There’s no doubt that people have made great music, movies, and other art. The problem is when you want to make great stuff but you think you’re already great. Sometimes you need a hard reality slap to realize that you need to be evaluating your work. Let’s talk about that.
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The Work You’re Evaluating
I’m not sure when it was that I learned the value of practicing. Definitely, this isn’t how I always thought. Given my influences at the time, I figured that daily, grinding practice was for specialists.
Actually, I kind of still do think that. The difference is I think of practice more as ‘a doctor practicing medicine’ as opposed to ‘shredding arpeggios, bro’. I guess I’m just not a specialist.
No matter your working definition of practice, it takes the ability to self-evaluate. Again, if you already think you’re better than Hendrix at E7b9 chords then you won’t do this. No matter how good you get, evaluating your work will always remain important.
How To Gain Perspective
Evaluating your work takes perspective. How do we gain that facility? I can think of a few ways:
- Listen to New Music – This doesn’t necessarily mean modern. For instance, I’m learning Musette in D Major by J.S. Bach. The way he puts the soprano together with the bass is pretty cool. This gives me perspective by forcing me to think like a composer from 300 years ago.
- Try a New Instrument – Like the previous way of gaining perspective, this forces you to think differently. Again, you don’t need a QuNeo for this as a piano is great if you’re a bassist, for instance. If you’ve played a chordal instrument your whole life then being strictly melodic, like a trumpet, can help you.
- Analyze Others’ Work – You can’t just passively listen and expect to extract maximum value from your experience. Write down the music and analyze it. You can also import the audio into your DAW, grab an EQ and start sweeping. Listening to just the bass frequencies of a song can be illuminating and help your perspective.
- Hang Out With Other Musicians – Going to shows or scoping out the work of other musos can definitely make you consider your own work. Sure, you might find that you’re way better at some things but not everyone is skilled at everything. Yank a couple drum fills or emulate a few phrasing angles. Compare and contrast.
Every musician, engineer, and artist gives away their secrets with every release. All the secrets to music are open, not closed, so you just need eyes to see them. The best way I know to open your eyes is to just start looking.
You have never had a better time than now for evaluating your work. I used to have to go to the library to get new music affordably. Then, you had to buy a $350 tape deck to slow things down. Later, when computers were more ubiquitous, there was a program called Transcribe! which, by today’s standards, is very rudimentary.
At the expense of repeating myself, analyze every angle and layer to your and others’ work. Everything down from the tempo to the hidden layers of instrumentation and meaning all add up to make you love it. If you want others to love your work then start evaluating today.
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