How to Do a Music Critique

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Writing a music critique may seem overwhelming. All critiques are inherently subjective and personal honesty is important. On the other hand, the critique also needs to offer a true evaluation of the music and should not be skewed by your own personal bias. It is also important to keep in mind the needs and expectations of the people who will read your critique, since they may make decisions based on your critique. Finally, you need to consider the intentions of the composers and musicians as well. Understanding all these factors will help you to create a critique that is balanced, honest and useful.

  • Listen to the composer's representative works. When possible listen to contrasting pieces from different styles. This will provide a framework to view the music that is being critiqued.

  • Write down specific thoughts and observations while listening to the piece the first time. This step will document and clarify changes in perception while listening.

  • Listen to the music to become familiar with the style. Attempt to categorize the music into a specific genre. Determine if it is classical, rock, jazz or an alternative style.

  • Play the music a second time. Attempt to formulate specific opinions this time. Analyze the form of the piece by determining if it consists of repeated sections or is through-composed with no repetition. Take notes on the effectiveness of the composer's choice of form.

  • Evaluate the piece one final time to see if it has additional elements that you may have missed in the first two times. Answer questions that the reader may be interested in, such as how the melody fits the harmony. Describe the melody and how the instruments function in the music.

  • Write an introduction. The introduction should give a general overview of the composer's music, your initial impressions and a reason why the reader should or should not care about this composer.

  • State your opinion from Step 4 in the next paragraph. Don't go into detail on each listening at this point, just state your overall opinion and observations about the music and the composer's output.

  • Describe the process of listening to his music. If your opinion changed between the first and third listening, discuss how and why it changed. You don't have to provide a positive review, but you should explain and defend your opinion with concrete ideas.

  • Write a conclusion. Rather than summarizing how you felt about the music, talk about how the process of listening to this composer's music affected you -- negatively or positively. Did you gain an appreciation for the composer even though you may have not liked the music? Do you see a place for this music in relation to other music in the world? Be original and avoid simply summarizing what you have already said.

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