As a songwriter, how well do you take criticism of your songs? I don't mean someone just saying they like or don't like the song you wrote, but an analytical critique of the song for form & structure and how well you as a songwriter have conveyed your artistic vision to the listener. A while back Beamer and I had an email discussion about having songs critiqued. I used to attend an NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) group that did a weekly songwriter's open mic, occasional work shops and a monthly "critique" session. At the critique sessions each songwriter would bring copies of the lyric sheets for a new song, then perform the song while other members followed along on the lyric sheets and made notes in the margins about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the different song sections and sometimes made suggestions for possible improvements. After you played your song there was a comment session where your song would be discussed and then you were also given all the comment sheets for later review at home. The first time I attended I brought a new song I was working on and thought it had some potential, but was really surprised how bad it got hammered by the group. At first I took it personal, but as the group leader said, the critiques were not personal attacks on the writer but rather trying to identify weaknesses and strengths each writer has in the songwriting process and helping them to improve. After several years of friends and relatives constantly telling me how "great" my songs were, it was a wake-up call that maybe my songwriting needed more effort. (One lady wrote religious songs and told the group her songs were inspired by God so she wouldn't change anything - if that was true then God is not a very good song writer IMHO It was more than a year and lots of negative comments before I ever presented a song that passed muster with the group. It was tough but a learned a lot (as well as becoming thicker-skinned).
As a "lyrics" kinda guy, I was hoping that by writing clever lyrics, they would carry the song alone, but found that is only true in writing poetry. To be considered a "song" there must be both lyrics and music and even great lyrics combined with a weak musical structure is not something most folks want to listen to (unless its your mom). The music should complement the lyrics (prosody) through rhythm (beat/groove/time signature) harmony (chords/key) and the melody. Not only that, but the music as well as the lyrics should have contrast between the verses, chorus and bridge (if used). This was identified as one of my weaknesses and there has been an on-going attempt at improvement. Like a duffer/golfer I occasionally get off a good shot most of the time I'm hacking away in the rough.
Other things I found I needed to work on:
Stronger opening lines to grab the listener's attention or a short "catchy" musical intro to get the listener to want to listen to the lyrics
Better hook development
"Showing" not "telling" (painting a picture with words rather than just providing info like a newspaper article)
Getting to the chorus more quickly and effectively
Dynamic and engaging melodies
Overuse of unnecessary words
Have any of you went through these type critiques? How did you handle it? Did the honest feedback help you as a songwriter?