Last fall I participated in a competition to be part of a recording project organized by Yukon Women in Music. YWIM gave us the opportunity to get half an hour of free studio time to record our muical submissions, and then the recordings were sent to jurors across Canada for judging. Out of the 30 competitors, I came in 14th, which isn’t terrible, although I missed getting onto the CD that is the intended end-product (only the top 12 got on).
One of the requests that was made of the jurors was that they critique the submissions so that participants could get feedback. You can imagine that with 30 entries to listen to, not all the jurors would be excited about doing this. In fact, only one juror did give feedback, and, pest that I am, I’d been bugging the organizer of the project to send it to me. She had been busy and the e-mail had been misfiled, and anyway, the short story is that yesterday I finally got the feedback I’d been asking for.
I’ve never thought of myself as much of a composer, and it wasn’t until this fall that I ever even wrote a song that I liked. I’ve written a few more since then, but I know they all have a similar sound to them and I need to find a way to grow my style. I was looking forward to getting this feedback because I can take criticism (well, constructive critiquing, anyway) and I know it’s important to keep learning and improving.
Here’s what I got:
“This vocalist has a fine voice but the melody is too rudimentary. The diary style of the lyrics make it sound like it would be a great song for a musical or play. “
Ouch! Okay, it may not sound so bad, but it kind of stung to read it. The melody is too rudimentary? What does that really mean? That there should have been harmonies? That another melody line or refrain should have been incorporated? That it’s repetitive? I thought I was going to get dinged on the structure of the piece, as it’s not conventional, but there’s no mention of than, unless that’s what this person meant. I just don’t really understand what this juror is trying to say, which is frustrating, because what the heck do you do with feedback when you don’t get what it means?
The part where s/he says it sounds like a song for a musical or a play makes me laugh, because I got that comment from quite a few people. I guess my roots in musical theatre are showing. (Quick, where’s the dye?! Ha!)
I know I have shortcomings as a musician. I don’t play well by ear and I couldn’t improvise anything to save my life, except on the most common C-A-F-G chord progression. This is part of what limits me in my song-writing, as the accompaniment to my songs tend to be unimaginative. But I thought I at least came up with nice melodies.
Ah, well, as I said, it’s important to keep learning and improving. I’ve arranged with a local piano teacher to get some help learning improvising, which I’m hoping to start on Wednesday if I can find a baby-sitter (Michael’s heading to Yellowknife for two nights – *grumble*) and I’m still toying with the idea of some vocal instruction or guitar lessons. But I really can’t take on too much because there just isn’t enough time.
At least I know that most people – including this juror – think that I can sing.