Constructive vs Destructive: having steel as a musician (the battle of feedback)

Talk to any musician and they’ll tell you which other musicians out there are “better” than them (or, for the jerks, those who are “worse“) at their instrument or craft. As in any field or industry that involves human beings we love to compare, and sometimes it’s simply not helpful or the healthiest way to approach what we do and how we think of ourselves and others.

I’ve had a bunch of people outwardly criticise how I sing or play (ouch) over time and I’ll be straight up honest – some of it was true! I was learning, or something was new for me, or I hadn’t received as much training as they had. It’s true! But that doesn’t warrant them being destructive and self-righteous about themselves in comparison to me.

Musicians should always have a musician, or a song, or a technique, or SOMETHING they are aiming for to be better, more creative, explore further, grow in their skills/ability/reach, write new material. That’s music! Music does and should move/grow over time, and every musician is at a different level and moves at a different pace.

As a vocalist myself and hanging out with other vocalists, honestly the RUBBISH I hear some vocalists say is beyond belief! Vocalists get brutalised by their own families/friends about how they “can’t sing” and “need lessons”. 1) BACK OFF. 2) Why don’t you give it a try? 3) [in some cases] This person has literally NEVER received instruction on how to sing. Why do you expect them to sing like Whitney after 30 minutes of lessons? Please.

Audition-based performance TV shows really do not help this issue – the goal is the PERFECT (technical) performance, not music that’s enjoyed by the performer and audience with all the delightful mistakes and mishaps you hear in live music sung by a HUMAN. Auto-tune is not a real voice and we should not aim for that. Aim for expression, feeling, enjoyment and send your message through your music.

Having said this though it is important to find a balance – there will always be something you haven’t learnt yet, or you need to work harder at to achieve. Take a deep breath. Receive the feedback with grace – then make a plan. Practice, read, practice, get lessons, practice, try it, practice, jam, practice, YouTube it, practice. Likewise if you have feedback for someone else, be gracious and if its appropriate for you in your position – share what you know! Encourage them in whatever way you can. Show them how to do it. Tearing someone down, however, only takes you down with them and well, shows lack of integrity.

My goal musically is to be able to receive comments about my performance and wherever possible improve, grow, receive training, jam, write, rewrite, until I find the perfect corner in that area. I know where my faults lie as a musician (BELIEVE ME), and I’ve made a plan to work through those areas so I can write and perform the music I want to. But if you’re just being cruel about me and what I do, beware – I will challenge you to a dance battle, and I will win.

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