The Musician’s Self-assessment Checklist
You’re about to send your music on its most important mission – to conquer the hearts and minds of listeners all around the globe. You’ve spent hours writing, recording, mixing and practicing it but before seeing what fans and critics from all kinds of backgrounds and tastes have to say about your work it might be a great idea to look at it from a few more angles. We present you The Musician’s Self-Assessment Checklist.
1. Let it sit for a while
Artists tend to overdo things so once your track is at a stage that feels accomplished enough give it some time. Listen to it again only with fresh ears. Why not even after you’ve started working on something else. Only after you separate yourself from the process of creation you’ll be able to experience your new music as a whole and not as the sum of its parts.
2. The song-writer dissection
Play your track and examine closely each element of the music, each part of the song. Are your melodies catchy, is your tempo right for the emotions you’d like to convey and are your lyrics understandable and memorable? Maybe the chorus is banging but you repeat it too much. You want your track smoothly flowing without any parts unbalancing it. Assess your arrangement choices, you want that interesting enough but not too flamboyant.
3. The technical trial
This one is especially important for those who not only write but self-produce their works. Right now we’re required to be equally talented in writing, performing but recording and marketing as well. However, the listener doesn’t really care how much you have on your plate so make sure the technical side is handled as good as the writing itself. A poor mix can certainly kill a great music idea. So make sure the recording and mix has managed to present and preserve your music in the best possible way – with all instruments equally hearable, the vocals and lyrics understandable and all other details and arrangement tricks leaving some space for the listeners’ imagination.
4. Try background listening
This is slightly related to the previous point. Background listening, as suggested by legendary Brian Eno among others, is a powerful tool. It will allow you to once again test if your track is balanced or needs some more work. If something distracts you while listening – get rid of it. If a section or a tune falls short and you feel like you need a bit more of it – add it. It’s as simple as it gets.
5. Play it on as many sound systems as possible
No matter if you’re mixing and mastering your own music or you’re working with a sound engineer, make sure your music sounds equally good on anything from Apple earbuds to audiophile HiFi systems. Check it in a car audio as well, don’t underestimate how many people are blasting music while driving.
6. Compare it to music you like
This is important but it has to happen once you’re done with making the track. If you start comparing while creating music you are risking to copy the exact same music or sound. Even if you do it subconsciously. Don’t risk going for sound or production that is just not you. Compare it to your favorite tracks just for the sake of reassuring yourself your music is on a competitive level. If it’s not improve it.
7. Compare it to your own demos or live recordings
We bet you have a bunch of favorite demos, b-side or live versions of tracks you love. This is because they manage to preserve the emotion and spirit of the music far more organically. However, this doesn’t mean they are well-suited for radio play or the music market in general. However, if the essence of your track has fallen victim to fancier or simply unsuitable production you might want to fix this.
8. Play it to your musician friends
Every musicians needs to have a trusted circle of friends who are always up for sharing some feedback about a new song or a whole record. Pick your friends carefully, make sure they’ll be honest with you. You can even send the track and not tell them it’s yours. See how unbiased and honest they really are.
9. Seek professional opinion
Currently musicians are blessed to be able to reach out for professional opinion thanks to a plethora of online services. Not only you can upload your track privately so you can send it exclusively to people whose opinions you trust and monitor who actually listened to it. There are also platforms like Tunedly who not only offer professional help with recording and production but can offer feedback services as well. Lately Drooble has also expanded their activities and have also featured a reliable feedback functionality.
10. The untrained ear test
We’re putting this on number ten but it’s not your last resort. Unless you are an avant-garde musique concrète composer, most of your listeners will not have musical background. This is why testing it on a group of people like these is another powerful self-assessment tool. Go to a party, sneak to the computer that plays the music put on your track. Now sit and observe the people’s reactions, we hope you’ll find yourself smirking and not frowning at the results.