Recently I attended an open mike where folks did their original songs. From the guy who stared at the floor and mumbled disjointed lyrics to the woman who sang a kick-ass blues tune about a messy break up, I heard quite a variety. Every one of them could benefit from feedback. Maybe you could too – here’s how.
First, find out what works. Flip around your iPod and really listen to the songs. What about them attracts you? The singable chorus? The melody that moves in unexpected ways? The story with a surprise ending? Beautiful metaphors? Then ask yourself, do my songs achieve the same thing?
Second, get a support group. Great writers do not work in a vacuum. Play your new tunes for your boyfriend, your neighbor, your mom, or your best friend. Other songwriters offer the best feedback – they’ll go beyond “That’s nice, honey” and tell you if the chorus doesn’t make sense or if the melody is predictable.
I belong to a songwriter’s group that meets once a month. We started in a laid back way with a friend-of-a-friend kind of connection and that might work for you. If not, be more organized and post notices on music bb’s, on Craig’s List, on flyers – anywhere musicians will see them. Maybe there’s a songwriter’s organization in your city that can help.
Third, play your songs for your group. It helps if you have some guidelines. Always offer good comments first. Even if a beginner has just squeezed out their first angst-ridden love song while hesitantly changing from G to C, there’s something good you can say about it. Maybe the emotion is really strong. Perhaps the chorus is memorable. Then, offer tips that might make the song better.
Keep in mind that it’s art and everyone might see it differently. Just because one person says she doesn’t understand the chorus doesn’t mean you have to alter your new song. However, if six people say that, then maybe some change is in order.
Now you’re ready to take those baby songs to your next gig and bask in the applause. It’s not the same as one-on-one feedback but you’ve gotta feed your ego or your muse will go on strike. And just because a new tune gets lukewarm applause at one gig doesn’t mean it sucks. Try it on another crowd or two. Then, if it doesn’t work, you might want to rewrite it. Feedback can only make your songs even better.