The objective perspective is the idea of getting an unbiased perspective from someone who isn’t as close to your situation as you are. The objective perspective has many uses in music. We’ve all had problems with our significant others–if you go talk to a friend about it, you might gain a newfound sense of clarity on the situation. Even if they just reaffirm what you already think, sometimes you just need to hear from someone else. The same goes with your music: You may have gotten so deep into a project and worked so hard on it that you’ve become insensitive to the finer details.
Songwriting - Record producers do a lot of rehearsing with musicians. The simplest viewpoint a producer can bring to the situation is as a new ear that wasn’t around for the entire songwriting process. They can offer a genuine first impression of songs that they haven’t heard in a zillion different arrangements. If a part is being played too many times or if the bass player’s busy line takes away from the vocals, the producer will be able to hear it on first listen. Your group may have gotten used to the way a song sounds over time, but the producer’s objectivity allows him or her to immediately see things in a different way. Being objective doesn’t always make you right, but it’s a valuable opinion to consider.
Mixing/Mastering - The quotable mastering engineer Alan Douches of West West Side Music (westwestsidemusic.com) often says that one of the most important parts of his job is offering an objective perspective toward the recording process. While you were mixing your record, hearing the songs hundreds of times, you may have gotten lost in some details. It’s his job to try to compensate for any ways that you may have lost perspective during hours of working. He comes to the table with a new set of ears and can help get your head back on track with suggestions. Getting lost while recording a song is why many musicians will employ a separate mixer who has never heard the song during the recording process. Getting an opinion from someone who hasn’t been involved in the tireless creation of what you do can be a crucial part in crafting a great final product.
Whose Opinion Do You Listen To? - Having many people give you opinions is a great way to make an informed decision, but it can also get confusing. You may have to consider possible hidden agendas from those giving you advice. If that isn’t enough, some people talk a lot despite not having educated opinions. Who you take advice from is a lot of what makes you who you are. These decisions shape your career, how you’re seen in the public spotlight and how your music is received. So, who do you listen to?
Your Songs - Friends will often give you their opinions on your songs. Since everyone loves music, most opinions have some validity. However, there are times when the average listener’s opinion isn’t always the one to cater to. For example, if your producer is telling you a part sounds sloppy or cluttered, but your significant other tells you it sounds just fine–you may want to pay more attention to the opinion of your producer. Many music listeners are not trained in hearing the potential a song can reach like great musicians or a producers are. They may say your song sounds fine, but their ears simply aren’t as tuned into every detail as someone who has devoted their life to listening to music and can identify your true potential. These producers can hear the flaws that a novice can’t put their finger on.
Easy Way Out - Many times, humans want to take the easy way out and listen to whoever gives us a convenient opinion. But holding ourselves to the standards of those who are good at nitpicking is what can ultimately lead to achieving great things.
On the reverse side, if your friends and family who aren’t trained musicians tell you something is wrong with a song, this can be a scary thing. When flaws jump out at an untrained ear, that’s usually bad news. Musicians will often come to a producer after recording a great song and say, “That’s the first time my mom has actually liked one of our songs.” If you can please your Perry Como-listening mother with your latest prog-rock track, you’re probably onto something (or she is excited at the idea of you moving out of her basement). However, if you play a song for some friends who actively listen to your genre of music and they say your songs are all too long, odds are that you need to shorten them up.
Agendas - It’s shocking that musicians will listen to the advice of people without thinking about the agenda that person may have. Unfortunately, many people will give you advice that benefits their own interests more so than yours. Not everyone will do this, but it’s all too common and a concept you should be aware of. Maybe your band is listening to a newly recorded song and you come to a vocal part where the singer belts out a lyric. The bassist says he hates it, but not because yelling the line is a bad thing, but because he hates any vocals that are belted in any songs. You need to take into account the biases, hang-ups and agendas of the opinionated party before you listen to their opinions.
If agendas aren’t enough, some people are incapable of having their own opinions. Some friends and fans will tell you they love everything you do just because they’re so enamored with you or insecure in their opinions. While this is good for your ego, it’s not always what you need to hear if you’re trying to get an objective perspective. It’s more valuable to have honest friends that can offer constructive criticism.
Questions To Ask - When getting advice on a situation I always try to ask myself a few questions about each piece of advice.
- Agenda - What was this person’s agenda, if any?
- Educated - Is this person educated on the topic? Are they up to date on their information? Are they stuck in the rules of the past?
- Take The Hard Road - What is the hard road? We all have a tendency to look at the hard answer and find a way around it. Keep reminding yourself about the harder road, and make sure that when you make a final decision about anything, that you aren’t simply looking for the easy way out.
Occam’s Razor - What does a layman think of this situation? Those with no experience can see the forest instead of each individual tree, providing you with a valuable perspective.