Episode 43 of the Bite-Size Guitar Podcast looks at how to deal with criticism you will get as a guitarist.
Knowing how to properly deal with criticism can help you improve as a guitarist as well as avoid a lot of frustration. This is something every guitarist needs to learn how to deal with, so have a listen to this episode for some advice.
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Podcast Episode 43 Transcript
Hi, I’m Aaron from guitargearfinder.com and this is episode 43 of the Bite Size Guitar podcast.
In this episode, I’ll talk about how to deal with the criticism you will get as a guitarist at some point. Properly dealing with criticism can be tough and there are good ways to handle it and bad ways to handle it. If you learn how to properly deal with criticism, it can help you become a better guitarist and save you some frustration.
Everybody Gets Criticised
The first thing to keep in mind is that every guitarist gets criticized at some point. Everyone from beginners all the way up to the best players in the world get criticized.
So even if you try to hide away from criticism, it’s a losing battle. At some point, somebody is going to hear or see you play guitar and tell you that you suck.
You might think that as you get better on guitar, you’ll get less criticism. Once you master the basic techniques and learn how to play some songs perfectly note for note, people won’t have any reason to criticize you, right?
Take one look at the comments in almost any popular guitar video and you’ll see this just isn’t true.
Highly competent guitarists get criticized all the time. In fact, the more successful you are as a musician, the more criticism you can expect to get.
Whoever you think of as the best guitarist in the world, there are people out there who think that guitarist is terrible.
This is important to keep in mind if you want to build a following with your guitar playing. Let’s say you want to grow a following on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, or any other platform. The more people you reach, the more criticism you’re going to get regardless of how good a guitarist you are.
What makes things worse is that you can get twenty people telling you that you’re a great guitarist, but if you get just one person telling you that you suck, that one negative comment stings a whole lot more than the twenty positive comments. Even if you think you have thick skin and can handle a few comments from haters, it gets harder the more successful or popular you become.
You need to learn how to properly handle criticism, or it can lead to problems. I hate to think about how many beginners have quit learning guitar over the years because they were criticised and didn’t know how to handle that criticism.
So let’s have a closer look at how to deal with criticism.
Don’t Ignore All Criticism
Now some people listening to this right now will think that the best action is to just ignore all criticism.
Ignoring all criticism might help you avoid your self-esteem taking a hit, but the more you think hard about it, the more it becomes clear that ignoring all criticism is not a good idea.
If you ignore all criticism, you’ll also be ignoring genuine criticism that can help you improve as a guitarist. If your guitar teacher criticizes your technique, you’re not going to improve if you ignore his comments.
If an experienced guitarist notices a problem with your technique and tells you, you’re going to miss out on useful advice if you ignore any criticism. Even helpful criticism that can help you become a better guitarist can come across as negative at first, so it’s not a good idea to try and ignore all criticism.
I learned this lesson the hard way. A long time ago, somebody heard me play guitar and told me I sounded terrible and out-of-tune. I checked my tuning and it was spot on, so I brushed their comments off.
A year or two later, I learned about intonation and realized that while my open strings on that guitar were in tune, the upper frets were all out-of-tune thanks to bad intonation. I found out how to adjust intonation and suddenly I could hear how bad the intonation was.
If I didn’t completely ignore that criticism, I could have fixed the problem on the spot instead of spending the next couple of years playing out of tune and not knowing it.
Nobody enjoys being criticized, but it’s something we all need from time to time. If you don’t realize you have a bad technique or you’re playing something wrong, you’re not going to fix anything if you ignore all criticism. So keep in mind that while nobody likes to be criticized, it’s not something to completely ignore.
On the opposite side of things, it’s also not a good idea to take all criticism to heart. Some people just like to rock the boat, some people like to troll others, and some people see other guitarists as threats. If you take every negative comment to heart, you’ll burn out.
So the hard thing is to try and be open to constructive criticism that can help you grow as a guitarist, but also know what criticism to ignore.
Step 1: Stay Calm
The first thing to keep in mind when somebody criticizes you or your guitar playing is to not get defensive. It’s natural to instantly put up your defense when somebody criticizes you, but that usually ends in arguments.
For example, if the person is a troll, then their main goal is to get you angry. They’ll say whatever they think will get you angry whether they believe it or not. If you get defensive to a comment from a troll, they win. Not only that, but you getting angry makes it easier for them to make you angrier.
But if you stay calm and avoid getting defensive, the troll loses all of their power. You’ll quickly figure out that they’re just trying to get you angry and you can easily dismiss what they say.
This is a lot harder to remember in the heat of the moment when somebody says that your technique is terrible or you just suck at guitar. But if you can avoid letting your emotions take over whenever somebody criticizes you, you’ll do a lot better.
Step 2: Figure Out Intent
If you can stay calm when somebody criticizes you, the next step is to figure out the intent of the person giving the criticism.
Are they trying to troll you and get you angry, or have they noticed an issue with your playing that you may not have noticed? Are they actually trying to give you constructive feedback, even if they come across as harsh?
This is what makes criticism hard to deal with. It’s hard at first to figure out if the person is trying to give you legitimate feedback you can use to improve your playing, or whether they’re just trying to be a pain.
The reason so many arguments break out online is that it’s hard to figure out the intent of the person leaving a comment in your post or video. If somebody criticizes you in person, it’s usually pretty easy to figure out the person’s intent from their facial expressions or body language. But you don’t get any of that when reading a text comment. The person may be being sarcastic and jokingly saying you suck, but sarcasm can easily be lost in a comment.
So start by figuring out what the person’s intent is.
This can be as easy as asking “what do you mean?” or “why don’t you like it?” or “what did I do wrong?”
Again, don’t be defensive, just ask for more information on what their problem is with your playing. Sometimes when you do this in a polite way, suddenly people turn from nasty to surprisingly polite. They might realize their comment came across the wrong way and they try to be nice.
It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. There have been a few times over the years when I’ve received an email from someone who was seriously angry at me over something I wrote on my site, only for them to become very apologetic when I replied to them in a polite way asking for more details.
Sometimes people will criticize you just because they don’t like your style of playing, the type of music you play, your haircut, the type of guitar you play, or the clothes you wear.
I once got a rage-fueled email from somebody who read one of my articles where I mentioned that I personally preferred the feel and sound of Strats over Les Pauls. You would not believe some of the things he said in his long rant and it all came from an off-hand comment about my own personal preferences with guitars.
It was pretty clear what his intent was with that email. He obviously plays a Les Paul and he didn’t like hearing that I prefer playing something else. I know, it’s shocking to think that different guitarists have different preferences. We should all play the exact same guitars and like it.
But that gives you an example of how easily people can criticize you. Me preferring a different type of guitar was enough for this person to take the time to send me a long and angry email.
If you write music and share it online, there will be people out there who hate it just because it’s not a style of music they enjoy. That’s completely fine.
Step 3: Assess the Criticism
Once you figure out the intent of the criticism, you can easily figure out whether the criticism is worth ignoring or whether you should go further into it.
If it turns out the person just doesn’t like the style of music you play, there’s nothing you can get out of the criticism, so you can move on from it.
But if the person is trying to point out an issue with your playing or your tone, there’s something you might be able to gain from the criticism.
Even a nasty comment saying your tone sucks can be useful. Some people just don’t know how to give constructive criticism and come across as negative.
The main point I’d like to leave with you is that at some point you will get criticized. The more you put yourself and your music out there, the more criticism you will get over time, even if you’re an amazing guitarist and write great music.
If your goal is to one day want to have millions of followers, then you need to learn how to properly deal with criticism now rather than later.
Don’t try to ignore all criticism and don’t take every comment to heart. Stay calm when you get criticized, work out the intent of the person giving the criticism, then you can properly assess whether there’s something you can learn from the criticism or whether you should just ignore it.
Keep this episode in mind the next time you get criticized. Don’t let criticism derail your enthusiasm for guitar and don’t be so blind to all criticism that you ignore constructive criticism that can help you improve or fix issues with your playing.
I’ll share one more thing about criticism.
I get emails almost every day from people telling me what they think about this podcast and the guides on my website. The messages are either extremely positive or extremely negative, there’s no in-between.
The majority of people who listen to this podcast or read my guides don’t send in messages. It’s only the people on the extreme ends who really like or really hate what I have to say who decide to reach out and tell me what they think.
If I had to guess, I’d say I get about 15-20 positive messages for every negative message.
That might sound good, but as I mentioned, one negative comment can stick in your mind far more than a positive comment. That’s why it’s so important to know how to properly deal with criticism. You don’t want that one negative comment to destroy your motivation.
Just remember when you do get praise or criticism, you’re only hearing from people on the extreme ends. The majority of people who hear your music or see you play guitar won’t say anything about it and that’s okay.
So thanks to everyone who has left a review for this podcast or sent me messages about it. I’m glad a lot of people find these episodes helpful and encouraging. The positive messages do help me stay motivated so I appreciate them.
I hope you found this episode helpful and I’ll talk to you next time.