Sunday, December 12, 2010

Window of critiquability

"If you do bring a song, it would be more constructive to do one that's still in progress, as opposed to a song that's finished and set in stone."

So advised local singer/songwriter Duncan Stitt, who was hosting an open mic in which audience members critiqued the performers' original songs. I understood what he meant. It's difficult to tinker with a tune you finished ages ago. On the other hand, my latest song-in-progress contained long passages with lyrics yet unwritten. I'd have to sing "na na na" through half of it. It's one thing to ask your listeners for feedback on what's there, another to ask them what I should write.

The problem is, I'm not one of those songwriters who dashes off a first draft, then goes back and carefully edits. I rewrite as I go. If a word or a line doesn't sound right, I keep chipping away at it until it does. By the time I've filled in all the words, I've pretty much got the song the way I want it.

The optimal time for me to offer something up for critique is when it's just about finished, but I'm unsatisfied with one or two lines. That's not a very large window to work with.

I either need to change the way I write or become more open to messing with older songs.


Jeff Shattuck said...

I think it depends on why you're having your song critiqued. If you want some help in writing/finishing it, then I suppose Duncan is right. But if you want to know what people think of your creation, "finished" work is the way to go. And if it bombs, rework it or just write something new (easier said than done, I know!).

cinderkeys said...

Heh. Much easier said than done. I should have mentioned in that post how slowly I work most of the time. If somebody tells me, "Y'know, those two lines aren't as good as the rest of the song," I think, it took me three weeks to think of those two lines, and that was after discarding scores of possibilities. This is as good as it gets. :)