How You Can Give Better Music Feedback

How Musicians Can Give Better Feedback We’re kind of obsessed with the “best.”

We train in the “best” schools. Chefs cook the “best” meals.

We debate about the “best” music technique.

You might recall a typical music lesson where the teacher describes the “best” way to play a phrase– light here, mezzoforte there. And the feedback is taken badly.

Or, in a music studio, if a student is constantly cancelling lessons and asking for refunds, the teacher’s first reaction might be to fold the bills into origami boats and sail them down the river.

Here’s a conversation hack that might help you give better feedback.

How to use the Birds for feedback

I met Theresa when she organized a kick-butt conference in Vancouver. I love social entrepreneurship, but what stands out is Theresa’s energy.

She shares how she uses the principle of the Birds as a personality test for understanding how a person best communicates with others. I see it as a system for becoming more likeable.

How Musicians Can Give Better Feedback

In the system of the Birds, everyone is a type of bird: Hawk (Eagle), Owl, Peacock, Dove.

  • Hawks tend to be straight up when communicating, cut-to-the-chase. (Let’s meet at 8pm.)
  • Owls tend to be analytical, show-the-numbers. They love details.
  • Peacocks tend to be flowery, showy, and enjoy being the centre of attention. (“Oh your shirt looks great… [5 minutes later] Want to meet at 8pm?)
  • Doves tend to be calm and have a softer demeanour, and avoids confrontation.

“When I walk into a meeting, I’ll decide who I’m dealing with.” Theresa says. “If I’m talking to an Owl, I’ll show the numbers right away.”

To use the system for giving feedback, figure out which bird you are, and watch out for the caveats. Peacocks might annoy Hawks when they don’t get to the point. Hawks can overwhelm Doves because they can come off as rude. Owls itch to see figures and details, so give it quick. This is like a fun version of MBTI.

You can be a different bird in varying circumstances, but if you adjust your communication in relation to who you’re talking to, then you’ll come off as more likeable. Feedback will be better received.

What I think of is the fact that I won’t piss people off. If you figure out which bird you are (most of the time), you’ll be in the right ballpark for having good conversations.

If you’re a music teacher, this is also an effective way to critique a student’s playing. A Dove will not appreciate straight-up criticism– instead of “That was really bad,” perhaps try “You need to put more effort into this.”

The most capable teachers give feedback in a way that the student accepts and uses to their advantage.

How Musicians Can Give Better Feedback

Create your own culture of good feedback

If you exude a certain quality, then people who admire or share this quality will be drawn to you. This explains your five closest friends.

You can create your own culture of friends and colleagues– if you are upbeat, then people who admire positive perseverance will enjoy your company. You can only bring out your best qualities if you know what they are, so grab a piece of paper and write ’em down.

Hint: If you can’t decide what your strongest quality is, then you’re probably strongest at going with the flow, or the ability to run with change.

I think of how much we are defined by others. In the Stanford prison experiment, everyday people began believing that they were prisoners– physically and mentally– because people around them treated them so.

What if we can use the same ideas in positive light? Even the smallest gesture can transform someone’s day.

Take action

Instead of drilling on negative spots, try the sandwich technique for balanced critique. Instead of speaking like strangers, try a smile first.

The next time you’re giving feedback to a musician, pay attention to how he or she communicates. Try to speak their language– Hawk, Owl, Peacock, or Dove?

How do you communicate best? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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