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Sometimes it's just easier to create hype than to compose high-quality music. | Photo: Unsplash
Sometimes it's just easier to create hype than to compose high-quality music. | Photo: Unsplash
Anna Marie Hradecká - Fri, April 28, 2023 - 08:00

5 Critical Opinions That Can Hurt a Musician’s Ego

Imagine this situation: you're at a concert, watching a band play, and you have very specific ideas, tips and suggestions about what they should do differently, better or not at all to keep their musical career rising. In short, every musician off-stage is as clever as they come and knows exactly what would benefit others. Today, we will look at a few of those harsh sentences that you may often find yourself thinking about other musicians. Of course, you have to be careful about what you tell them if they ask for your opinion – few things are more fragile than an artist's ego.

1. "It's not the guitar, it's the fingers."

Some people can spend twenty minutes explaining to you passionately how their current instrument doesn't suit them, how the guitar needs a different neck shape, a different radius, a different fretboard, in the case of saxophone, a different hardness of the reed and a new model of mouthpiece because that would make their technique and sound much better. You would probably like to tell them that maybe all they need to do is start practising. Sure, it takes a while to find the right, kindred instrument, but it's not for nothing that they say a good musician can play well even with a bad instrument. What should we say to pianists who have to "bash" whatever set of keys is at hand?

2. "You're a better instrumentalist than a singer."

Of course, it is a matter of taste, or even a matter of current health condition, level of stage fright or technical circumstances, but nothing can spoil the impression of an otherwise promising song as much as unintentional intonation wobbles, wailing beyond the limits of one's abilities or even bad pronunciation in foreign languages. At that moment, you as a listener suffer and wonder why the person in question doesn't realise that their singing is going to break into your skull before it breaks into the music industry and that perhaps it would be better to concentrate on playing an instrument, rather than trying to produce an interesting vocal. Of course, the same thing happens when it's not one person, but various members of the band – even one "mismatched element" in an otherwise well-matched group can spoil the impression of the whole production.

3. "Your image is better than your music."

The band whose concert you decided to attend has a catchy name. The promo photos, logo and merch design look great, even pompous. They look fantastic as a live image on the stage, and their outfits and musical equipment suggest that something special is going to happen here. During the performance, they all look and move as exuberantly as if they were playing at a sold-out Wembley. But what's the point of all this effort to build a visual image if their playing is messy and the sound is terrible, or if their material isn't really worthwhile in terms of musical content? Sometimes it's just easier to create hype than to compose high-quality music.

4. "You need a producer."

The songs of the band in question somehow don't know when to stop (six minutes for a pop song seems to be a bit too little, so they add bridges, solos or chorus repetitions all the time), the chorus doesn't fit the verse, all the songs are the same and everybody in the band wants to play everywhere at all costs, which results in a messy arrangement... You can't help thinking that it would benefit them to work with a producer and have an outside perspective. Being proud of your DIY approach and therefore "authenticity" is a nice thing, but fresh ears and sometimes a sharp cut into the musical material while honouring the original artistic intent can work wonders.

5. "You're playing great, but you're acting like a**holes."

Musically, it sounds promising – the band has interesting ideas and a good playing technique, the members are in tune with each other and they can sing too. But unfortunately, it looks like their success got into their heads and they are starting to get arrogant. A lot of promoters and technicians agree that the most famous musicians tend to be the coolest and down-to-earth people, while the less known bunch, who may be just working their way up, often have completely nonsensical demands in their rider and don't know where their egos end. And yet, the information about who is nice and who acts like an arrogant jerk gets out very quickly in the music world.

What phrases come to your mind when you watch other musicians? And what ego-crushing but perhaps true advice have you received as musicians yourselves? Let us know in the comments.

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Anna Marie Hradecká