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#1151967 - 03/17/08 04:57 PM Re: Criticism of compositions
epf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/07
Posts: 658
Loc: Central Texas
I've tried to stay out of this, but I think it's time to add to the fun...

We study composition for the same reason we study grammar -- so we know the formal aspects of writing, whether it be music or the written word. That are times that we break the rules -- but we need to know that we are breaking the rules and why.

The fact that I've studied grammar does not constrain my writing but, rather, ensures that what I write will have the possibility of being understood by those who read what I've written. The masters of writing knew the rules and therefore could decide if they were going to break those rules and when and how it would be done -- usually for a specific effect.

Music is no different. There is a grammar to music, a structure and a form. There was a time when the "rules" said you did not use a tritone (diminished fifth/augmented fourth). There was a reason behind it that had to do with the fact that the ratio of the jump was an irrational number. However, there's a more powerful argument against it: it's hard to sing! Yet in the song "Maria" from "West Side Story" we see a use if that very tritone.

If we don't know the rules then we don't know when we are breaking them. If we don't know that, then the result we produce may not be what we expected, at least, not in the ear of the listener. Now, if we don't care about those who will hear what we write, then it doesn't matter. If, on the other hand, we want other people to hear our music, to understand what we are trying to say, then it makes sense that we understand the rules that have formed our music for at least the last 700 years.

On another forum someone asked if anyone knew how to write a fugue. The poster had never studied composition, but wanted to write a fugue. How is it possible to write a particular form that requires a knowledge of counterpoint without having studied counterpoint? How is it possible to write a particular form if one has never studied what that form is and how it is constructed?

Even "new" music that has not prior form is dependent upon the ear to follow the music and to have expectations met and surprises generated. These are dependent upon knowledge of what it means to meet musical expectations and to surprise one musically. And that requires study and knowledge.

Knowledge does not bind one but, rather expands possibilities by providing a basis upon which one builds and shows horizons that are yet to be explored.

Just my $0.02 worth...

Ed
_________________________
"...a man ... should engage himself with the causes of the harmonious combination of sounds, and with the composition of music." Anatolius of Alexandria

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#1151968 - 03/17/08 06:49 PM Re: Criticism of compositions
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5262
Loc: Europe
Damn!

I missed this thread! I hate being away for too long! \:\(

Zom (original poster):

There are some things to conisder.

first of all there is constructive critisism and feedback which should always exist and be asked for. I'm 30 and I still ask for help. Nothing wrong with that!

Anybody aiming to hurt someone through critisism is an idiot! Plain fact! Forget about that, since it's not worth the trouble or worrying really! Negative is not bad per se, and if a track/music is rubbish, then it is rubbish, I'm sorry to say! There are far better words to describe that and there are ways to explain what you mean and why you think it's rubbish, but if it is, it is. Far more important to consider is that exactly because it's not exactly objective, it's a personal opinion that matters. If you value the person giving you the critisism, then count it in, if not, then don't care too much, unless it makes sense as well.

As for composition and rules. Since I'm finishing my PhD in composition, I can have my say to it, without believing it's definately right, but still worthy a read (so in other words: my $0.02)

Yes, composition doesn't have rules, etc, blah blah. Sissy talk! Composition is not placing a chimp on the piano and recording him. Composition is not going random (unless you have a strong philosophical case on your back, like Cage, or Ives had). Composition is not not caring (twice the not).

Yes there are no rules, BUT:

i. There are objective rules: Flute can't go bellow B. Want it lower? get an alto one, or have the clarinet play it. A single violin playing pizzicati, won't be heard through the timpani, and brass and bass drum playing FF. These are facts, rules if you want. So orchestration and instrumentation is filled with rules.
ii. composition: Intervals. A minor second sounds "ugly". Sounds dissonant. In most cases (depends on the environment always, but generic fact still remains). A minor third sounds pretty nice. A minor chord sounds nice, a cluster sounds... weird. Not using a motif, or knowing you have a motif, can hurt the development. Putting 4 melodies in the row is not 1 finished piece. It's 4 pieces jigsawed together. What the old (and new) masters did is art and technique. It's not inspiration. Take Beethoven for example. A lot of his themes are mere arpegios. Appasionata, Moonlight, and many other actually. And with a single F minor arpeggio (appassionata) he ends up with a whole sonate of 10-15 minutes of length! He didn't follow any textbook rules, but he certainly applied knowledge, his mind, and various techniques (counterpoint, harmony, etc) in his composition. Plus a set form: Sonata form.

If you take notice in universities, I doubt you'll find anyone teaching "composition". In my masters I was taught "compositional techniques of the 20th century", "aesthetics in the 20th century" and antoher 2 modules a bit more irrelavent. Nobody came to tell me about things that I could argue about: The theme, why I went of B minor (which I never did, I'm atonal to my academic persuits), or other things. But they did have things to propose (maybe this is a bit too long, maybe the piano won't sound too much through this dense texture, etc). And nobody actually taught me that "you compose this way". Nope! They all taught me that "one thing you could do is this technique, like Ligeti, or that one like Stravinsky", etc...

Anyways I'll come back later to watch this thread. \:\) mighty interesting!
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#1151969 - 03/17/08 09:15 PM Re: Criticism of compositions
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
All I know is, in my own experience---the quality of my music has been continually improving since I began writing music, and the more I ignore the rules the better my music becomes. Maybe my ear is discovering the rules on their own if they really are there, a couple of people have told me I use them even though I didn't plan to. I do like tonal sounds a lot, and they find their way into my music. I just happen to use my ear to create these sounds rather than books, rules, and others pointing out errors. I've never needed to know why I was or was not breaking any rules. All I know is---by continually improving my musical vocabulary, my music has gotten more expressive, more elegant, introduced more form, etc. without consulting a single music theory book. I would never say that is how everyone should approach writing music though! It's just how I do it...

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#1151970 - 03/17/08 09:26 PM Re: Criticism of compositions
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5262
Loc: Europe
What rules are you refering to? Otherwise we won't be able to communicate properly.

When I compose I don't have any textbooks next to me, or some handy "rules" to follow. I compose what "I want to compose". THE END...

But I can explain pretty much everything I do and why I did it, as well as make my music sound coherent (if I'm successful to what I do, which is another issue altogether and can't answer that myself for myself by myself... to autistic to do so... ;\) )

Rules in harmony, counterpoint, fugue, etc are there ONLY for stylistic reasons. There's no reason why you can't have the piece only with parrallel 5ths! Or clashes, or everything. But if you want to resemble that classical style, or Baroque, then yes you do need to know what they did in order to follow. If you just want to write music, you're free to do so! Heck, either way you're free to do so.

Just make sure that you ignore rules, because you choose so and you know that the result will be "better" (according to you of course) and not because of ignorance of the rules alltogether. \:\)
_________________________
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#1151971 - 03/18/08 10:44 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
Rules about parallel fifths and octaves, doubling the leading tone, etc. The common practice era rules.

I use them when I imitate baroque and classical music, but when I'm just playing to be myself, I don't pay attention to whether or not I am using them. Funny thing is, some people have told me I use them anyway, so I guess my ear just likes those sounds. Books or no books.

Let's not get off track though. I think my main concern is I've become aware of way too many people in the classical music world who have absolutely towering inferiority complexes...and I think this is sad. Music should be about joy, not an endless cycle of teachers taking out vengeance on their students for their own crushed creative spirits (which appears to be what is happening). I've been fortunate enough for this not to happen to me, and this is partly why I crusade so against negative criticism. I see it as a threat to simple childlike joy with music. I enjoy this kind of joy and freedom and I always wish others to also.I know many others share this joy but it just breaks my heart when I hear about someone who thinks they can't do it and insists they suck and so on and so forth just because some bully said their music sucked.

And it makes me mad when people say nonsense like WELL YOU JUST HAVE TO HAVE BALLS IN THE CRUEL MUSIC WORLD. BUT I WILL BE NICE AND GENTLE AND NOT RIP YOU APART AS BADLY AS *I* WAS.

you know? It just makes me mad. Music should be about joy not freakin' 19th century boarding school discipline nonsense. Why haven't we moved beyond that? And I'm not saying anyone on this site is necessarily all THAT bad, I'm just trying to draw attention to the issue of: Music should be about joy, encouragement, etc. You know? This is music.. MUSIC people. Not the freakin' ARMY.

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#1151972 - 03/18/08 10:49 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2738
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Nikolas, Ed, Scott and Currawong,

I appreciate your comments. I have refrained from commenting in this thread because it became personal. I offered an analysis of a portion of a piece that I hoped would serve to highlight it's organizational strengths. I received no commentary on that effort, but rather was taken to task for grammer. I find it ironic that I would be criticised for not knowing grammer by someone who eschews the knowledge of musical grammer. If music is organized sound then having an organizational plan would seem a wise course of action.

Again thanks for your comments.

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#1151973 - 03/18/08 10:51 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
Grammar =)

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#1151974 - 03/18/08 10:53 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
I didn't criticize your grammar, I criticized your spelling (which by the way you did first tee hee). Anyway...music doesn't communicate semantic meaning, therefore there can't be anything truly "correct" in music. Even in language it can't be said to be truly "incorrect" unless the meaning is so obscured you can't decipher it.

Look, I don't dislike you Steve. I just think you should be a little bit more sensitive about what you say to people about what they innocently create from their hearts, that's all. You're actually not the worst I've seen out there...still though I am just trying to bring awareness to the idea that music should be about joy and encouragement, not negativity, criticism and "balls and cruelty" and what not, that you and so many others think it's about.

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#1151975 - 03/18/08 11:04 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5262
Loc: Europe
Steve, no worries man \:\)

Zom, I find that you live in some kind of bubble! Not in exactly the negative way, but the kind that makes you believe that what happened to you is the norm in the world. It's not. I'm teaching and know many teachers, at university level, postgraduate level, or lower level, at grade level, piano and composition, none of who are eveilshly hating thier students and want to make them suffer, etc. You remind me a bit of Pink Floyd, only it's no longer 1981!

Rules etc: They are only impotant when you attempt to go towards the stylistic way and the aesthetic way of a said era. If you want to write like Bach, for example, you should know counterpoint otherwise your efforts will show transparent, I'm sorry to say. You are certainly free to do whatever you want (but yell at me, which is not nice at all), and not take it out at random people! I have tons of parrellel 5ths and doublings and triplings and whatever in my pieces ,and nobody can say anything to me. It's stylisticly different. ;\)

Plus you should know that since you post in the Internet, everything goes public and you are in the fear of being critisized by anyone! What if someone listens to your music and thinks it's rubbish? You can either hide your music for ever, or bear to have it torn apart. A risk you need to take, only if you mean it.

Same with posting, you came, you posted, the composition forum rarely reaches 2nd page and you made it! You are being critisised for what you say and you are being asked to reconsider by more than one person. Maybe you should check if, just if, what you say is not the norm. And either way, found a bad teacher? Report him/her and move on! I never stayed in one place until I was happy and stayed for 10 years in a row! Easy...
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1151976 - 03/18/08 11:07 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
I don't care if my music is criticized. This isn't about me, this is about people who are vulnerable. I have a thick hide from another pursuit other than music. I just don't want other people to have that happen to them in music. In music I'm like a 5 year old boy in a playground. I want others to enjoy that also. So when I see any remote likelihood of that being stamped out of someone, I often snap. Partially because of that possibility, and also because I find individuals who post everywhere on forums lording their SUPREME KNOWLEDGE in everyone's face to be kind of repulsive. Unless they do it in a kind, unconfrontational manner...I've known a few individuals like that. Who are only helpful, and encouraging.

I think also at issue here is trust. I think maybe criticism is much more palatable if you trust your teacher. On the internet, trust can never be an issue because you can never interact with or form any sort of (real) bond with them. It is much more volatile than in person. I think on the internet people ought to reserve such comments and only provide helpful information, not criticism. Yes, I know I am criticizing a criticizer, but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

Maybe I do live in a bubble. You're probably right. I HAVE known a sizable number of people with huge inferiority complexes who were classical musicians though. Maybe it was bad parenting (of those people. my parents were awesome). Maybe it was a bad teacher, I don't know. But something has gone wrong in the classical music world. The manager of a local piano shop even said people couldn't WAIT to get more guitar lessons, but the piano students couldn't WAIT for christmas vacation.

Something's wrong in the classical music world---maybe I misidentified the problem as criticism...

What do you think it is?

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#1151977 - 03/18/08 11:32 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11676
Loc: Canada
I've been reading this thread with interest. The first thing is that we are an eclectic bunch of a variety that would probably not meet in real life. An amateur who has recently discovered the piano and is trying his hand at inspiration and throw in a couple of chords will not usually meet up with an ultra-trained musician or even teacher of ultra-trained musicians. A composer will not find himself critiqued by a student who has just enough knowledge to feel he knows it all, but not enough to know he has barely scratched the surface. Some go at it with passion and timidity, wanting acceptance and praise for their works without having a clue what critiquing might mean. Some give criticism which boosts their own egos and that criticism may be false. We don't know each other and we don't know each other's background.

What I would be afraid of is that if I present myself as an amateur and offer up something, the possibility that I have a fragile ego and the experience on boards such as this might stop someone who knows something from giving me advice that would further my growth. The obvious solution is to write "criticism is welcome and solicited." and then hope the criticizer knows what he is talking about.

People critiquing may not realize that information riding beneath their ideas is not to be taken for granted, and they may have absorbed some fundamental things so long ago that it is no longer on the surface of their knowledge. If somebody says "You should change this to that.", if it seems that this person is acting out of some knowledge, I would be inclined to ask for further explanation and possibly what the principles behind the suggestion might be. That's the moment where I may have the opportunity to grow beyond the present confines of my knowledge and expectations. There is a big caveat that this person may not know what he is talking about. This is the Internet.

I think the diversity inherent in forums such as this one presents a special challenge that we all have to be sensitive to or at least aware of. When people share a common experience, such as jazz musicians (and their audience perhaps) among each other, or conservatory students with their teachers, or the amateurs who are in it for the fun of it, each set has an unspoken and unthought of sets of behaviours and expectations. There is a communication that happens beyond words in the interchange. The mix and match of this can engender misunderstanding and create a lot of unnecessary negativity.

Zom, having written all that, I think that I have encountered some of what you have written about, and have some mixed feelings in regards to some of it.

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#1151978 - 03/18/08 11:53 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5262
Loc: Europe
Oh there is something wrong with the classical world Zom, I agree! And I've mentioned it in other threads as well. But your phrasing was something less of almost off topic to what you are saying now and how you started the thread!
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1151979 - 03/18/08 12:14 PM Re: Criticism of compositions
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
I've been reading this thread with interest. The first thing is that we are an eclectic bunch of a variety that would probably not meet in real life. An amateur who has recently discovered the piano and is trying his hand at inspiration and throw in a couple of chords will not usually meet up with an ultra-trained musician or even teacher of ultra-trained musicians. A composer will not find himself critiqued by a student who has just enough knowledge to feel he knows it all, but not enough to know he has barely scratched the surface. Some go at it with passion and timidity, wanting acceptance and praise for their works without having a clue what critiquing might mean. Some give criticism which boosts their own egos and that criticism may be false. We don't know each other and we don't know each other's background.

What I would be afraid of is that if I present myself as an amateur and offer up something, the possibility that I have a fragile ego and the experience on boards such as this might stop someone who knows something from giving me advice that would further my growth. The obvious solution is to write "criticism is welcome and solicited." and then hope the criticizer knows what he is talking about.

People critiquing may not realize that information riding beneath their ideas is not to be taken for granted, and they may have absorbed some fundamental things so long ago that it is no longer on the surface of their knowledge. If somebody says "You should change this to that.", if it seems that this person is acting out of some knowledge, I would be inclined to ask for further explanation and possibly what the principles behind the suggestion might be. That's the moment where I may have the opportunity to grow beyond the present confines of my knowledge and expectations. There is a big caveat that this person may not know what he is talking about. This is the Internet.

I think the diversity inherent in forums such as this one presents a special challenge that we all have to be sensitive to or at least aware of. When people share a common experience, such as jazz musicians (and their audience perhaps) among each other, or conservatory students with their teachers, or the amateurs who are in it for the fun of it, each set has an unspoken and unthought of sets of behaviours and expectations. There is a communication that happens beyond words in the interchange. The mix and match of this can engender misunderstanding and create a lot of unnecessary negativity.

Zom, having written all that, I think that I have encountered some of what you have written about, and have some mixed feelings in regards to some of it. [/b]
Excellent post, I think you underlined many of the most important issues here and described them better than I could I think.

Steve---allow me to apologize for blowing the original situation with pukino out of proportion. I made it into a situation by taking my personal crusade out in that thread...sorry for that. I was being childish. That said however, I think I've succeeded in drawing this to the attention of people who have viewed this thread. I think it is always important to carefully consider what one says and in what context and where. The creative spirit of the young is one of humanity's greatest treasures--and I suppose sometimes I tend to get a little uppity defending it (even when I've misidentified a situation)

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#1151980 - 03/19/08 10:10 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2738
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
 Quote:
Originally posted by Zom:

Steve---allow me to apologize for blowing the original situation with pukino out of proportion. I made it into a situation by taking my personal crusade out in that thread...sorry for that. I was being childish.[/b]
Accepted

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#1151981 - 05/19/08 11:53 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
Kahlaireeah Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/21/08
Posts: 29
Loc: usa
I just got into a discussion with my mother about music theory, a subject I know very little about. (I know the basics, cadences, chords, some techniques) and she summurized it up by saying something like this,

"Theory isn't a set of rules, It's a tool you use when needed to help develope a better understanding of your musical world, never take what people say to literally because they are just words, and can't convey the meaning of such things as music."

She then went on a rant about how things sound differently for everyone, like chord inversions, she was like a person might find a root position sounding more assertive, or more colorful depending on the individual, and that books that teach this stuff, are biased towards there listening expierance.

She went on for hours dude. I asked her like 1 question about minor scales.

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#1151982 - 05/21/08 11:28 PM Re: Criticism of compositions
woodfab Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/05
Posts: 367
Loc: Stoneham, MA
I feel if your playing for your own enjoyment, you can do whatever you want.
But if you want to make it as a writer/composer/musician it's very important to listen to criticism/comments.
I've worked with musicians and been in bands over the years and have found that most people will say to musicians that they play very well and sounded great, when in fact if they had a CD of them they would never listen to it.
If you want to make it your music has to be something people want to listen to.
_________________________
Dan (Piano Tinkerer)

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#1151983 - 07/29/08 08:49 PM Re: Criticism of compositions
James McFadyen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/06
Posts: 103
Loc: Manchester UK
I am always blunt and straight down the middle although I must admit I perhaps expect too much from everybody.

I do try to be detailed but every composer knows that it's just another guy's opinion. How you value it or learn from it (or not) is another matter.

If someone openly asks for feedback, I will answer honestly and candidly. If someone can't take another composers candid reply, then did they really want feedback at all or just recognition? And there in lies the irony. Most composers just want to be appreciated. The internet is a good way to get your music circulated but you have to be honest with yourself first and foremost.... do you genuinely want feedback (of any type... we're not robots, some will express more heavily than others!!) or do you want your music to be downloaded so that it can be appreciated?

The reality of it is this: The music business is hard. Harder than most realise. Being a composer is even tougher. Develop a thick skin, have passion for your craft and BE UNIQUE!!
_________________________
James McFadyen
Black & White Editions (c/o Devilish Publishing)
NEW PIANO MUSIC DEALS - http://www.blackandwhiteeditions.com/

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#1151984 - 07/29/08 08:50 PM Re: Criticism of compositions
James McFadyen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/06
Posts: 103
Loc: Manchester UK
_________________________
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Black & White Editions (c/o Devilish Publishing)
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#1151985 - 07/29/08 11:20 PM Re: Criticism of compositions
gemiknight Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/29/08
Posts: 14
Loc: Coldwater, OH, USA
Zom - you know what happens to people who hear nothing but "good/positive" feedback?

Click here to find out....

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#1151986 - 07/30/08 10:14 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2738
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
 Quote:
Originally posted by gemiknight:
Zom - you know what happens to people who hear nothing but "good/positive" feedback?

Click here to find out.... [/b]
While I get the humor of this I'm unconvinced it's helpful. Far more helpful would be the Last Lecture of Randy Pausch. Here's a link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo

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#1151987 - 07/30/08 11:34 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
gemiknight Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/29/08
Posts: 14
Loc: Coldwater, OH, USA
 Quote:
While I get the humor of this I'm unconvinced it's helpful. Far more helpful would be the Last Lecture of Randy Pausch. Here's a link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo [/QB]
Ah! Randy Pausch! Great inspiration! Sad to hear of his recent death... But good point, Steve

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#1151988 - 07/30/08 07:53 PM Re: Criticism of compositions
gemiknight Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/29/08
Posts: 14
Loc: Coldwater, OH, USA
Okay, Zom, watch the video link above starting at about 9:40 into it...

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#1151989 - 07/31/08 09:18 AM Re: Criticism of compositions
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2738
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
 Quote:
Originally posted by gemiknight:
Okay, Zom, watch the video link above starting at about 9:40 into it... [/b]
There's another gem at an hour and 13 minutes in, allow me to quote;

"Get a feedback loop and listen to it. Your feedback loop can be this dorky spreadsheet thing I did or it can be just one great man telling you what you need to hear. The hard part is the listening to it. Anybody can get chewed out, all right. It's the rare person who says "Oh my God you're right" as opposed to "No wait! The real reason is...." We've all heard that. When people give you feedback cherish it and use it."

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