Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Song critique and the time of the day?

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Question
Dear Sir,

May I ask this question? In this context, 'song critique' means when a singer or some pro in the industry listens to a song pitched by songwriters.

I was wondering if their listening may be coloured or hindered by the time of the day. For example, when they are angry with their spouses, or when they are concerned about the financial issues. Will their state of mind have an impact on how they perceive your songs? Or because they are professionals, their thought on a song will always be the same?
Thank you

Answer
Kevin,

Thank you for this very relevant question.  

"Critique" is a general term which is often misunderstood.   For critique to be useful, it needs to be  objective,  specific, actionable, and independent of one's mood or taste.   In that sense, good critique is really analysis and objective evaluation.
However, "critique" is too often taken to mean "opinion"  i.e., whether they "like/dislike" a song, which is completely subject to a person's mood, the kind of day they've had, and their own self-referential, often-changing view of things.

Also, "critique", to many industry people, is taken solely in the context of "will this make money", as opposed to "is it well-crafted".  This is a totally different kind of evaluation than the craft of the songwriting, as it is affected by things like production, artist popularity,  marketing budget, etc.   As we know, any song can make money given a big name artist, a glitzy production, and a big promotional budget.

So overall,  there are 4  types of  'critique'
-- Level 1 is solely a personal opinion based on individual taste.  Even if the critiquer is a 'professional'  it is one single data point based on subjective rather than objective factors, and is subject to moods, whims, and time of day, and thus by itself is of little practical value.   It would take hundreds or thousands of these single data points to make a meaningful trend, and even then, there is no useful information as to WHY people respond positively or negatively to the song.

-- Level 2 is an attempt to provide useful information about the craft of the song, but the vast majority of people, including people in the industry and even other successful writers,  are not able to articulate all the individual parameters involved in what makes a song effective or not.  These folks work primarily by instinct and thus cannot explain to others the specifics of what factors are working or not working and how to adjust them.    Different critiquers may point out different things, but there is still not a wholistic objective analysis that remains independent of elements of production and performance (which are not a part of the songwriting) or elements of personal taste, which should not factor into a critique.

-- Level 3 is an objective, parameter-based analysis that looks at the five major areas that comprise a song, and each of the sub elements with them.  It should go line-by-line, word-by-word to cover all the parameters, and be able to tell the writer specifics about how the elements are interacting, so that the writer can make informed and specific choices about how they might want to adjust parts of the song.
This type of analysis if done correctly, should remain the same no  matter what the time of day or circumstances of the person doing it, as it is based on fixed factors outside of the person's subjective world.

For example,  
--if a word has an acCENT on the wrong sylLAble, that is not a matter of opinion - it is a wrenched accent, period , and is not pleasant for a listener.  That is a specific, objective fact that allows the writer to make a decision -- they can leave it or change it.
-- if the rhyme schemes of the verses are different from each other,  it is shown by studies that asymmetry is generally perceived as less aesthetically pleasing than symmetry, in things both audio and visual.  That is a specific objective fact that allows the writer to make a decision -- they can leave it or change it.
-- words with no sonic ping points are going strike the listener with far less impact than sonically active words.   Centuries of oratory provide a large body of empirical evidence.
-- use of words with multiple meanings (e.g. 'jack', 'set')  but no supporting context confuse a listener (English 101)
-- a misplaced rhetorical accent changes the meaning of a line (principle of contrastive stress)
-- a lyric that has mostly abstract rather than concrete nouns will appeal to less than 1/3 of the potential audience (decades of MBTI research)

And so on for all the lyrical and musical parameters that make up the song -- these are independent of production or performance or subjective opinion.    This kind of critique is the most useful for a writer, but it is also the most difficult to find in the industry, as relatively few are qualified to do it.    You need to find someone who is actually a song analyst, not just an artist or songwriter or producer, no matter how successful they may be.

Most of the songwriting contests out there are judged with a heavy tilt toward subjective taste,  production values, and commercial potential, rather than pure craft.   In the many songwriting and performance competition where I am involved in the judging,  I try to get all the judges to use a standardized parametric approach that I have developed,  to be as fair as possible to the entrants.

To ultimately answer your question, I can say that when a song is critiqued parametrically, it always comes out the same, any time of day, and the writer will be able to make informed decisions about where they want to take the song.  The writer is always in charge of final decisions.

The songwriting guide "Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting" is the only book currently available that provides explanations and exercises for parametric analysis of songs.  (http://www.songcrafterscoloringbook.com)

The final and 4th kind of critique is the commercial-based market-driven look at "will it make money", which is really asking "how much will it take to make this make money" given that anything, through push-marketing,  can be made to be perceived by the masses as 'good', 'popular', and 'must-have'.

So my bottom-line advice is that if you are seeking input on the craft of your work,  look for someone who understands all the individual parameters that are at work in a song, AND knows how to clearly explain them to you.  It does you no good if they know everything but can't make it understandable to you, as is the case with many successful instinct-based writers.   If you're looking for marketability advice regardless of the degree of craft in the song, any industry professional will give you their opinion (but remember, the Beatles  and many other big hit songs and artists were rejected before they finally got a "yes").

I wish you the best in all your projects.  

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Bill Pere

Expertise

Can answer questions on : Technical aspects of lyric and music compostion; How to give and receive objective critique; Arranging and production; Concrete vs abstract imagery; Use of metaphor; Rhyme techniques; Song Structure; Collaboration; Songwriter Associations; Promotion; Guitar technique; Music Business;

Experience

Grammy-Award-winning songwriter; President of the Connecticut Songwriters Association and Director of the Connecticut Songwriting Academy; Named one of the Top 50 Innovators and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry in 2008 by Music Connection Magazine; Author of "Songcrafters' Coloring Book:The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting." Named Independent Artist of the Year,by the 2003 national Independent Music Conference; 30 years as a professional singer-songwriter; 16 original CD's released;
Have had songs placed on other artists' CD's. Twice named Connecticut Songwriter of the Year.
20 years as Executive Director of the LUNCH Ensemble. Have attended more than 200 presentations by top industry professionals and have critiqued thousands of songs. Have written and produced dozens of stage plays and hundreds of concert events; Have coached hundreds of aspiring songwriters, and collaborated with several award winning writers. Have written commissioned songs as an Official Connecticut State Troubadour. Music Director of youth choirs and music camps.

Organizations
Connecticut Songwriters Association (President); LUNCH Ensemble (Local United Network to Combat Hunger -- Exec, Director); CMEA (Connecticut Music Educators Association); Folk Alliance; Association For Psychological Type; Songsalive; WE R Indie; Creative Songwriting Academy;

Publications
Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Succesful Songwriting Songwriters Market (2001, 2002); Connecticut Songsmith; Contemporary Songwriter Magazine; Songwriters Musepaper;
Songcrafter's Coloring Book;   Strategies for Teaching Guitar;

Education/Credentials
Masters Degree Molecular Biology; Certified MBTI Practitioner (Myers Briggs Type Indicator); Connecticut Secondary Public School Teaching Certificate; Author: "Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting"

Awards and Honors
2012 Grammy; Named one of the Top 50 Innovators and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry in 2008 by Music Connection Magazine; Independent Artist of the Year, (2003 national Indie Conference); Official Connecticut State Troubadour, appointed by CT Commission on the Arts, 1995 ; 1982 and 1992 CT Songwriter of the Year; 2000 Award for 20 years of Outstanding Service to Songwriters;
2002 CSA Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education through Music; Numerous awards for outstanding community outreach through music; 1997 Citation from Connecticut Legislature for exemplary dedication to community outreach through music. 1995 Renaissance Award for multiple music achievements in a single year.   Invited Presenter and Mentor at various Music Conventions

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