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How to Critique Your Own Music More Objectively


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Artists often talk about being “too close” to their own work, being so immersed in the process of making music that they know longer have a strong sense of whether the work is good. Philosophically speaking, that’s a worry for another time. During a show or a recording session isn't the time to be concerned about your musical legacy or the objective quality of what you’re doing. When you’re out there onstage, or in a vocal booth tracking leads, you need to be focused on delivering your best performance, not worrying about how everybody might receive it.

But there are times in the creative process when you need to self-edit, decide what projects are worth pursuing, and change what doesn’t work. There are times when you might want to listen to the opinions of others, even others who critique music as part of their work. Here are some hints to help pull back from that closeness and be your own best critic.

The Best Acoustic Guitars for Every Budget

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Whenever we think “songwriter,” our mental image usually includes an acoustic guitar. This instrument is the iconic companion of earnest coffeehouse songsters, grizzled folk storytellers, and country crooners who tell it like it is. And like most instruments, the price of admission goes from very little to sky’s-the-limit.

Sweetwater Sound’s catalog of acoustics ranges in price from just over $200 (for a tiny backpack guitar) on up to this $10,000 museum piece by Martin. But unless you absolutely need to match Neil Young’s guitar tone on “Harvest Moon,” price point is a matter of diminishing returns. Does a $1,200 Taylor sound better than a $250 Yamaha? In general, yes. But what extras do you get when you hit the $3,000 price point? How about $5,000?

The Best Electric Guitars for Every Budget

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If you visit any guitar shop, chances are there are 30 or more models of electric guitar hanging on the wall. Check out a website like Musician’s Friend and that number balloons to 1,200. You can’t test them all!

Bound by the need to buy stuff that sells, retailers may not have many of the most interesting designs in stock, preferring to stick with the basics and throw one or two radical instruments up in the window just to intrigue passing musicians. How do you get a playable guitar with a cool design for a fair price? Well, you could start with these six popular electric guitar designs on the market for price points from budget to premium.

How to Write Lyrics for the First Time

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Musicians' jobs keeps getting broader. You might be a guitar player, but you’ll probably end up a mastering engineer, booking agent, and chief negotiator, too. One other thing you’ll probably be called upon to do sooner or later is write some lyrics. Even cover bands usually work in a few originals, and most bands that make it big focus on writing their own material.

Lots of players bring riffs and ideas to the table but don’t feel as comfortable with the written word. How do you start writing lyrics, especially with no background in poetry or prose beyond writing research papers in school? Try these methods on for size.

The Best Guitar Pedals on the Market for Your Budget

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If you’re a violinist, tone comes from wood and your fingers, and that’s it. If you play electric guitar, there are several more stages in the signal chain that run from your fingers to the listener’s ear. Pedals are so important that many players would rather use a house amp with their own pedals than bring their own amp along and leave the stompboxes at home. But there are so many to choose from, and you can’t buy the whole store. By category, here are some of the best choices in guitar pedals, with a budget option and another choice if cost is no object.