05:17 AM
Phil Edwards 10 Feb 14 - 05:47 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Feb 14 - 05:47 AM
Phil Edwards 10 Feb 14 - 05:50 AM
Johnny J 10 Feb 14 - 06:27 AM
johncharles 10 Feb 14 - 06:35 AM
GUEST,matt milton 10 Feb 14 - 07:18 AM
GUEST 10 Feb 14 - 07:34 AM
Phil Edwards 10 Feb 14 - 07:35 AM
GUEST 11 Feb 14 - 07:35 AM
Phil Edwards 11 Feb 14 - 07:52 PM
GUEST,Ed 11 Feb 14 - 08:16 PM
johncharles 12 Feb 14 - 03:59 AM
GUEST 12 Feb 14 - 11:12 AM
GUEST 12 Feb 14 - 11:52 AM
Phil Edwards 12 Feb 14 - 12:24 PM
johncharles 12 Feb 14 - 12:48 PM
Bert 12 Feb 14 - 02:31 PM
GUEST 12 Feb 14 - 02:35 PM
GUEST,Raggytash 12 Feb 14 - 03:08 PM
Jack the Sailor 12 Feb 14 - 03:27 PM
Amergin 12 Feb 14 - 04:33 PM
GUEST 12 Feb 14 - 05:54 PM
GUEST 12 Feb 14 - 07:08 PM
Phil Edwards 12 Feb 14 - 07:12 PM
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Subject: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 09 Feb 14 - 06:48 PM

Something weird happened to me towards the end of last year. People started criticising my singing.

I've been singing in public for ten years, and going to singarounds & focusing on traditional stuff for about half of that time. People have occasionally said nice things, as people occasionally do. (Thinking about this, I realise that I don't usually compliment anyone on their singing unless I think they're a lot better than me - so logically I shouldn't expect compliments from anyone!)

However, nobody in all that time has ever come up to me and said they thought my pitching was a bit wobbly, or that I might have started too high, or that they just didn't like my interpretation of that particular bit of that one song. But towards the end of last year I heard all that and more, from three or four different people.

I'm not saying that the criticisms weren't justified or that they weren't meant constructively. I'm just puzzled as to why I seem to have suddenly started attracting them. Has my singing got worse? Have I started looking more approachable than before, where 'approachable' specifically includes 'open to constructive criticism'? Have I started moving in slightly different circles - are there some musicians who just do routinely volunteer helpful criticism? Should I be worried, or grateful, or what?

Anything like this ever happen to you, dear reader?


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Feb 14 - 07:16 PM

I can't say that it has.

I think what I would do in a situation like that is to solicit the evaluating and advice of some essentially disinterested party, such as a voice teacher or choir director. Tell them what's been happening lately, ask them to give you a listen, and see what they say.

Can't hurt.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 09 Feb 14 - 09:15 PM

Good suggestion, Don.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Bert
Date: 09 Feb 14 - 09:23 PM

Generally speaking, the more you sing, the better you get; so I would expect that the criticism is a little bit of sour grapes because you are improving.

So I would suggest that ignore them completely and carry on singing and putting extra effort into enjoying yourself. Then your singing will sound even better.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 09 Feb 14 - 09:28 PM

Change...

A performer (and others in "$atisfaction trades")..always gives what the client want$.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

It appears you have lost connections...or are over-the-hill...or suffering from the "thick throat condition" that has afflicted 1/3 the northern hemishere this winter. Gargle, Train, or Learn.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 09 Feb 14 - 09:42 PM

It may well be that your singing is getting better. When there are a lot of things wrong with someone's singing, it's hard to give constructive criticism --- where does one begin? But when the singing is pretty good, and there are only one or two things that could maybe use improving, then perhaps it's worthwhile to talk to the singer about those things.

But I think it's more likely just coincidence. We look for patterns where there aren't any; many things just happen, with no rational explanation. See if it continues, or if it goes away as quickly as it came.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Bert
Date: 09 Feb 14 - 09:51 PM

I know that I am not the best singer there is, I like to psych myself into believing I am, otherwise I wouldn't have the courage to go on stage.

It has been my experience that people who are the best musicians will never criticize you but will only give you encouragement.

Sing songs that you like, and enjoy singing them. I have not heard you sing but I wouldn't mind betting that you are pretty good.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Leadfingers
Date: 09 Feb 14 - 10:24 PM

I am a Multi Instrumentalist and Vocalist who works on an irregular basis for serious pennies . However , at my main local informal club I get a number of comments that I should do more Trad Unaccomp stuff or play more whistle !
SHOULD I drop the guitar , banjo , and Banjola or carry on with what I enjoy ?

I know what I want to do !!


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Bert
Date: 09 Feb 14 - 11:13 PM

Do what you enjoy, it will always sound better.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Feb 14 - 11:21 PM

Ditto leeneia's remark (which dittoed Don Firth's remark).

Voices change over time as do ears. Are you the Phil Edwards who did 52 folk songs--acapella I think?


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Will Fly
Date: 10 Feb 14 - 04:17 AM

Phil, there could be all sorts of reasons for your perception that people are being more critical of you than of yore.

1. Your voice has changed.
2. The ones who complimented you previously weren't being honest...
3. The ones who criticise you currently aren't being honest...

It's quite possible that, over ten or so years, you've started singing to a wider and more varied audience - the wider and larger the audience, the more varied the comments.

Such is life.

As others have said, if you have self-doubts because of this, sing to someone who can be a helpful critic and get a reasonably unbiased opinion from an experienced stranger.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 10 Feb 14 - 05:17 AM

Yes, people have criticised my singing. Not about pitch or hitting notes per se, they just implied singing wasn't really for me. The host of one open mic, for instance, who was a perfectly affable, genial and friendly chap, and a talented saxophonist, said to me that he thought I was a really good guitarist, and had some really interesting lyrics and enquired whether I'd considered forming a duo with a singer. (He managed to find a polite way of saying that without it sounding too blunt.)

I used to sing in a deliberately "laissez faire" kind of punky way. I liked singers (still do) like Shane McGowan, Peter Perrett, Margaret Barry, Tom Waits, Robyn Hitchcock, Syd Barrett. In my head, that's what I sounded like. In actual fact, I sounded nothing like that, I just sounded like someone who couldn't sing.

Took me a while, and a lot of listening objectively to my voice, to realise that. I stopped singing like that, and sang more like my own speaking voice, and started to make an effort to actually sound pleasant (not hugely, just a little). i'm now more Nick Drake than I am Mark E. Smith. Bingo. Not had anyone say anything since. Even the occasional compliment.

The more you sing, the better you get. It's Highly unlikely that it's because you're singing has got worse; probably more likely to be that, I dunno, you're singing a bit more often, or a little more confidently, you're taking things more seriously - something about your demeanour suggests people feel it might help to make some constructive criticism.

And it probably is constructive criticism, rather than sour grapes. If one person says your pitching is a bit wobbly, it doesn't necessarily mean anything. Some people are just cloth-eared, or vindictive.

But if several people say something, chances are they have a point, and you'd be sticking your head in the sand not to take it on board. If it's pitch that they mention, then that's fixa ble. If in doubt, book a singing lesson and ask for an honest opinion.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 10 Feb 14 - 05:47 AM

Thanks all. Probably a 'cluster' effect as Gerry said - particularly since everyone seemed to pick on something different (by the third time my reaction wasn't so much "ah, another interesting comment for me to learn from" as "Christ, what now?").

Also, I have just recently started going to a new song session with some fairly high-powered people... and I have had a cold off and on since about September (damn thing keeps starting to clear up & then coming back in a different form)... so if you put all that together it probably adds up to nothing much to worry about.

I'm as much interested in the social dynamics, to be honest - having seen new singers come along myself, I know there can be quite a gap between the nice comments you make to encourage them to come again and the sincere compliment you pay them when you think they're getting somewhere. Maybe this is a variant - the sincere (constructive) criticism?

GUEST - yes, that's me; the series started out acapella but ended up mostly accompanied by concertina.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Feb 14 - 05:47 AM

Slightly off topic
Sometime this year we hope to take part in two hour-long radio programmes on Irish radio on the work of Ewan MacColl.
If it's a goer, we hope that part of it will cover his work and ideas on criticism of singing and his pioneering theories of voice production and relaxation based on the work he did with The Critics Group.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 10 Feb 14 - 05:50 AM

Well, Matt, I like Nick Drake... I like Mark E. Smith, too. But which is better?


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Johnny J
Date: 10 Feb 14 - 06:27 AM

I'm not a singer but if people are starting to give you constructive criticism, it's maybe because they now care enough to do so.

When someone is starting out, most people are tactful enough not to make adverse comments and some even try to "be nice". Mind you, if you've been singing for about ten years, it seems odd that people are just starting to comment now.

However, on the whole, I'd take it is a sign that your singing is actually improving(Unless they specifically say otherwise)and it's more likely that they wish to see you progress rather than "sour grapes". If it was the latter, it's unlikely they'd tell you to your face.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: johncharles
Date: 10 Feb 14 - 06:35 AM

As a previous thread illustrated criticism is a very touchy subject. you have a significant number of songs available on the internet. I suggest you ask members to send you comments by personal mail as open comments will inevitably end in unpleasant arguments.
A wider audience and higher standard of performers increases the likelihood of comparison and may be a reason for more criticisms.
It's only a hobby if the audience complain either you or they can go elsewhere.
john.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 10 Feb 14 - 07:18 AM

"Well, Matt, I like Nick Drake... I like Mark E. Smith, too. But which is better?"

If you're singing traditional folk and blues songs, as I do, with acoustic instruments, the answer is the former. It's simply a question of finding out what suits your voice. I'm a very slow learner and it's taken me about a decade, to come to the conclusion that I prefer my voice towards the bottom of its range, singing quite quietly. Nick Drake, Mississippi John Hurt, Paddy Tunney, Utah Phillips, Bill Callahan... they seem to be good models in terms of where to pitch songs for me.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Feb 14 - 07:34 AM

I'm no superstar when it comes to singing, but one or two points that have helped me in the past might be worth consideration.

There is a big difference between belting it out at a session or floor spot and singing into a voice recorder at home (or even in a studio). For one thing, the ear of the beholder (beerholder?) is far more selective than the diaphragm of a microphone.

Many performers on recordings give the impression that they are "holding back", maybe thinking (or not thinking???)too much about what they are doing, consequently losing the spontaneity of the occasion and quality that their natural vocal achieves in a live situation.

Again, in a recording situation, many singers read the words, or, at least, use "cheat sheets" and don't know some of the songs really well. A better result might be obtained from learning the words off by heart before recording, giving the singer more confidence, and then projecting to an (imaginary) audience as if it were a live performance.

Phil, please accept my 10p worth in the spirit in which it is offered. And if you don't believe that anything I have written applies to you, then please feel free to ignore it. Might be useful to a few others in this place, though.....   :-)


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 10 Feb 14 - 07:35 AM

Sorry, Matt, that question was in the Harry Hill mode.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Feb 14 - 07:35 AM

get the opinion of a singing coach?


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Feb 14 - 07:52 PM

I have to say, I'm less interested in the objective quality of my voice than in what (if anything) lay behind this recent flurry of critical comments. To put it another way, I don't think what lay behind it was a massive drop in the objective quality of my voice. (Although a slight drop could have contributed - I've had this cold - particularly when coupled with more demanding material/listeners/both.)

I like the "he's getting quite good - better let him know where he can improve" explanation. Also, as it goes, I was having rather a good night on all these occasions, so it would be more like "he's getting quite good, and he won't mind hearing this tonight...". Maybe I'll go back to brooding in the corner.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 11 Feb 14 - 08:16 PM

I like the "he's getting quite good" explanation.

Now that is a surprise!

Sure you don't like the "his singing's a bit crap" one better? *grin*


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: johncharles
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 03:59 AM

if you are troubled by the criticism, try sitting down and having a chat with your critics. This is the only way you will find out their real intent.
john


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 11:12 AM

What I'm curious about is that multiple people offered unsolicited criticism. Maybe you're just hanging around with rude people. But I agree with johncharles that asking them why is the only way you'll ever find out. Be aware that at that point the criticism isn't unsolicited, though.

I encourage everyone who wants to be good at what they do to solicit criticism. Seek people who will be honest and who have the ability to deliver negative information with a positive, supportive, and respectful attitude. And then don't get mad at them because of what they say.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 11:52 AM

"I encourage everyone who wants to be good at what they do to solicit criticism.
Seek people who will be honest and who have the ability to deliver negative information with a positive,
supportive, and respectful attitude.
And then don't get mad at them because of what they say.
"

errmmm.. yeah.. like when the wife asks what I think of her new hairstyle and dress
10 mins before we leaves the house for a night out....

very awkward....!!!!!


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 12:24 PM

I agree with johncharles that asking them why is the only way you'll ever find out

That's the trouble, though - nobody's actually said to me "your singing's sh*t" and left me thinking "yes, but in what way?". (And if anyone did say that, I'd ignore it - at least, I hope I would!) There's not much point asking someone "why did you tell me you thought my timing was off?" (Er... because I thought your timing was off). I suppose I could say "yes, but why did you tell me you thought my timing was off?", but I can't see that getting me much further.

The question that really intrigues me is "why did a number of people independently choose one month to volunteer criticisms of a number of different aspects of my singing, never having done so before?" But I don't think anyone can necessarily answer that.

(NB Nobody has told me my timing is off. Yet.)


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: johncharles
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 12:48 PM

People usually tell me things because they think I need to know. maybe that applies here. John


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Bert
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 02:31 PM

...sang more like my own speaking voice,... Pretty much a golden rule for singers Matt.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 02:35 PM

I sing in a band and recently someone recorded us. When we listened to the recording the other members and I were very surprised to hear me singing one song as it was a lot higher pitched than any of us thought it was. I'd thought that night that I seemed strangely unable to hit some notes. Turns out I was singing a bit high. On other occasions 9tired or different room temperature) I've found myself flattening out on some songs or starting them in the wrong key.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST,Raggytash
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 03:08 PM

Critics criticise!

When a critic can perform as well as you can you may wish, at that point, to take some notice.

Otherwise tell them to go away in short jerky movements.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Jack the Sailor
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 03:27 PM

Phil, I would suggest that you tape your sessions and listen later.

I'm sure that you can tell if the pitching was a bit wobbly, or that you might have started too high. I'm sure you can tell if your interpretation of that particular bit of that one song was the way you intended it to be.

You can make progress listening to yourself. Not so much listening to people when you don't know whether or not they are qualified to criticize.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Amergin
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 04:33 PM

I am a poet...Which means I write...and have published some....but I also perform it. For years, I would perform or show my poetry to people and they would pat me on the head and say it's great, you're great, everything's great. The problem is, I believed it. I thought there was nothing to do...but no one was taking my work.

What I needed was criticism. Not that shit sucks worse than a Mormon girl with a Saturday night hangover on Sunday morning kind of criticism....but how to improve myself, my writing....my performance. Once I received that is when the magic began....getting booked to read at various shows in the area, getting published...selling chapbooks. I needed it in order to grow as an artist and as a human being. We never stop growing....if we do, we grow stagnant, and then may as well stop, or burst the dam of our own making.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 05:54 PM

"The question that really intrigues me is "why did a number of people independently choose one month to volunteer criticisms of a number of different aspects of my singing, never having done so before?" But I don't think anyone can necessarily answer that."

Pure coincidence probably. Well, maybe if this was happening in December and January you could blame it on the lips-loosening effects of pre-Christmas boozing, and the crotchetiness of post-Christmas going back to work... but almost certainly pure coincidence.

Come to think of it, I've had a brace of offers of gigs recently, all unsolicited. I'd like to think this was the start of a trend, but it's not really.


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 07:08 PM

So just when did "The Voice" start back on the telly ?

- everyones a bloody singing critic when shows like that are on...


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Subject: RE: On (Not) Getting Criticism
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 07:12 PM

So that's why that strange bloke kept asking me about my 'journey'...! (I said I'd walked, it wasn't very far.)


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