This is something musicians do, we go outside and sit in each other’s vehicles to listen to whatever projects we are working on. We stare at the readout on the dashboard thinking of what we are going to say when the song finishes playing. We have to say something, but there are rules of decorum and decency that must be observed.
Let me help you not be a jerk.
You have to say something right away, if you hesitate and make the person ask for feedback – they assume you hate it. Silence is judgement. It’s best to say something specific and positive like, “Man, the drums sound fantastic, they have so much punch!” This must be followed up with something positive about the project in general, or else they will think you are just looking for something nice to say (even though you really hate it.) If you don’t, they will assume the only redeeming quality of the recording is the drums, and everything else is crap. You have to say something about how well the whole project came together, and how good it sounds. It’s important at this point to say something positive about their actual performance and contribution to the recording.
Never, no matter how tempted you are, should you say anything negative or compare their recording to another band or song. You might think it is a compliment to say their recording sounds like one of your favorite artists, but you would be absolutely wrong. Any comparison will only make your friend feel diminished and embarrassed. They will probably smile and say something like, “Wow, that’s quite a compliment; I’m honored to even be compared to someone so great.” What they really mean is, “Why don’t you just stab me in the heart for being unoriginal.”
Don’t offer any suggestions or criticisms until they have asked you for your honest opinion three times. After the third time they ask, you can test the water with a very specific bit of feedback. If they ask clarifying questions and actually seem interested in your opinion, you can carefully offer another small piece of honest feedback.
Be ready to stop immediately. As soon as they start talking about how “the mix isn’t finished yet,” or “It’s not mastered,” or “We were going for more of a __________ sound,” then you are done.
And your friendship is probably over, too.
Hope this helped.
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