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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I sometimes get the impression that it's a no-no to criticise musicians here, that we should pull our punches when it comes to the negatives or keep them to ourselves, because it's tough being a jazz musician.

David Valdez touched on this in his blog originally referenced in this thread.

David Valdez said:
As far as some of the comments about players, relax. We're just talking about our likes and dislikes here. Yes, everyone's a critic, so what?!... What's wrong with writing about music and musicians and actually being honest ? I like to read more Jazz reviews that actually tell the truth instead of just a bunch of gratuitous stroking. Every musician has some weak spots, some more than others. Hey, why not let loose and say that Jackie Mclean plays so sharp that at times he's hard to listen to? Or that often Wayne sounds like he is playing a ****** reed. All these guys we're criticizing here are making records
and getting international airplay...

I want my students to listen to everyone out there, but with a critical ear. This isn't how I would recommend a non-musician to listen to Jazz, why ruin the experience? We want to be able to pick and choose our influence carefully, to be able to discriminate which elements in a player's style to be influenced by.
I can try to learn from Jackie's hard swinging bop lines without playing a quarter-tone sharp or play a Shorter tune with a good reed......
Maybe one reason why we see mainly raves and not much criticism in places like the Brandname players sub forum is that those that criticise or have a negative opinion tend to get attacked. Maybe it's even a duty as musicians to call things as we see when it comes to music.
 

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When I was 16, and still a bit wet behind the ears, I went to hear a bass player friend's rock band. After the first set the guitar player, who was an adult (well he was 18, and 21 was considered adult back then), came over and said that he had heard I was a musician and wanted to know what I thought of the band. I indicated in stronger words than was wise that I didn't care for their musicianship.

He then punched me in the nose.

Since then, I've tried to be diplomatic in any criticisms I might have about musicians and their music.

I also subscribe to Jimmy Durante's dictum:

'Be nice to people on your way up, because you're sure to meet them on the way down.'
 

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Personally, I would rather talk about the good in people rather than the bad....although as a musician/student I learn from both. The quote above about being nice on the way up is spot on.
Every player has strenghts and weaknesses. However, the person in the quote of the original poster said they want their students to get a clear picture of everything a player does, whether good or bad, and I agree with that. But, talking about a player's weak points in a private lesson and in a forum that is probably more public than people realize(including at times myself) are two entirely diffirent things.
When in public, it's just not classy to point out a player's weaknesses. There is really nothing gained, as the people that really know what they're talking about already can see the player's weaknesses and have analyzed them, and the people that don't know possibly get influenced negatively and not given a fair chance to look at an artist with an unbaised point of view, thus maybe affecting a chance of actually seeing the good in an artist or just liking them for whatever reason.
 

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It's too difficult to size anyone up without listening to them quite a bit. I've had players that I've dismissed only to come back later and love their work when I really dug deep into what they were doing.

Honestly I've learned in life at least in my non cyber life that its best to not say anything at all....good or bad. Just enjoy or not enjoy and move on. That also applies to everyday things outside of music. Letting your mouth run can come back and bite you in the ---.

Although I use to enjoy some of the critics in DownBeat back in the day when they would cut a player to shreds. Everyone seemed to be in a particular camp and that can get the blood flowing. Playing nice and being mousey can sometimes and often times is a cop out. People use to be a little more hardcore in those days, a little more passionate about what they were doing. People stopped being critics at least in the publications when what they print could cost the magazine advertising dollars and you your job. Same thing with musicians. How many guys you see today running their mouth like Mingus use to. If you find him he ain't going to be getting signed to Blue Note or any other label for that matter. I'm afraid this game is as much PR as it is chops these days.
 

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I do think that sometimes things are sugar coated too much on here, but it really depends on who you're directing the comment at. There are young kids, new players/late bloomers, and more advanced players who know they're still developing. In those cases, it's a good idea to pay a compliment followed by a little constructive criticism: "X was really good but Y needs a little work". No need to rip a player apart. You build them up by telling them what's working while letting them know what they need to work on to take it to the next level.

Then there are some people that NEED a dose of reality. They've received sugar coated compliments and never improve. They don't get it and because nobody tells them anything bad or they just look at the compliments and completely disregard the critcisms. They think they're doing everything right and believe they're WAY better than they are. Then there are a few people on here (though not really popular posters) that give advice (usually bad) and speak with arrogance and when you hear them they sound like absolute crap. But nobody calls them out.

I'm generally very non-confrontational and usually adhere to the "If you can't say anything nice . . . " policy. The majority of the people who post audio clips here receive fair comments. But a few really need a kick in the butt which does seem to be taboo.
 

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You should only say positive things about EVERYONE. But that's REALLY hard to do. I guess is someone askes "What do you think of my playing?" they deserve whatever comments given.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
BTW, I was really talking about the top players. I think if criticism is honest and you can back it up, it's fair to put it out there.

The Bob Mover article above and Valdez's subsequent comments I think is a good example of this. I found it refreshing because it said a lot of things that I feel myself.
 

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I actually thought we were talking about bashing pros, but if we're talking about people on here, well, alot of people ask what others think of their playing, so while there's no need to bash, honest opinions should be expected....and that is not always to deal with.
 

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Oh, well, I think pros are fair game. It comes with the territory. Pro athletes get criticized all the times and to a lesser extent, so do actors and musicians. That's just expected and par for the course. Nothing says pros are immune to it. Nothing says everything about Bird and Trane has to be complimentary.
 

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You don't necessarily need to always say positive things to musicians. If you said only nice things about others, no one would ever improve. And music is subjective, not everyone likes the same things!

However, there are POLITE and CONSTRUCTIVE ways to give criticism to others, a fact that many people don't seem to remember these days.

Also, I don't know about everyone else, but there have been times when a criticism or a comment from a teacher or close friend has been like a kick in the pants. Its lit the fire under my butt and pushed me to get better. Where would I be if no one ever told me the things I needed to work on?
 

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I think it depends on the situation. Some people ask for feedback just to get compliments. Others are people seeking honest feedback, not a pat on the back. You may hear an audio clip and think "god, that really sucked." But then you learn that it's from someone that just started playing, so you adjust your opinion and praise them for their efforts.

I think the pros are open game to criticism, as long as you back it up with substance over emotions (sort of like politics). All pros have good and bad days, and sometimes they make mistakes. I think some people get sensitive when they hear someone else criticizing a musician that they like. People also tend to give credit for gigs that someone has played without regard to that players actual talent. We all know that talent is often not at the top of the list when it comes to getting a great gig. ;-)
 

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An old teaching axiom that never goes out of fashion is to give praise in public and to offer criticism in private. One of the things I like most about SOTW is the respect given to each member's level of playing ability whatever it may be. This discussion forum represents the full gamut of experience from beginners to seasoned professionals, and I have yet to read one post where a member lorded their playing ability over another member in a discussion.

Years of adjudicating music contests and festivals have taught me that it is possible to say something positive about someone's playing regardless of how lacking the performance, and to give suggestions for improvement regardless of how skilled the musician. Three compliments preceding each suggestion for improvement is an excellent formula for critiquing musicians of any level, especially those coming up through the ranks.

John
 

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the only time i'd ever be honest if my honesty demanded criticism, would be if someone insisted on it. which has happened.

and i also think that being gracious at the same time can actually leave you smelling like roses afterward.

no-one gets crushed hopefully.
 

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everyone has a bad night,so what,the critics will catch it,what a job,i am a musician i do not need someone telling me their opinion of another musician unless its positive,i will tell myself,the oldtimers said do not knock a working musician,makes sense to me,if a fellow musician has a lot to say ,find a jam session say whatever you like,some will listen who here has never been out of tune, who here has used a crappy reed, just because someone has enjoyed some success does not mean there bullet proof.......
 

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I've always found that I prefer total honesty from other musicians. That way when they do say something positive you know they really mean it! Being complementary for the sake of it is all well and good but if it's a player I respect then a bit of 'giving it to me straight' is a far more constructive thing in the long run. Besides which I'm from Yorkshire (UK) which makes me culturally pretty impervious to verbal abuse (this won't mean much to Americans...)
 

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nachoman said:
Besides which I'm from Yorkshire (UK) which makes me culturally pretty impervious to verbal abuse (this won't mean much to Americans...)
nachoman!! Dropped a tuppence piece this morning? Caught it on the back of your neck as you bent down to pick it up, did you? ;) (don't worry, America, he didn't mind a bit!! Yorkshireman, see?)

On topic: I think the type of criticism offered needs to vary according to circumstances. If a friend is having problems with tuning and doesn't seem to realise, it's right to say something, tactful or not depending on your relationship with the friend. If your daughter started playing last week and just murdered "Away in a Manger" then you say "that was lovely" and save the music school analysis for later or maybe for never.

"Bitching" about other players is really not classy although you'll hear some good players do it, I think. Maybe that's the "competitive" element in music which continues to stubbornly exist. Moans and gripes about international stars are another thing again. Who cares if someone says "Sonny can't play"? Or if i say "Mr G's latest album is not my cup of tea"? So what? But even this depends on context. If you are a pro player with an international career then in that case it would be deeply uncool to slag off another pro in public, I think. So i'm allowed to say Candy's rubbish (i don't think that at all BTW) but if Sonny said the same thing (he wouldn't, BTW), that would be wrong, BAAAAD Sonny! ;)
 

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It really depends on the situation. It's one thing to speak ill of somebody maliciously; it's another to speak truthfully with a purpose, regardless of whether it's negative or positive.

On last night's gig the guitar player got a piano player sub who didn't know any tunes (had to read them all out of the realbook, thus limiting us to realbook tunes). He also didn't know how to end tunes, didn't understand the concept of trading eights/fours/etc (And vocalized such: "is this that trading thing you guys do?"), and was comping mostly on downbeats and using root bassnotes with it the entire time. He did have good time and played some fantastic lines in his solos, but as a comper he was extremely sub par. It's necessary to talk about these things and to work them out in your own head so that fellow musicians, when being asked about certaein players, are equipped with a good sense of when or when not to hire for a gig.
 

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'It had a kind of quiet intensity....really interesting'.
 

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Can You Play Solo?

Solo we can't hear you?:D When it comes to pros , I think they're fair game, not that I'm in any position to comment mind you. Although,then again, that's rarely stopped me. However, with novices or others in a jam session or the like, I use a rule I learned as an instructor ( motorcycling,ski patrol and scuba diving )... Praise,comment,praise. You know..I really liked what you were trying to do there.:D Maybe a bit more work on long tones to biuld up your sound.:( You obviously take good care of your horn, it's nice and shiny.:D
 
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