Need Your Music Critiqued or Reviewed?

Would you like to have your music critiqued or reviewed – either privately or publicly?

You’ve come to the right place.

I put my own music on the Internet – sometimes before its fully finished – in hopes of receiving constructive criticisms, comments and yes, perhaps even some encouragement to continue.

Without getting into pathos, the response I generally get is…. silence. I never know if it’s the silence of appreciation, indifference, dislike or outright hostility.

But I usually think the worst. I am a sensitive artist after all. :)

So rather than further indulge in self pity or whine and complain about a situation that I don’t understand, it occurred to me that maybe the best way to change this scenario is to see if others are feeling this same way – and if so – offer to do something about it by trying to fill that need.

Maybe by helping others I can also help myself. I think I’ve heard rumors that it can work that way.

I’ve been listening to, studying and making music for 30 years here in Canada – I enjoy a wide range of music and I have had some experience in the art of the review.

If your not sure if I am qualified to review your project, I urge you to listen to some of my music on the “Music by David Archer” link above (also here) or read the two actual reviews done by me on a well known entertainment site that I have included here.

So what do I want in return? Any of several things. If you like you can pay cash for the review. If that is not possible I will accept a review of my own music, a comment or two and some link sharing promotion of my music through your own web portal, blog or wanderings.

You might even consider buying my new rock opera “You Won’t Find Us There” (a look at the human costs of anarchism, socialism and capitalism existing together against a backdrop of events at the Toronto G20 demonstrations) when it is released.

So there is my offer. If you would like to have me review and critique your music, leave a link in the comment section or e mail me at davearchermusicATyahoo.ca

Here are the two reviews/critiques referenced above. You will see that they are very much musician to musician communication designed to be understood on a composer/songwriter/arranger/producer level and not necessarily for public consumption.

However I can also write more public oriented, promotional type reviews if that is what you would like.

The first review/critique is a more organized approach with specific subject headings used as a template to ensure all major elements are accounted for. This is my preferred method.

The second critique is more free form, though what I am most likely to produce is something of a combination of both.

I wish I could include the songs themselves but I do not own the rights and in any case they are both long gone from the source where they were presented to me.

Thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

David Archer

 Review #1

To begin with I would like to thank you for creating an interesting song in one of my favorite styles. I am no expert in this genre but I often find myself turning to the sound of 50’s Rock ‘n’ Roll when life becomes too much to handle. Some kind of dream about ‘more innocent times” or something.

As an over all impression, I enjoyed listening to “Little Clown” and I believe you did a good job laying it out. Nothing too complex structurally or lyrically – just a straight-forward run down a sort of Elvis/Holly/Orbison landscape with a few twists.

Structure/Arrangement

The parts all fit together well, both going in and coming out of each – but I had a little trouble deciding which, if any, was a specific chorus or verse. Thats not really a problem (or maybe it’s just my problem) as they are all good parts. Just sayin. Perhaps a little instrumental change up such as bringing the electric guitar in an out would help define that issue. More on that distorted guitar part later. I think building in (or editing in) at least one or two rhythm section stops for dramatic effect might be nice. You might lose a bit of momentum but you do get that back and the dramatic/emotive/surprise pay-off can be huge.

Instrumentation

The percussion track seems to have a nice rolling forward motion to it. Minor change-ups here, as well as the stops mentioned above could also help with part definition.

I went looking for the bass and there it was, gone. Actually, my current theory on bass parts in home or bedroom recording set-ups is that if you aren’t at war with a major mind numbing, frequency wallowing mud bath, then you’re doing okay. What I did hear was a low very low part, seemingly in conjuction with the vocal track – low electronic harmony? Maybe with room, mic or reverb overtones? I’m not sure but I know I found it quite distracting. The low voice on the Elvis sounding “little clown” part worked, but not that other sound.

The acoustic guitar was workable in its role and I think would have worked just as well or even better without having the other guitar so prominent.

At the end I could clearly hear the synth or keyboard part that prior to that I did not notice. It sounded pretty cool and I might have highlighted that a bit. My theory is if it’s going to there, it has to be heard. Otherwise, an almost sub-audible part can become a frequency eating white noise sort of sound. On the other hand, it’s not really a typical genre sound. (not that that matters – again, just sayin)

The distorted guitar did not work for me. I think I understand how and why you might make that decision, (plus, if you’re like me, it could be anything up to but not excluding catastrophic equipment failure) but I still don’t like it. Sometimes distortion can seem forgiving, but in the end I believe we are usually better off – in this sort of a situation – with a cleaner, more controllable distortion, perhaps a sparser and more staccato playing approach, (this also promotes working off, or bouncing off the other guitar) leaving a little space for the other instrumental and vocal events and for… well… space. The quality of distortion was more rock or metal than rock ‘n’ roll and besides being a none genre-typical sound is also that same kind of white noise distortion I already mentioned that quite simply eats its own frequencies and burns up all the available oxygen. Okay, that was a little over-dramatic but I think you will get my point.

One more note about non genre typical sounds. My own philosophy is that I will use any sound I damn well feel like, anywhere, anytime. Provided, that is, that I have a real reason for doing so. Sometimes the reason could even be that it does not normally go there. That also works for me. If I have missed the point and part of your approach is the contrast between say, a 50’s/60’s style vocal line, an 80’s synth and a heavy distorted guitar, then I would still say most of my comments still apply.

Vocals

I like the vocal line and I like the sound of your voice. As already stated, I don’t like the low harmony or whatever. As one who fights each and everyday to overcome a serious delay and reverb addiction, I should probably hypocritically accuse you of using to much vocal effect, but considering the song and vocal style, you are probably within bounds on the reverb and that slap echo or whatever it is. (How about that! There are also benefits to being genre specific) OK, seriously, I would back it off a bit. My rule of thumb is I try to cut it back about half what originally decided was good and that usually gets me into the ball-park.

Lyrics

Simple, straight-forward lyrics about the little clown. Works for me. The only suggestion I would make on this is that the catch line and title phrase is way over-used. Devoting a section to lines without the title phrase would also help with part definition referenced above. If not in a bridge part yet unwritten, (and as is often the case, from an alternate point of view than the verse and chorus) then maybe in one of the “Little Clown, you’ve got a ways to go…” parts.

Dynamics

Even given the style and the precedents such as the relentless, even tempered forward motion in Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”, I would still suggest the song could benefit from some sort of dynamic change. Whether percussive (stops, crashes, pushes) or guitar based ( the guitars start up and never stop – so perhaps drop one or both out in a second verse maybe) or having one of the guitars moving into a short simple lead – something to put some detail to the sonic landscape is worth considering.

Production

Home recording, as I will assume this is, carries with it its own set of boundaries, restrictions and limitations. We all try to push those limits as far as we can. I think part of the trick is to push while finding and working within the limitations of skill and equipment.

From where I stand, you may want to consider less use of ground covering instrumentation like the distorted guitar, find more space and instrumental interplay and not so much of, if you will forgive the term, the audio trickery like the low vocal track. You might also want to consider taking the somewhat more organic route – that is- in place of heavy distortion and keyboard sounds using the acoustic guitar capo-ed to a different position to get a contrasting sound and, I don’t know, maybe an accordion or something.
That at least gets us away from thin transistor sounding distortion or thin crappy digital sounds and effects that plagues us all.

In closing I would again like to thank you for creating “Little Clown” and allowing a fellow musician to make a few comments. I hope you find something of benefit in this review.

I got into writing this more than I had anticipated and I do believe the song is the reason for that.

As I said in the opening, you did a good job laying this out.

Take care.

David Archer

 

 

Review #2

Greetings!

I would like to start by thanking you for creating an interesting and yes, challenging piece of music.

Overall, I enjoyed listening to and analyzing your song. My impressions on first listen included the word “quirky”. Of course “quirky” is a bit of a double edged sword, depending on the writers’ intentions. I got that sense right off the bat from the keyboard sounds, which are actually quite pretty and ornamental – more on that later – and that was only intensified with the introduction of the vocal line. Strangely enough, the “megaphone” vocal effect, often the last refuge of the vocally uncertain (believe me, I know that feeling) overlays the track quite effectively and is odd enough that I was quite intrigued and drawn further into the song.

I like the heavily effected chorus or refrain with a bit of an instrumentation breakdown that offers some sonic relief from the repetitive structure. The delay and other treatment creates a bit of a “vocal round” like feeling. To my ears it comes off with a rather creepy feeling, (think Radiohead) which is good if you like that sort of thing. (as I do)

The guitar part is good in a supportive role and the bass line – while it does the job – grows a little boring as time passes, though considering it is in a central but supportive role, this is probably not a major issue. (steady and solid likely being the wiser choice)

There is a lot of motion in the keyboard line and my guess is you made this decision as a counter to the aforementioned repetitive structure. If that’s the case, it does the job and as I said above it is quite pretty and ornamental. And busy. That could be the source of my problem with it – there is a whole lot of action that adds up to not much and I found it distracting. Perhaps allowing it to move in and out of the mix in places (similar to what happens in the refrain) would reduce the distraction, add impact and focus to the vocal line and lyric and highlight the value of the line when it does appear. As an example I would leave it as is in the introduction but remove it entirely or bring it in partway in verse one.

I guess I’ve always been a bit wary of of those shiny, bouncy keyboard sounds that are both dull and bright at the same time (?) – whether performed, programmed or looped – it seems to evoke for me either a lounge music feel or that weird sense that is found in Bowie circa “Scary Monsters”.

Well, ” Quiet Man” is certainly not lounge music, so I guess that leaves me with weird.

OK. I’ve used the words “odd”, “quirky”, “creepy” and “weird” and I hope you understand that I use these words as one songwriter to another in a descriptive way for furthering communications and not as an absolute judgement. (sometimes I spend a great deal of time attempting to create the very sounds that those words describe.)

And that brings me to the vocals and lyric content.

For starters, the use of the “megaphone” vocal sound immediately and effectively removes the listener (and the performer) from a place of intimacy regarding the subject matter. This sound evokes machinery, manipulation, disaffection and all manner of other feelings that gives one a sense of detachment and removal. I am not at all sure that is the right sound for a “Father – Son” relationship song.

If I had the lyrics in front of me as I listened, I may have had a clearer sense of meaning. I am almost, but not entirely certain that this is not tongue in cheek or passive /aggressive but was designed as a fitting tribute to a man admired.

Nonetheless, when you take difficult to discern and possibly ambiguous lyric, idiosyncratic singing, quirky instrumentation and add to it a robotic vocal treatment, you will inevitably end up at the intersection of Weird Street and Odd Boulevard and I’m not sure there is any way around this particular phenomenom aside from a straight, honest, clean vocal sound.

If, on the other hand, the lyric possessed a heavy dose of irony and this song was about, say, Donald Rumsfeld, I might well be calling it brilliant.

In closing I would like to thank you again for this song. It is very much an original. I look forward to hearing future works from you and I hope you find something of value in this review.

David Archer
29/05/08
https://loontheory.wordpress.com/

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