See, Hear and Speak No EvilNobody likes to be critiqued. As Home Studio Corner grows in popularity, I get lots of people emailing me telling me how much they love the site and how much it has helped them get better recordings.

I also get a fair amount of criticism. It comes with the territory. ๐Ÿ™‚

We don’t tend to pursue criticism. However, a good round of constructive criticism can be immensely helpful.

Do you let people critique your mixes? If not, I think you should. Here’s why:

Step Out of Your Bubble

Remember that episode of Seinfeld with the ugly baby? Your mix could be really ugly and you can’t see it because you’re too emotionally attached. But everyone else can see it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, there’s obviously not much you can do about an ugly baby, but there’s lots you can do about a mix. Allow a few friends or fellow engineers into your little “bubble” and get their feedback on your mix. The power of an outside opinion is pretty awesome. They’ll hear things you simply don’t. They’ll notice things you’re ignoring. They’ll give you a chance to improve things before you finish the mix.

Oftentimes the critique can come from the client or artist. This is invaluable information, because they will tell you exactly how the mix makes them feel and things they like or dislike.

I was working on a project recently, and when I submitted one of the mixes for the client to review, they came back asking for a very different direction. I made the drums and bass very prominent, with the strings being more of a background sound. It turns out they wanted the strings to be very up-front and the drums and bass in the background. It wasn’t that I had done anything wrong. They simply had a different vision for the song than I originally had.

The point? Their critique was super helpful. Speaking of…

It Can Only Help

If you don’t ever get critiques on your mix, what are you afraid of? Are you scared they’ll offend you? Hurt your feelings? Tell you it sucks?

What would be so wrong with that?

The way I see it, if your mix is bad, it’s bad. If no one points it out, then you won’t change it, and everyone will hear your bad mix.

But if someone critiques it, tells you that there are things they don’t like about it, then you’ll go back and make changes. Then your mix will be better. How is that a bad thing?

Does it hurt your pride? Absolutely. Does it help the mix? Absolutely.

Even if you disagree with the criticism, it will force you to think more objectively about the mix, and to make sure what YOU think is a good mix is ACTUALLY a good mix.

A Breeding Ground for Ideas

I get a lot of GREAT ideas when I listen to critique/feedback on my mixes. The person critiquing will give me all sorts of ideas for things to add to or take away from the mix. These are tools I can use on THAT song, and save in my arsenal for the next time I mix a similar song.

I find the client feedback process to be really fun. To hear what the client likes/dislikes is so fun and helpful. Plus it ensures that the mixes make everyone happy.

Do you have to get critiques on every mix you do? Nah. But if you’re mixing FOR someone you should certainly be getting feedback from them before you submit the final mixes. If you’re mixing for yourself, then it would do you some good to occasionally send out a mix or two to some buddies for critique.

VIP Mix Critiques

I get emails all the time from people asking me to critique their mixes. I can’t possibly critique every mix I get, so please don’t ask me. Ask your friends.

However, I try to regularly hold mix critique sessions for my VIP members. If you’re not a member, you can join here. The next mix critique session is next Tuesday (November 29th). If you ARE a member, log in to the members area for more details on having your mix critiqued.

What do you think? Are critiques helpful? Will you try it?

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  • Robert

    Hi Joe, I fully agree with having your music critiqued, but are the critics listening to your sound, or the song?

    It can be disheartening and counterproductive when your critics are listening through the built in speakers of their Macbook or a nasty cheap home stereo system. The same goes for sending your songs to a fellow home studio owner who has a lot of lovely gear but an untreated room that is full of standing waves and null points so he won’t be hearing what you’re hearing.
    Ok, your mixes should translate, but don’t always.

    In my opinion the average man or woman in the street hasn’t got a clue what goes into crafting a song; They just ‘like a nice tune’. I don’t mean it rudely, it’s just something I have noticed from talking to people who love music but aren’t interested in how it’s made. so do you ask: ‘I would love to hear your honest opinion of this song’, or ‘this mix?’

    Just a thought…….

    • I see what you’re saying, Robert, but my question to you would be who are you creating music for? If you don’t care what the average listener thinks about you’re music, you’re probably shooting yourself in the foot, since music isn’t made for only engineers to listen. The majority of music listeners aren’t engineers and don’t have ideal listening environments. That’s why I think they would make GREAT candidates to critique a mix/song.

      Think about it. If they think it sounds bad, they may not be able to tell you exactly how to fix it, but that’s still valuable information. The truth of the matter is this — if a person is accustomed to listening to music on Macbook speakers, then he’ll know what a good mix is supposed to sound like. If your mix doesn’t sound as good as the music he’s used to listening to on his Macbook speakers, then he may have a valid criticism.

      Obviously, Macbook speakers are lame, but the point still remains. People know what good music sounds like on their system, and they’ll be able to tell you how your music stacks up to the music they normally listen to.

      • Dave Marriott – Eclectic wonderland studios

        I’m finding that people who listen to my work so long as they aren’t “full of themselves” tend to comment according to their knowledge level anyway which means I can apply the comments as appropriate. Your average music enthusiast tends not to say anything specific but if they were to say something general like “It just kinda sounds flat compared to your last song” or “There’s a lot of stuff going on & I’m finding it hard to follow” or “I’m having trouble hearing the lead singer sometimes” or “I love that bit do more of that” then I don’t care what they are listening through I’m going to apply what they have said. The next level of critic I call the knowledgeable amateur. They usually have at least reasonable sounding gear to listen through and one or two areas where they are spot on. My trance/dance home studio buddy may have small entry level studio monitors & not appreciate the 16 track string arrangement I sweated over but if he says anything at all about drum or bass then I’m looking at a remix. My wife is a singer & (I mean this with love) she is blonde which means (trust me this is true) I need to keep her at least 4 feet away from any audio gear but I always get her to A/B my EQ and reverb options on vocal tracks. She just “knows” what a good vocal sounds like & she has never failed me. The next level of critic I would say is pro/semi pro and if they say anything at all about any aspect of my work I’m going to look into it. But I agree with Joe if your average music lover just can’t get even remotely enthused about my mix then I’m in trouble. As long as you give the proper context/qualification to where each comment is coming from then you can’t lose.

        • Robert

          Joe and Dave,

          Thanks for your comments. I wasn’t aiming to be inflammatory or sound in any way elitist, and apologise if I came across badly.

          Great site!

          • Dave Marriott – Eclectic wonderland studios

            To the contrary Robert I think you raised a good point. So just to add a caveat to what I wrote before – If someone with poor gear & no expertise started honing in on a detailed/technical aspect of my work that I know you would not be able to judge properly on nasty gear and/or if they were clearly displaying an opinion laced with stylistic prejudice (e.g. my son in-law once actually told me the jazz I produced was “gay”!) I would be wary about taking them too seriously ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Mr. Gilder, cudos to your whole operation. I can tell that you really love with a passion what you do. Thanx so much for all the info that you relay, helpful doesn’t even begin to describe the God given talent you express so clear & to the point, (& no I’m not kissing up). I’m just an old fart getting back into the swing of recording again (with my old ROLAND VS 2480). I’m going to continue with the VS dinosaur but edit, mix & master on PT. Nevertheless, you will be my teacher & I know I’ll pick up on PT in no time. Couldn’t afford the production club sessions but I am wondering if you’ve considered publishing courses on DVD at a lower price for the people who are on a fixed budget such as I am. Anyways, keep up the fantastic job, may God give you strength & wisdom to carry on. May He also bless your wife & family with patience & understanding, trust me, I know what it’s like. ‘Til we talk again, adios.

    • Thanks so much, Roger. I’ll certainly be making the Production Club videos available again in the future, but the price will likely stay the same. It’s a MASSIVE amount of content, so definitely worth the price of admission, which isn’t more than what most people spend on gear in a given year. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for the kind words!

  • Dave Marriott – Eclectic wonderland studios

    Just an addition to my previous post to emphasise something. I have a Masters degree in Music & my music has been performed by professional symphony orchestras so why would I send my mixes to a couple of “unqualified schmuks” for review & why would I not only implement their suggestions but send them the remix for final approval? I could have just said “hey I have the qualifications and anyway it’s just their personal preference”. But here’s the thing. A good set of ears requires no qualification. Their personal biases hear what I miss. How much bass & drums do think the trance/dance guy has listened to over the years? Second the proof is in the end result. Comments from listeners went from “That’s good, nice job.” before the remix to “Wow you’ve blown me away – I can’t believe you did that in a project studio.” Isn’t that what we all want to hear? Yep great advice from Joe – Put your pride to one side and get your mix reviewed by honest people. They don’t have to be pro’s. I did and it took me to another level.

    • I’ve found that my wife gives me really good feedback on mixes. She may not be able to tell me what frequencies are building up too much, but she’ll tell me when the drums are too loud, or when the vocal sounds off.

  • Dave Marriott – Eclectic wonderland studios

    Particularly because I produce a lot of my own compositions I learned quickly that by the time I mix I am too close to the project. My mixes improve 200% after taking suggestions from others. My tip is to send your mix to someone who works in a different genre. Eg I sent a jazz mix two people. First a home studio buddy who produces trance/dance. He knows very little about jazz but instantly picked up that my bass & drums were not working in the mix. Then I sent it to a buddy who is a vintage hi-fi & 70’s vinyl buff. He isn’t even a producer but he knows more about how a record should sound than most people I know & he listens to my mix on his own outstanding hand modified vintage hi-fi system(not studio monitors). He is a dynamic range freak so he instantly picked on mistakes I had made with the compression & the weakness of the vocal in the mix. After I reworked these aspects the song was amazingly improved. My view is that you need to know what your natural weaknesses are & send the mix to people who have strengths in those areas even if – no make that particularly if – they don’t share your strengths. You don’t need help with your strengths you need help with the things you tend to miss.

    • Absolutely. And it’s important to remember that you don’t HAVE to do everything they suggest. You might simply disagree with some of the critiques they have, based on personal taste.

      I like the idea of going to people who work in different genres. Cool idea.

  • Neel

    Hey Joe,

    Couple of questions about the critique sessions for VIP members:

    1) Do you critique every mix in this session? (i.e. for all VIP members)
    2) Is this a one-on-one critique or is this you critiquing for a group of folks together?

    Since I am not a VIP member yet, I can’t log into the members area and get the details but I am considering joining based on your answers.

    Thanks a lot!

    • This is a live group critique. I critique as many mixes as I can during the live VIP session (then make the recording available for all members afterwards). I critique mixes on a first-come first-serve basis.

      Hope that helps!