Creative feedback
BotB Academy Bulletins
Level 18 Mixist
post #190440 :: 2024.05.24 5:37pm
  Chepaki, mirageofher, kleeder and Lasertooth liēkd this
  Lincent hæitd this
I wanna complain about something. I have been having an extremely hard time trying to get negative feedback for a touch more than a decade now, nobody seems to want to give negative feedback to people they know.

Yes, this extends to BotB, but moreso I mean in *general*, I go to get feedback from people on shit I've made and people seem to assume I'm looking for a hug and a pat on the head, and the only people who've ever given me useful negative feedback on my music are:
- directors on games I was hired to soundtrack
- a friend who really fuckin hates my music and knows I want him to be harsh, cus I'm still sending this stuff to him after 6 years (but who I can't send music to frequently)
- a random commenter on the album I released in 2023, who I didn't see the comment of until yesterday
- myself, a minimum of 3 years later

it's gotten seriously annoying and I don't know what exactly to do about it. the problem of too much default positive feedback even leaks into games I've been hired to soundtrack; one recent example includes a director who felt like they were trying to fluff up my ego to keep me on the team, and did indeed seem to have been doing that.

how the hell do I get more negative feedback (that isn't just slurs and mockery)? you can't exactly get better without knowing what you did poorly, and every time I've been successful in extracting a lot of negative feedback from someone trustworthy it's been huge, and you can track sudden obvious improvements in the quality of my work linked to single events of someone just giving me an itemized list of everything they hated, and sitting with me to discuss these afterwards.

There's even the fact that people seem to assume I'm fighting back against negative feedback whenever I try to discuss these things with people, no, I'm trying to fully and deeply understand your feedback and I need to see what changes in your wording when anything that is a potential "counter" is brought up, that's part of the scientific process for a reason, and I apply it to my music just the same because I want to get everything I can out of these random little scraps of people being *willing* to be potentially-rude.

At this point I've started resorting to attracting haters so I can read their hating and sift through the bits that are just hate from the bits that are actually useful criticism. That's desperation, man, that's not healthy, but it's still helped me get enough negative feedback to be able to keep improving.
Level 31 Chipist
post #190441 :: 2024.05.24 5:59pm
  Xaser, Chepaki, agargara, cabbage drop and kinkinkijkin liēkd this
i'd say the best way to do this is to explicitly say along with your feedback request that you do want to know what all the person(s) really didn't like or thought wasn't working in addition to what they did like and what was working. this ostensibly should work in both person-to-person situations and posting-in-a-chat-or-on-botb situations since you have the ability to preface whatever work you're showing off.

if somebody hesitates you can just tell them a shorter version of this, that you find it helpful if they are honest/blunt/etc.

purely personally speaking, if someone indicates they are specifically looking for feedback i am way more likely to actually point out whatever i perceive as issues or flaws with the work. but for sure not everyone is this way and might need to be nudged into that space with some communication.
Level 12 XHBist
post #190443 :: 2024.05.24 6:29pm
  agargara, kinkinkijkin, MemoryCanyon and cabbage drop liēkd this
agreed with dami -- i know i'm always very happy to give critique; however, i won't even be listening with an especially critical ear until i'm explicitly asked for critique

not that i'm insinuating you don't already explicitly ask for critique, of course, just speaking personally on what works for me and what gets me to give something a critical listen, which takes a lot more time and energy than a "just vibing" listen because it's like 30 minutes of listening and relistening and repeatedly rewinding and noting timestamps of things particularly pleasant or unpleasant and opportunities for some additional interest and the list can go on

best of luck, for real!
Level 24 Chipist
post #190444 :: 2024.05.24 6:29pm :: edit 2024.05.24 6:32pm
  roz, Viraxor, doctorn0gloff, agargara, kinkinkijkin and cabbage drop liēkd this
for as long as I have been on this website (~26 months) there hasn't been an 'atmosphere' of criticism - that is to say, I haven't seen anyone criticize entries unless it was in the work in progress discord channel, and even then people aren't 100% receptive to it... my point is if I was to start now I would be the odd one out, leading to a 'criticism prisoner's dilemma.'

if there's isn't some sort of clearly stated rule that says "criticism is a part of botb," I don't think any one person can get people to start, and even if this rule was there, I've been in situations irl where criticism was expected and encouraged and everyone just nods their head or says the least offensive thing they can think of

e: this is particularly funny because botb is a website about being a critic
Level 11 Mixist
post #190450 :: 2024.05.24 10:13pm
  Xaser and agargara liēkd this
Workshopping is a method. If you can find other people that also want feedback and you each trade a piece and then give each other feedback, then you're both invested in giving and receiving decent constructive criticism. Maybe you can find some people on here to do that with periodically?

I struggle with giving good quality feedback, but I'm always grateful when I receive it myself so I can sympathize with you!
Level 31 Chipist
post #190451 :: 2024.05.24 11:39pm
  kinkinkijkin liēkd this
weird you say this blower (and others) because I definitely think there was a big environment of criticism and "negative" feedback on here. I used to get a lot of it in my early days, which is the main reason I got better.
I thought I got less because I got better. BUT maybe it's just because people stopped doing it??? maybe my stuff is still shit then o:

anyway I am lazy when it comes to giving feedback - so i mostly only do it if someone asks me to.. but I think I always point out things I dislike - because otherwise the times I say something positive would just look meaningless to me.

so yea, i agree it's good to have people pointing out things they dislike. it annoys me to death when someone desperately looks for a positive thing to say only to be able to say a positive thing about my work
Level 28 Mixist
post #190452 :: 2024.05.24 11:45pm
  Chepaki and kinkinkijkin liēkd this
agree. positive feedback is great, but at some point it just seems fake to me. i hate the "too good to be true" vibe that i get from these sometimes. give me at least one thing to improve upon, this is an option
Level 26 Chipist
post #190453 :: 2024.05.24 11:47pm :: edit 2024.05.24 11:48pm
  Chepaki, SnugglyBun, Arcane Toaster, lasersphaser, nitrofurano, kilowatt64, kinkinkijkin and damifortune liēkd this
I think botb used to have more negative comments, although not always in a constructive way... I think I like the current positive atmosphere better honestly.

I do try to leave constructive criticism on entries sometimes... however I know that people's feelings can get hurt, so I don't do it too often. Plus it's so subjective...if I critique too much I feel like I'm just trying to shape the music to how *I* would do it, which is kinda silly because it's not my music!

It's also surprisingly difficult to give good critique, it requires a lot more effort than just saying "sounds cool". I wouldn't expect people to have the time and energy to do it often. So yeah, if you want a detailed critique I think you need to be very explicit about it. Offering critique in return as MemoryCanyon seems like a good idea, since you are sharing the burden.
Level 31 Chipist
post #190454 :: 2024.05.24 11:49pm
  kinkinkijkin liēkd this
tbh, seeing this thread and blowers comment here rly hit me ...

because botb used to be such a good place to get honest feedback

now it's just people saying something nice to fill up their karmameter?
Level 24 Chipist
post #190458 :: 2024.05.25 1:39am
  Xaser, Chepaki, Arcane Toaster, lasersphaser, kinkinkijkin, Viraxor, damifortune, Lasertooth and kleeder liēkd this
just because it's nice doesn't mean it's dishonest. and the votes don't lie unless you're a perjurer.

I'll definitely try to constructively criticize things in the future but if people call me an asshole it's YOUR FAULT!!!!!!!!!1!
Level 21 Mixist
post #190459 :: 2024.05.25 2:20am :: edit 2024.05.25 2:22am
y'know, i sometimes stumble upon a few songs that i just don't like. but it feels like that you cannot really say negative feedback because it will be interpreted as a personal attack even if you did not mean it and just wanted to specify which things could be better about it.

it doesn't help that some people tend to be genuinely sensitive about criticism, i know at least a few friends who feel like the sky is falling if they don't do well in a XHB for example.
i'm also not inmune to this myself, kind of. i considered quitting the site every time i don't do well in a major, which is already 4 times now ;_;. i just have to try and stay here i guess until i eventually get something.

btw what i say here is not an excuse to be an asshole to people and disguise it as "criticism", what i wanna say is more about is how i know people who get emotional when a song of theirs does bad in a XHB and/or major and struggle to accept feedback even if it's in pure good faith and as a means to help guide them.
i guess this is why some people struggle to give feedback of any kind, especially negative feedback; fearing that the other will react negatively.

i feel like one thing is that some people seek negative feedback more from people they trust while they prefer to be given the more positive kind from a stranger.
in my case it's like i can trust friends close to me to point out better what they think is wrong just because i trust them even if they aren't neccesarily more musically skilled compared to a stranger, but i don't know that stranger's musical philosophy nor i don't know who they are like otherwise at all; so in the latter's case i only try to seek approval or no feedback at all.
Level 8 Chipist
post #190460 :: 2024.05.25 3:23am :: edit 2024.05.25 3:23am
  mirageofher, Claire, kinkinkijkin and damifortune liēkd this
I would love it if i got more constructive criticism. Then I know If my song is good or bad and what to fix :)
Level 26 Chipist
post #190462 :: 2024.05.25 3:46am :: edit 2024.05.25 3:47am
  zebra, Chepaki, blower5, ArchiButtsqueak, nitrofurano, kilowatt64, damifortune and kleeder liēkd this
This is gonna sound pretty egotistical, but I think I'm past the point where I really want much feedback... not that I mind it, so don't hesitate to bring it on if you want...but the chances I actually apply any feedback are pretty slim. (Unless it's something super specific like "this track might sound better if you eq 400hz higher", I'm talking more general feedback)

Not that I think my tracks are perfect, far from it... I'm my own worst critic and think there's always room for improvement. But I already have a pretty clear vision of what I want to make, and would rather work on what I personally care about rather than trying to fix anything other people don't like. If there's something specific I want to improve, I'll actively work on it and ask people for advice.

Anyway, that's just me, definitely not saying it should apply to everyone!
Level 28 Chipist
post #190463 :: 2024.05.25 4:55am
  nitrofurano, kinkinkijkin and damifortune liēkd this
DM me on discord I'll see what I can do time allowing
Level 28 Chipist
post #190464 :: 2024.05.25 4:57am
  nitrofurano and damifortune liēkd this
This extends to others, for those that want it, I'll give it, but I may take my time
Level 31 Chipist
post #190468 :: 2024.05.25 6:19am :: edit 2024.05.25 6:20am
  Xaser, Chepaki, Arcane Toaster, lasersphaser, funute, Lasertooth, nitrofurano, agargara, SnugglyBun, kilowatt64, Claire and kleeder liēkd this
with respect to botb - the biggest challenge about the atmosphere is that constructive criticism that's thoughtful and helpful lives more or less in the same zone as overtly negative comments like "i don't like [this]." or "[this] sucks", and due to the amount of effort (and to some extent awareness) constructive criticism requires, the latter winds up more common because it's easy to express. i judged a compo on newgrounds last summer that had like 80 entries, and writing detailed reviews of each of those songs was actually a job.

anyway, the more of that negativity you have going on, the more it gets normalized, and it really only takes one guy going around unchecked consistently just being a jerk without being helpful for the vibe to shift; other people, especially newcomers, start to sense that it's ok to be that way, and that definitely scares off the more sensitive people like Bun is describing, along with people who just don't wanna hang somewhere with a lot of negativity surrounding art (that's me tbh). there are enough places in the world where people are overly (and unhelpfully) critical about art they don't like, and botb has thankfully grown into a place that isn't. i think that's actually pretty special; not saying it isn't possible to skew too far in the other direction of "positive vibes only" (and i don't think we have)... but when the alternative is like, a place where some younger or inexperienced or confidence-lacking artists get a punch to the gut and decide to quit instead of having their interest nurtured, i much prefer what we've got. if you desire constructive feedback express it. probably won't work 100% of the time but it sets expectations. just a couple days ago a couple people posted in botb chat that they wanted feedback after an XHB and folks chimed in with good thoughts.

and again, i'm not against actual constructive criticism at all, and we could stand to have more of it, particularly in the form of comments (in my experience people kinda don't appreciate it during XHB results). but it's up to us to walk on the right side of the line and not just say "[thing] sucked" or "i don't like [thing]"... if you want to say something like that, think about why you didn't like it or why you feel it isn't working or what approach you think might help. purely personally speaking, i do sometimes leave constructive feedback on entries if i notice something that i feel like i've got a good sense of how it could be improved upon. otherwise, i try to comment on whatever i thought the entry was doing well or what stood out as cool or inspired; imo this is both thoughtful and may encourage the person to keep going down whatever path that was, which is great. i would much rather speak to an entry's strengths than whatever i wasn't vibing with. just cause i don't like it doesn't mean it's bad or was constructed wrongly. the thing i don't like will probably be a thing someone else does.

anyway, i'd be surprised if even my own constructive cricitism was appreciated 100% of the time but criticism never will be. it's also up to the artist to take what they can or want from it. i'm basically like agargara describes - i'm past any point of wanting feedback 99% of the time (the 1% is where i actually ask somebody), so most of that stuff bounces off me; i made it this way because i wanted it this way. nobody has to like it, but i'm unlikely to make changes. i love and appreciate comments of course, and it's nice to know what people are picking up! comments are lifeblood. but at the end of the day i'm doing my thing and if you like it that rocks and if you don't that's too bad for you ;D
Level 31 Chipist
post #190471 :: 2024.05.25 6:44am
  Arcane Toaster, lasersphaser, ArchiButtsqueak, agargara, kilowatt64 and kinkinkijkin liēkd this
addendum: you may have to be proactive about getting "peoples' honest thoughts (negative)" when by default you're getting "peoples' honest thoughts (positive)", but some folks will give it to you when asked. it is however relatively energy-consuming and not everyone will feel equipped to tell you stuff in a way that they think is helpful (i.e. from the stand point of feeling like they lack the knowledge to put it into words). but clearly opening that dialogue is the best way to raise your chances

also, i'd encourage anybody who feels "unqualified" to practice doing their best to describe what's going on in the music! especially with someone who might have more of the right words. this too can be a learning and growing experience. or you can leave it at "not sure i have the words to say this, but [describes thing going on in the song as best as possible]" and more of that will likely get across than you expect
Level 17 Chipist
post #190473 :: 2024.05.25 7:09am
  kinkinkijkin and Hexer liēkd this
can defle agree with a lack of negative feedback
when i occasionally participate in jams i almost never get any "hey, it would be better if" type of info in 99% of comments

the only time i can remember having a .."decent" amount of it was when i deliberately asked for it

...though to be fair, often i hesitate to give constrictive feedback myself, as i'll often believe that i "don't have a right to comment negatively" , if you know what i mean.

i think the best move is just intentionally writing in your entry/piece of work that you would like constructive feedback, even if it may sound harsh, as unless its really, really needs work, you are not getting constructive feedback.
Level 24 XHBist
for those seeking constructive feedback, i've gotten great results from narrowing the scope of the request by asking for advice on a specific aspect of my work that i'm trying to improve on (e.g. "how can i improve the X in this piece?", rather than "what do you think of this piece?").

i think people are more willing to be critical if they feel like their feedback is restricted to a circumscribed "safe zone", because then they can't be misunderstood as criticising your work as a whole - and implicitly, by extension, your worth as a composer.
Level 17 Playa
post #190475 :: 2024.05.25 8:22am
  Xaser, mirageofher, Claire, kinkinkijkin, Lasertooth, kilowatt64, agargara, MemoryCanyon and damifortune liēkd this
I work in education so I'll provide a different point of view here which may be entirely unhelpful and completely out of line sorry in advance:

you've been working creatively for a long time, so I think you don't require technical feedback. I think you're seeking more of a manager type of figure, a different kind of authority. Even if you need technical knowledge I assume you'll be able to find it.

In training you get to hear/read verifiable truths that you can wrap your head around and practice until you don't need to think about them anymore, because now you're the pro.

But if I were to manage your projects, then I'd have to be able to see your potential and share your creative vision. And truth be told, I won't be able to do any of that ever. So instead I would try to figure out what it is that you need to hear from me. That's different from verifiable truths, what matters is only that it rings true in your head.

For some people that's reassurance, for others it's incremental feedback at regular intervals, for some it's deadlines, etc.
It seems you want harsh criticism. It immediately rings true to you and you prefer it over other kinds. You might assume it contains more objective truth.

Managing your own projects alone is incredibly hard and can grind you down really quickly, so what I'm hoping to convey here is: Other people don't know better than you. They typically don't share your creative vision and passion. I think you had positive work relationships with video game directors, which I would recommend aiming for.
Level 21 Mixist
post #190477 :: 2024.05.25 9:02am
  mirageofher, agargara, kinkinkijkin and Max Chaplin liēkd this
i think that music criticism as a whole is very complicated to deal, because many times the person who critiques a song might not know or disagree about the artist's original intentions in the song. the reviewer might come with different ideas of what to say of the song from what was originally intended it to be.

sometimes that is inevitable. people decide how to interpret art in their own merits and reinterpret it in many ways. the author can't always decide how their songs are going to be listened and interpreted, but i think that there's a beauty sometimes in letting the listener decide what to do with the songs and how to interpret in their own, creating their own vision of it in the process.

i did however had times where i felt like a few of my own songs were misunderstood from what i tried to communicate. maybe it might be because of the fact that my songwritting still needed or needs to mature, due to the selection of certain instruments or textures, etc.

i do recall that one song of mine "hole inside my own heart" having a very opressive noisy saw texture that was intentional when i wrote the song, as a way to convey the feeling of being in a constant depressive state and/or being overwhelmed mentally and emotionally, like noise that won't leave even if you try to focus on other things. although some people got what i was trying to say, others thought that such choice wasn't the best and that it could use some contrast (like for example that saw noise instrument being an octave higher in the chorus)
i know that when it comes to that song it's on a whole musical genre i struggle with, that a lot of feedback would be genuinely appreciated both the positive and negative kind, but sometimes it makes me wonder at what point do i balance changing a lot of the stuff from my song and keeping the original meaning i had in mind when i started writting it.

it's stuff like this among many other things that makes music criticism and feedback really hard to do correctly, because a lot of the time it might be either actually helping enhance the song or making it wildly different from how it was supposed to be.
Level 18 Mixist
post #190480 :: 2024.05.25 10:09am
  lasersphaser, agargara, damifortune and SRB2er liēkd this
So I clarified the type of negative feedback that I receive from my friend who consistently gives it (and I enjoy receiving feedback from) in chat, I'll put that here since there seems to be confusion on the restriction on types of feedback.

This friend absolutely hates my music. His feedback is in the range of "has this stupid washy sound that's like you threw it in a dishwasher and then hit it with hammers" to "god that section at [timestamp] is so fuckin wanky". This is the kind of feedback that's really good to get from a trustworthy source you have a good friendship with, as mean as it sounds, and is also a pretty important part of the job of a producer or director in a large project (though hopefully more professionally-worded). Highly-intense and non-technical negative feedback is something you can use to figure out what to actually change on your own, and is the type of negative feedback that stays useful when you know what you're doing.

I want to also clarify the complaint was focussed on the general sense, not BotB, and I wasn't actually fully aware of there being a criticism shift on BotB until partaking in that conversation. I think I may have touched a point that's been itching to be touched for a while here, though I don't really have any useful commentary about feedback on BotB. I have a wide disparity in scores between XHBs and majors and got used to how it was in the old days (people on IRC would either ignore music linked or say something accurate about it, not necessarily negative or positive) and registered "vague but accurate feedback and unrepresentative scoring" as the standard here, which hasn't updated since as I haven't been terribly active here. That's not rly a complaint about the direction of this thread, tbh I like that this issue is being discussed if it's a thing that's actually been bothering people.
Level 28 Chipist
post #190486 :: 2024.05.25 12:48pm
  mirageofher, Arcane Toaster, SnugglyBun, lasersphaser, kinkinkijkin, agargara, Hexer, damifortune, blower5 and roz liēkd this
roz already nailed it imo: ask specific, directed, neutral questions. if you ask for evaluation of the work as a whole many people will shy away from negativity, and the negative comments they do give may be related to style/taste rather than something actionable. ex: what's this part missing? how can i make this section more Y? what's the weakest part of this track?
Level 30 Mixist
post #190541 :: 2024.05.26 8:51pm :: edit 2024.05.26 8:55pm
  mirageofher, dobra, Jangler and kinkinkijkin liēkd this
I'm generalizing from my own view, but I assume most people don't really care enough about others to go through the effort of providing detailed feedback on specific things when the fundamental problem is that what the other person is doing is just boring to them.
Level 6 Playa
post #190771 :: 2024.05.30 3:17pm
  SRB2er liēkd this
  kinkinkijkin and Jangler hæitd this
To be honest I don't think it's possible to do honest constructive criticism of music over the internet. Let's say I post a comment with tips on how I think someone could improve their posted music. That often signals to the great anonymous crowd that it's OK to dunk on something, regardless of constructiveness. It leads to cascading negativity. Granted, I do think that the community here is pretty great, so I don't think it's as big an issue as it would be on the popular social media sites, but it's still a thing, and I would rather not subject puke to tackle moderating hordes of internet jackasses.

I also kind of feel like negative commentary could be especially hurtful here since this site is built along music competitions. But then again, I haven't actually submitted anything so I'm not really one to speak. I suppose on the other hand it would be a lot more useful because the people likely to make those comments are probably going to have the experience and vocabulary to make them actually useful.
Level 26 Mixist
post #190772 :: 2024.05.30 3:43pm
  kinkinkijkin, Yung Gotenks and Jangler liēkd this
Here's a bit of "meta-feedback": I heavily disagree with the idea of "get someone who hates your work to comment on it", unless you're explicitly wanting to learn something new in a field they do like (and, ideally, have experience with).

Arbitrary example: If I typically make EDM, but I want to get into, say, movie-soundtrack-ish orchestral arrangements (or whatever the proper genre word is), then getting feedback from someone who hates EDM but loves (and knows) movie soundtracks would indeed be valuable, especially if I feel like I'm stuck in a rut where things sound "too artificial", "too EDM-y", etc.

But if I want to make EDM, and get better at sound production for the sake of making better EDM? That person's feedback is useless noise. They hate the genre, they'll never like the genre, and their feedback will never ever help me achieve my goal.

This imaginary person is absolutely entitled to their opinion, of course, but it's very helpful to realize when someone is just fundamentally requesting something different from your art than what you're trying to achieve.

If you and your friend are having fun with the back and forth, though, keep at it, regardless of whatever. Friendship is friendship. Do whatever floats y'all's boat there. :P
Level 18 Mixist
post #190776 :: 2024.05.30 4:19pm :: edit 2024.05.30 4:28pm
  Jangler, damifortune, agargara and Lasertooth liēkd this
well, it's useful since the negative analysis gives you things to think about. regardless of if they're directly things that are relevant to what you're going for, this can make you end up thinking about the piece in a less restricted manner than if you had received nothing at all.

you know the process of rubber ducking in software engineering? and how that's significantly more effective if you talk about it with someone else, rather than actually doing it at an inanimate object, even if they have no idea what you're working on? effectively negative feedback about the music ends up working the same way, but for music. even if they point to disliking something that is key to what you're doing, it forces in-depth thought about that thing that is usually extremely unlikely to happen without that input. and, maybe you actually did have a problem there related to what you're going for, that you're now more aware of.

edit to add: it's also kind of implicitly a problem that he's the only person I can consistently get negative feedback from, outside of the context of having a director who wants the thing. while he gives the best negative feedback I get, like 30% of that is because he's the only person willing to say negative things about stuff I send him. I feel like I may have missold the problem here: the fact that he's the only person I can get this from is part of the whole problem. I need to figure out how to get more negative feedback out of more people.

that said, I've been applying things suggested in this thread and it's been working amazingly. asking very specific questions with broad ranges of answers that can be noncommittal if needed? worked PERFECTLY. I have successfully gotten some useful negative feedback from nearly every person I've sent music to in private in this short period, who listened tho what I sent them, and had some success getting comments from people in more public spaces as well. I just need to tune how I approach wording these questions and this problem might be solved.

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