The Importance of Embracing Critique

Here’s the scenario. You are a lead guitar player in a band. You just performed for a group of people. Overall, you feel like it went well and really poured everything you had into playing your parts and improvising that solo section. Most people tell you they were impressed with the performance. You feel good about it.

However, one friend, who also happens to play guitar, says to you, “Yeah, dude, you played your parts well, but the solo section seemed way too long and lacked interest in the melody.”

Some of you might not pay much attention to the comment, but for others, this could be devastating, especially for newer guitar players who don’t have a lot of experience or confidence.

In general, I think at a gut level we believe that critique directed towards us is somehow a bad thing. Maybe in our minds we would say it’s a good thing, but when it comes towards us, our initial reaction might be to write it off rather than consider it, and in some cases, we might even be afraid of it, or discouraged from ever playing music again.

“Whenever you play music for someone you inevitably invite critique. Think about it. Everyone has a reaction towards a piece of music or a work of art. That’s precisely the point of art.”

When I was studying music in college, we had to take a voice class where we had to perform popular music pieces while the rest of the class critiqued our performance and listed out the things we did well and the thing we didn’t do well. Needless to say, there were always things that we didn’t do too well, and sometimes the critique was just brutal.

I think what made the critique so brutal at times was because of the inherit personal nature of music. So when we hear something like, “Yeah, I didn’t really dig your interpretation of that melody,” we feel the comment is directed towards us personally because we’re so connected with the piece of music we are playing.

However, whenever you play music for someone you inevitably invite critique. Think about it. Everyone has a reaction towards a piece of music or a work of art. That’s precisely the point of art. When you go to a concert, there might be things you like and things you don’t like. Just because there are things you don’t like doesn’t mean the artist is afraid to put on the concert.

Through my class critique experience, I learned how important it was to simply be quiet and receive the criticism. It was only when I received the criticism and mulled it over that I was actually able to learn and grow from it.

Are we willing to humbly embrace critique in order to become better artists and musicians?

I’m finding that this will always be a challenge, but one that is well worth it.

How well do you receive criticism? How do you respond and process criticism?

About Brett McQueen

Brett McQueen is a musician, songwriter, and the founder and editor of Guitar Friendly and Ukulele Tricks. Learn more about him here and follow him on Twitter at @GuitarFriendly.