Success doesn’t happen in isolation
When writing songs in your own bubble, do you encounter challenges that get you feeling stuck? Or do you find you’re writing songs in the same way all the time? Perhaps, you’re not sure if your ideas or songs are working and you might start to doubt what you’re creating?
Learning next to others is a brilliant way to learn about ourselves and grow as a songwriter. We can gain encouragement and ideas to try new things by being part of the growth journey of others. But specifically getting feedback can assist us to develop our growth and gain self-awareness.
Watching any music awards you’ll hear successful award recipients thanking others in their acceptance speeches. Successful people have learnt to lean on others to help them grow to become successful. They have a reliable team and community around them that they trust, and are all working together with a common goal in mind.
How a songwriting community can offer helpful feedback on your songs
Most songwriters have common goals of wanting to write songs that they’re proud of and an audience that will listen to these songs.
It’s for these reasons that other songwriters are wonderful people for you to be in community with. Not only is there the shared goal, but songwriters also have an enhanced understanding of the process of songwriting and they can hear the potential of a song based on a simple demo.
Most people who join I Heart Songwriting Club haven’t had a songwriting community around them before and are immediately struck by how helpful having input from other songwriters is.
Inviting others to the creative process and showing your songs to others can be so foreign for many songwriters who have kept their songwriting process under wraps. So if this is something that you would like to do, here are some ways you can go about giving and receiving feedback on songs.
Tips to giving relevant and helpful feedback on other people’s songs:
1. Feedback should be useful and helpful
How can your comment help the songwriter to develop their skill, their song, or their idea to the next stage? If it’s not something they can use, either reconsider a way to share it that is useful, or keep those thoughts to yourself.
Here’s a starting point for offering helpful feedback: offer two points of encouragement about the song (what you’re liking about it), and one thing that they can work on (what’s not working so well just yet).
For example: “I love how your first verse puts me right in the action and I feel the pain point of the storyteller by the end of the first chorus. That melody is really working so well over those chords too. I’d love the second verse to take me deeper into the experience of the storyteller to offer a similar level of impact as that first verse had.”
2. Feedback is subjective
Feedback can only be offered from the perspective and/or preferences of the person giving feedback. There is no definitive way to write a great song, or to develop ideas or skills, so remember your feedback is only one way to approach something.
3. Don’t offer unsolicited feedback
Unsolicited and indirect feedback may not be well received or helpful. Offer feedback when asked for and offer it directly to the person it is intended for.
4. Feedback should be relevant to where the work is at
If the work is at the final production stage, then offering feedback on lyrics is irrelevant and unhelpful. However, if the work is in draft stage, lyrical feedback may be incredibly helpful, and any feedback on recording would be irrelevant. If you’re not sure about where the work is in terms of development, ask.
5. Put your work forward to receive input from others
To be part of the full cycle of giving and receiving feedback, be willing to put your work forward for feedback as this will demonstrate to you how receiving feedback feels and can assist you to provide more helpful and relevant feedback over time.
Guidance to receiving relevant and helpful feedback on your songs:
1. Ask for what you need
Receiving feedback can feel like opening yourself up to the judgment from others in unexpected ways. So being specific about what you’re seeking feedback around can reduce any opportunity for irrelevant feedback. If you can be specific about what you’re seeking feedback around, then you’ll be focusing on the areas of development that you know you’re seeking support around, rather than an open-slather approach of feedback.
If you don’t ask for what you need and you receive feedback that is unhelpful, that can lead to frustration and confusion. You can’t expect others to read your mind regarding what feedback you need, so get specific and communicate that. For example, the question “What do you think of this song?” is not specific and may lead to all sorts of input on the song that may be quite irrelevant and unhelpful.
Here is an example of being specific: “What is the story saying to you? How does the tagline of the chorus make you feel when you hear it the first time and subsequent times? Is the bridge message working for the song, in your opinion?”
2. When you receive feedback, try not to react to it
As this is about developing resilience around songwriting in order to grow, rather than react, observe. Notice where there is constructive criticism and notice where there is encouragement in the feedback. What could be helpful within the feedback offered? Are there ideas you can try out?
If you find yourself shrinking around constructive criticism, this is healthy for you to observe within yourself. If you can find a way to make that feedback useful, it might really assist you to develop. We know that if you only received positive feedback and encouragement week after week, you’d get frustrated and want something a little more constructive.
3. Try out any ideas offered up
Whether you agree with the ideas or not, it definitely doesn’t hurt to try out the ideas. By doing this, you’ll develop faster and become more resilient to exercising your creative ideas in new ways. It will also help you get clearer about your songwriting preferences and thus be more decisive around making creative decisions.
4. Take what you need, leave what you don’t need, and say thank you either way
Whilst some feedback may be useful and helpful, some won’t be. Don’t take on board anything that doesn’t align for you or if it’s not helpful or relevant. Leave it behind and move on. If you attach to that, then you’re making it your problem. Be grateful for all of the feedback as an opportunity to grow as a songwriter. And say thank you for all the feedback.
5. All feedback can help you grow
Some feedback might be hard to receive and maybe some feedback is not even helpful. Whilst it’s ideal to not react, sometimes what you might receive in terms of feedback may elicit a reaction in you. This reaction, which will likely be an ego reaction, will show you where your growth area is, if you’re willing to look at it this way. This is an ideal opportunity to become aware of yourself and to grow. This growth may not even be around songwriting specifically, but might feel more personal. It’s up to you to take up this opportunity for personal development and growth but know that herein lies the space to develop resilience.
6. Regularly give feedback to other songwriters
If you’re part of giving feedback to other songwriters, it can help you to become more resilient around receiving feedback.
7. Don’t expect anything
It can be healthy to remove any expectations of what you want people to say and the timeframe in which they will give that feedback. If you’re being frustrated by what people are offering in terms of feedback or the timeliness of this, check your expectations. Are they realistic?
Giving and Receiving Feedback is working in collaboration with others
Anytime you’re working with others in any way, it can be helpful to check your expectations you have of others.
If you’re joining a songwriting community with an expectation of getting feedback on your songs then check your expectations around this. Is this the primary service of the community? If you’re only after feedback, then perhaps specifically paying for a songwriting feedback service might be more in line with your goals.
However, if the songwriting community is about sharing, exploring, creating, then be willing to share, explore and create in that space.
Someone joined The Club with the expectation of getting feedback on every song. But she didn’t get feedback from everyone on every song and she quit… even though she’d never written 10 songs in 10 weeks until now. Later on she realised she had to check in on her expectations. They weren’t realistic. Whilst there is enthusiasm to start and be part of something, the real change requires commitment to taking action regularly. And she started back up in the club.
Quitting because you’re not getting what you need from others is only self-sabotaging your own songwriting development.
Conversely another member from Ireland had her own resilience breakthrough and shared this with us: “I’ve been reflective and noticing how the lack of feedback made me feel, and questioning why…. It’s been a great opportunity to let go of my need for outside validation, a lesson I need to learn over and over again – and will probably continue to relearn for the rest of my life! I’m committed to this and will keep showing up”
If there’s an opportunity to invite people to step up and join you in your space of songwriting, giving and receiving feedback and participating in a vibrant songwriting community, then invite them in and step back and see what happens. Closing down, shutting up shop, and quitting on your songwriting practice is not the answer.
And if there’s a way to gently recall someone back to that space, then do the same. We can only hope that we will be offered the same in return.
Episode Show Notes:
Get your creativity, confidence, and songwriting output flowing. Join The Club and receive the support and structure to write 10 songs in 10 weeks and get feedback from a private peer community. This is THE essential writing practice that has changed the careers and lives of 1000s of songwriters worldwide.
Just getting started on your songwriting journey and need more hands-on support? Establish a firm foundation and develop your musical and lyric skills with our Beginner Songwriting Courses. They are the perfect place to begin and cover everything you need to know to write your first songs. You’ll receive lessons from Francesca directly!
Don’t struggle to write your next album – write an album a year with ease! Watch our Free Songwriting Masterclass.
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Podcast theme song: “Put One Foot In Front Of The Other One” music and lyrics by Francesca de Valence
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