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  • The not-so gentle art of self-critique

    One of the interesting things about a musician is that he or she will never have any idea what their playing really sounds like. This makes it difficult to evaluate what we're doing without the help of others (peers, teachers, audiences, etc). However, one thing we CAN do is record ourselves and listen OBJECTIVELY...at least this way we can pinpoint our weaknesses and mistakes so that we know what to work on.

    The more critical you are of yourself, the more effective the procedure is. However, if you're an absolute perfectionist, beware of ulcers. One thing I learned as a kid during baseball practice is that you do something 1000 times in practice to better your odds for success when game time comes. With music, a performance is like the game: you've got ONE chance to get it right, so you'd better be prepared.

    As an example, I have taken a recording I made of myself playing the Loure from Bach's Partita in E Major and will proceed to tear it apart. Now, this recording was NOT made for me to evaluate my playing; I was looking for a sound. As a result, I didn't put much effort into it, so the mistakes are MANY and OBVIOUS. (in other words, my playing sucked) But, it makes for a good example of how to tear yourself a new one without hurting your own feelings.


    http://www.digitalsoundplanet.com/Members/000057796_000011653.mp3

    (note: I copied and inserted the first half to simulate the repeat I didn't take when playing, so all the mistakes in the first 52 seconds or so are there TWICE)

    8 While the end result wasn't too bad, I missed a note in the lower voice and played it late.

    :15 The second of two like phrases, this one I didn't let the bass note sustain for its full value.

    :20 I palm muted when I didn't intend to.

    :35 Just plain sloppy and choppy. ICK!

    :46 Poor choice of fingering left me ill-prepared to play the chords....they were late, AND a note was missing from the first of them.

    (repeat....)

    1:52 The bottom voice is choppy and therefore has no melodic integrity.

    1:58-20 same as above

    28 Sloppy chords.

    2:13 "Plink". Yuck.

    2:16 LATE!!!! (fingers weren't prepared again)

    2:22 LATE AGAIN! (same reason)

    2:34 Missed a note (should be a double stop....instead, I got a single note and a 'thunk') Bah humbug

    2:36-2:41 Bass notes all cut short....completely lacking any melodic integrity. Kinda ruins the cadence.


    Now, overall, I am not displeased with the tempo, although my interpretation is inconsistent at best, disgraceful at the worst. My vibrato was lazy and pisspoor (consistently though!)...the finger squeaks throughout do not bother me....and the sound I used was ALMOST dynamic enough for what I wanted.

    Enjoy! Pick it apart even more if you choose...this is the 'iron constitution' thread.
    My guitar books (and website) are currently unavailable. Please listen to some MUZAK while you wait.

    If you don't *yet* own a metronome:www.metronomeonline.com

  • #2
    I recorded myself once and got so depressed that I wanted to stop playing guitar. No way I will record myself again

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Triton
      I recorded myself once and got so depressed that I wanted to stop playing guitar. No way I will record myself again



      Ahh, one thing it took me years to learn is that my music (or whatever music I play if it isn't mine, ie the clip i posted in this thread) is not 'me'....it's something I do, but it is not my identity. A PART of my identity, yes, but by no means the whole thing. As a result, constructive criticism is something I look forward to...purely cynical criticism is nothing but humorous and doesn't have any ill effect on me. My feelings don't get hurt either way.
      My guitar books (and website) are currently unavailable. Please listen to some MUZAK while you wait.

      If you don't *yet* own a metronome:www.metronomeonline.com

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      • #4
        I am by far my harshest critic.

        I record and listen to myself constantly. It's the only way to learn from your mistyakes IMO
        www.myspace.com/laroosco1

        Comment


        • #5
          Is it just me, or is it really difficult to criticise you own improvisations? I'm not a very experienced improviser, and the few times where I've heard recordings of my improvised stuff I've found it incredibly difficult to listen to it objectively, aside from obvious mistakes - like, you can listen to anyone elses solos and go 'yeah that's good' or 'didn't like that phrase' but when listening to your own stuff, especially when there are no obvious technical flaws, it is very difficult to decide whether it is good or bad - anyone else experience this?

          But, for written music, and live performances especially, I agree that recording yourself is a very good way to know where improvement needs to be made.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Auggie Doggie
            The more critical you are of yourself, the more effective the procedure is.


            No! Completely wrong idea! Why look for the bad spots? Look for the good ones instead!

            And that's what I'm thinking when I read your own self-critique, why are you so hard on yourself. it's easy to be that, and the thing is, it doesn't lead anywhere.

            First of all, you should not listen to yourself right after you've recorded it. Let some time, like at least a week, pass before you hear it. This way you won't know what your intentions were and you have a small chance of actually listening to it objectively.

            Now, your piece here wasn't improvised for all I understand so in this case you really do know what the intention was, no matter when you listen to it. But still, let som time pass.

            Second, don't sit there trying to pinpoint your mistakes, it's self destructive. And it's not very productive either, it won't really help your progress. Try to hear what you did well and focus on what that was and why it worked. Then try to do that again next time. Or something simliar.

            Done this way the technique of listening back to your own playing can be very good for you.
            Terje Larsson

            inbox is full, send e-mail instead

            Hey, wanna look at my comics? Come here then http://terjelarssonserier.blogspot.com/

            Ah, sorry, it's all in swedish, but you can always look!

            You can also check out my crazy friend Dan's crazy website where he'll teach you to master the guitar in 8 minutes (or days... or whatever).

            http://spytunes.co.uk/

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Terje


              No! Completely wrong idea! Why look for the bad spots? Look for the good ones instead!


              You look for the bad spots so that you know exactly where to put in your time and effort.


              And that's what I'm thinking when I read your own self-critique, why are you so hard on yourself. it's easy to be that, and the thing is, it doesn't lead anywhere.


              It DOES lead somewhere: improvement. LOTS of it.


              First of all, you should not listen to yourself right after you've recorded it. Let some time, like at least a week, pass before you hear it. This way you won't know what your intentions were and you have a small chance of actually listening to it objectively.


              That was recorded months ago. I came across it yesterday and got the idea for this thread.



              Now, your piece here wasn't improvised for all I understand so in this case you really do know what the intention was, no matter when you listen to it. But still, let som time pass.


              Of course it wasn't improvised. But lots of time passed.


              Second, don't sit there trying to pinpoint your mistakes, it's self destructive. And it's not very productive either, it won't really help your progress.


              It's VERY productive, the exception being those who can't take criticism (especially their own). I could hear EXACTLY what I screwed up, WHY I screwed it up...and from there, it's easy to figure out how to fix it.

              Try to hear what you did well and focus on what that was and why it worked. Then try to do that again next time. Or something simliar.

              Done this way the technique of listening back to your own playing can be very good for you.



              I didn't do much of anything well when I recorded that. I don't need a daily self-affirmation; it sucked and I know it. That I admit it means that I now have a set of goals to achieve the desired results.

              It's not enough that I played it so that someone who knows the piece would recognize it. It's not enough that I managed to get from beginning to end. Those half-hit notes are not good enough.

              If I hadn't recorded it and listened back, I would have thought I played it just fine. If I listened to it and ignored what I did wrong and focused on the positive, I would be lying to myself. That promotes mediocrity. Maybe that's good enough for you, but it sure as hell isn't good enough for me.
              My guitar books (and website) are currently unavailable. Please listen to some MUZAK while you wait.

              If you don't *yet* own a metronome:www.metronomeonline.com

              Comment


              • #8
                I think there's a huge difference here whether the music is improvised or not. And I didn't think of that before my reply to you.

                For something that's written, like the thing you played, I think it's easier to actually listen for "what's not good". With an improvised piece it's not the same thing.

                And you are being counter productive as an improviser if you focus too much on what's not working. Just forget those thing and focus on the good parts and make those better.
                Terje Larsson

                inbox is full, send e-mail instead

                Hey, wanna look at my comics? Come here then http://terjelarssonserier.blogspot.com/

                Ah, sorry, it's all in swedish, but you can always look!

                You can also check out my crazy friend Dan's crazy website where he'll teach you to master the guitar in 8 minutes (or days... or whatever).

                http://spytunes.co.uk/

                Comment


                • #9
                  sonically, I'd say go for a warmer, more full, cleaner tone.

                  The overdriving that happens on points of accent robs from the dynamics , shocks the ear and takes away from the statement being made in harmony.

                  I also think you ornaments will be more effective with a rounder sound (they won't sound too thin compared to their plucked masters)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Auggie Doggie

                    8 While the end result wasn't too bad, I missed a note in the lower voice and played it late.

                    :15 The second of two like phrases, this one I didn't let the bass note sustain for its full value.

                    :20 I palm muted when I didn't intend to.

                    :35 Just plain sloppy and choppy. ICK!

                    :46 Poor choice of fingering left me ill-prepared to play the chords....they were late, AND a note was missing from the first of them.

                    (repeat....)

                    1:52 The bottom voice is choppy and therefore has no melodic integrity.

                    1:58-20 same as above

                    28 Sloppy chords.

                    2:13 "Plink". Yuck.

                    2:16 LATE!!!! (fingers weren't prepared again)

                    2:22 LATE AGAIN! (same reason)

                    2:34 Missed a note (should be a double stop....instead, I got a single note and a 'thunk') Bah humbug

                    2:36-2:41 Bass notes all cut short....completely lacking any melodic integrity. Kinda ruins the cadence.



                    Jesus Christ man, guitar playing is supposed to be fun. Anyone as anal retentive as this isn't having any fun. I think you need to get laid, dog.

                    I will say that after hearing this I am completely baffled by your elitist attitudes towards music and guitar playing.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MorePaul
                      sonically, I'd say go for a warmer, more full, cleaner tone.


                      +1

                      The overdriving that happens on points of accent robs from the dynamics , shocks the ear and takes away from the statement being made in harmony.

                      +2

                      I also think you ornaments will be more effective with a rounder sound (they won't sound too thin compared to their plucked masters)



                      +3



                      Glad someone here has an ear.
                      My guitar books (and website) are currently unavailable. Please listen to some MUZAK while you wait.

                      If you don't *yet* own a metronome:www.metronomeonline.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Jack E Martling



                        Jesus Christ man, guitar playing is supposed to be fun.



                        Oh, it's a lot of fun. But don't call me "Jesus Christ man".



                        I will say that after hearing this I am completely baffled by your elitist attitudes towards music and guitar playing.



                        Martling, Martling, Martling....so slow to think....so quick to troll.

                        You've got HALF of it right; I'll give ya that much. I'll wait patiently for the other half. (I expect it will take you quite some time to figure it out, as a LOT went over your head here.) That's ok, though...smoking that **************** will do that to ya.
                        My guitar books (and website) are currently unavailable. Please listen to some MUZAK while you wait.

                        If you don't *yet* own a metronome:www.metronomeonline.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          How do you feel about the tempo stability?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MorePaul
                            How do you feel about the tempo stability?


                            That was my first thought too, but my biggest suggestion would be to listen more closely to your phrasing. The overall concept of phrasing from beginning to end isn't strong right now. I know you have good ears--use them bro!
                            I WANNA ROSK!
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Terje


                              And you are being counter productive as an improviser if you focus too much on what's not working. Just forget those thing and focus on the good parts and make those better.


                              Today I had one of my first driving lessons. I totally screwed up 10 or 11 left turns, made almost all of the possible errors, then suddenly - it was there! I performed a smooth, elegant, perfect left turn.

                              Now instead of thinking negatively "I failed 95% of the time", I'll just think "Hey, I did it there! I'll just do that again!".

                              I don't know if this analogy works, but I guess it's something like that. It can't be all bad.

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