Dealing with Criticism of Your Singing: The Filters You Need

clutching microphone
Singers who learn to process criticism rationally develop a deeper confidence and are more likely to be happy with their singing – says Rachel Bennett

Many singers – regardless of age – find it difficult to hear criticism about their work.

But those who don’t wither when they have to acknowledge that there’s more work to do are the ones who really do get there!

I advise clients to run any criticism through a series of filters. This helps them to make sure they work with the criticism rather than it dominating their life.

Singing Criticism Filters

Filter 1: Ask Yourself Questions

Ask critical questions of the criticism! This is because not all criticism serves our needs – sometimes it only serves the needs of the criticizer! Here are 4 questions for you to ask:

  • What is this critical person’s interest in my work?
  • What relevant experience does this critical person have?
  • Has this critical person offered any solid advice?
  • Is this the kind of person who is able to, in principle, celebrate my strengths or are they merely getting a ‘charge’ out of being critical?

Filter 2: Get Perspective

Sometimes criticism is made because someone just doesn’t ‘get’ you.
It could be that their realm of experience has not gone beyond a fairly narrow set of genres or approaches to work – so they criticize what they are unable to understand.

Filter 3: Take it to Someone You Trust

It’s probably important to take a critical comment to someone – like your reliable voice tutor or coach – and ask them what they think about this.

Filter 4: Get to Work

If a specific comment is made that you have heard before – perhaps a concern about your effort levels, or maybe the way you are performing your work … then it may be time to really look at this aspect of your work more closely.

Filter 5: Switch Up Your Practice

What do you do about the criticisms that are coming your way? Once you have established that they matter, then its time to act. I have found that I often needed to alter my practice approach – trying out new ideas for vocal techniques.

Filter 6: Close the Circle

Go back to the person who took you on this journey and perhaps let them know you did some work.
This is a positive cycle in terms of your associates, your mutual respect and also it allows them the reward they deserve for pointing out an issue in the first place.

Filter 7: Seek It Out

Actively seek out criticism, perhaps for new material or your upcoming performance; invite it, but make sure it’s coming from someone you trust!

How Criticism Filters Work

I recently coached a very hard working and successful American client who was one of my singing students whist she lived in the UK but who is now dancing in a top US tour; she was back in the UK for a brief holiday and popped by for a vocal session because she really wants to get more singing parts.

She showed me footage of her recent audition for a Broadway show; this young woman really can sing! Her top A is a clean and well produced mix – a powerful tone that works like a belt … and she can fully belt at a high F too!

Her audition performance was almost faultless but she was told she was a little pitchy; whilst she smarted as she told me this, she explained that she wanted to understand how this had happened, when her ear is so good (and it is!).

She focused brilliantly in the session and worked all the exercises with tremendous concentration – acknowledging that there were definite ‘R&B pushes’ in some of her interval shifts that were causing slight sharpness on the tones, especially at the ends of phrases. I was so impressed by her openness and determination to improve.

Written By
Rachel Bennett is a London-based vocal coach and singer songwriter. She is the lead singer of her band RAIE and they have played at venues including London’s Hammersmith Apollo, The Roundhouse, The Albany Theatre, The Forge and Map Café. She has been a Musical Director for various theatre companies and has worked as both a singer and coach for record companies in studios across London. She currently teaches singing at Goldsmiths College on the Popular Music Degree and at Rose Bruford International Drama School. You can learn more about Rachel on www.raiemusic.com