Tag Archive for: feedback

Music Related Echo Chambers

In the intricate tapestry of music production, there’s an underlying thread that has been silently weaving its way through for years: the phenomenon of the echo chamber. Just as politics is sometimes ensnared in these chambers, the world of music production isn’t immune. While they might offer the comforting illusion of unity and harmony, these echo chambers can become a pitfall for creativity, authenticity, and growth.

Moreover, social media platforms and music streaming services with their algorithms can create a reinforcing feedback loop. An artist might gain popularity for a particular sound, and suddenly, that becomes the benchmark. New artists aiming for success tend to emulate that, leading to a saturation of similar-sounding tracks. While the initial artist might have been revolutionary, the subsequent floodwaters can drown the innovation.

In the political world, echo chambers arise when individuals surround themselves only with voices and opinions that align with theirs. In music, a similar phenomenon happens. If artists and producers only expose themselves to a narrow band of influences, it limits their growth and stifles innovation. In both spheres, these echo chambers can lead to a stagnation of ideas and a resistance to change or evolution.

For artists to grow, it’s essential to break out of their comfort zones. Collaborating with people from different genres, attending workshops that don’t directly align with their musical interests, or even actively seeking feedback from outsiders can be invaluable. A hip-hop producer might gain a fresh perspective by working with a classical musician, or a techno artist might find inspiration from folk melodies. It’s these intersections of diverse ideas that lead to the most groundbreaking music.

There’s been a huge fuss started by Guti recently about how many fake sets made by some artists have been going on for a while and to me, this is a pure side effect from an echo chamber. Artists encouraged by the industry to go with a pre-recorded show who anyone who would confront, would be pushed out of the way.

I believe the onus is on both industry veterans and newbies. Veterans should mentor and guide newcomers, encouraging them to learn the craft properly and not rely solely on tools. New artists should be hungry for knowledge, pushing boundaries, and not just following the beaten path.

Mr. Bill Masterclass @ KMGLife Inc. Youtube Video


This week I was watching an older video from Mr. Bill, who is a solid Youtuber with creative content and I noticed something about him that sort of irritated me. Over his video, he was explaining all kind of approaches about how to be loud and also, be cool. While I gave up on the whole debate of the loud is cool topic, i get annoyed at one thing precisely which is when someone spend time showing that his sound is cooler than my sound.

Like Deadmau5 said recently:”Who the F_ are you? The sound police?

I understand that if you want to sound like him and since he is very confident that he is cool, then it makes sense but in a world where trends flashes so quickly, I believe that Mr. Bill is probably looking at this years old video and probably think that his newer sounds are cooler. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to put him down because I love his sounds and techniques, but not to the point of putting other genres or sound design down. I want to remain far from a competitive mind and his view could encourage that mindset.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I prefer having a much moderate approach to understanding sound. I prefer remaining open.

Calling some sounds cool or others not, creates duality. And that creates echo chambers, hierarchy, ego boosting. So I prefer nondualism (advaita).

At its core, non-duality emphasizes the interconnectedness and oneness of everything. Translated to the realm of music, it suggests that genres, styles, and techniques are all part of a vast, interconnected web of musical expression. Rather than pigeonholing oneself into a single genre or style, a non-dualistic approach encourages exploration across musical landscapes. By seeing all music as interconnected, producers can cross-pollinate ideas, techniques, and inspirations from diverse genres, leading to innovative and fresh sounds.

A significant barrier to innovation and growth in music can be one’s ego. An inflated ego might make one resistant to feedback, reluctant to explore unfamiliar genres, or even dismissive of new techniques. A philosophy that promotes selflessness can help dissolve the ego, allowing the artist to be more receptive to external influences, feedback, and collaborations.


1. The Allure of the Echo Chamber


On the surface, there’s undeniable allure in surrounding oneself with like-minded enthusiasts, especially when one embarks on the journey of music production. The initial phase is fraught with uncertainties and questions. In these moments, having a community that echoes your tastes and preferences is undeniably comforting. The conversations flow smoothly, validation is often just a nod away, and a bubble of shared enthusiasm and aspiration forms.

However, beneath this surface of congeniality, a subtle drawback emerges. When we insulate ourselves within a particular genre or style, the nuances of that very style start to become our universe. And while it’s essential to understand and master a niche, the danger lies in becoming so immersed that we miss the symphony of diverse musical expressions outside.


2. The Downside of Self-Referencing


As a music label owner and sound engineer with over two decades of experience, I’ve observed an interesting pattern. Artists and producers, particularly when starting, tend to lean heavily on references that mirror their own aspirations. This is entirely natural. However, when these references are flawed or limited in scope, the resultant art can lack the depth and polish it might otherwise achieve.

A case in point: I recently mastered tracks for a techno artist. His reference tracks, though popular, had many inherent issues. This artist, having always been in his echo chamber, hadn’t realized the potential flaws. But once I introduced him to more diverse, quality references, it was like a revelation. Suddenly, he could perceive the richness and depth his tracks could achieve, and the difference was palpable when played in a club with a top-notch sound system.


3. Breaking Free with New Tools


The world of music production is ever-evolving, with tools like Izotope’s recently released Ozone version offering fresh perspectives. Such innovations are a boon, not just for their technical prowess but for their potential to act as doorways out of these echo chambers. By leveraging the new features and capabilities they bring, producers can explore uncharted territories, challenging their ingrained notions and biases.

It was interesting how tools like Ozone (Version 11 came out this week and it’s really well done – I don’t even understand how they keep improving it!), while designed to improve the mixing and mastering process, can also inadvertently perpetuate these echo chambers. In the hands of a novice, presets and popular mastering chains can quickly become a crutch. Instead of learning the core principles of mixing and mastering, many young producers just slap on a preset, thinking that’s the ‘industry standard’. These tools, if used without proper understanding, can contribute to a homogenized sound in the industry.


There’s no denying that the familiarity of an echo chamber offers solace. But for an art form as dynamic and ever-changing as music, these chambers can sometimes stifle the very creativity they aim to foster. It’s imperative to recognize when we’re in one and muster the courage to step out. Only then can we truly hear the boundless melodies that the world of music has to offer.

Can you trust yourself to judge your own music?

This has been a popular topic recently—I think that because of the pandemic and the isolation that comes with it, people rely a lot on online contacts to get feedback on their music. The lack of in-person music testing as well as and lack of being able to go to clubs has changed the way we are able to analyze our own music.

I was a part of an organized live stream recently to support a friend named Denis Kaznacheev, who has been held in prison for something we all think is impossible (but that’s another topic). Being in a room with 4 people, playing live, and getting feedback after months of isolation was a weird experience. The first thing that came to my mind was, that my music sucked. Yeah, I also go through it once in a while, and I had forgotten how playing music for and in front of people changes the dynamic of a song. In studio, it sounds a specific way but add one listener and it’s all of a sudden, different.

Some song, different context, completely different mood. Was there something I could do to predict this?

Technically, there was absolutely nothing wrong with what I did. People who tuned in loved it. The thing that clashed was the mood, the feel of the track, compared to what I had in mind. In past articles I’ve discussed the importance of a reference track, and this could have helped me in this particular situation, and could have helped better classify my music as well. But as you know, there’s no do-it-all plugin that can prevent this. This is why many people struggle with judging their own music.

Technical Validation

When it comes to technical items, you can self-validate using some handy tools.

See if your track is, compared to a reference, feeling like the same tone and balanced, I’d recommend using Reference. This tool is my go-to plugin whenever a client insists that the track I’m working on doesn’t sound like a particular song. I’ll load up the reference song and then, after volume matching, I can see if the lows, mids, highs are adjusted in a similar way than my mix. It also shows you if you have, per band, the same level of compression or wideness. It doesn’t lie and you can match it to have something similar. But how do you raise one band to match the reference?

I use a multi-band compressor to compress and, or EQ. A shelving EQ, with 3 bands can be helpful to adjust, but a multi-band compressor really can set the tone. You’ll set the crossovers of each band to match Reference and by adjusting, you’ll see it react to your gain or reduction. While you could use any multi-band compressors, I’d highly recommend the Fabfilter MB.

The same company that makes Reference also made a plugin named Mixroom which, with the same idea as reference, focuses on everything in the mids and highs. It’s a bit tricky to use at first, but once I found reference songs that were analyzed properly, it gave me some interesting pointers on what to push or remove. I thought it was pretty interesting to reverse-engineer some complicated mixes.

Many times people will tell me they don’t like to compare to anyone or that they’re going for their own style but that’s like trying to draw your grandmother from your memory. Some people might do better than others, but audio is abstract and you need to compare yourself to someone else to know what’s lacking or overflowing. I mean, even within a mix, I compare my channels to see their peaks, densities, and panning to make sure one doesn’t cross another, unless to create something as a whole.

People struggle with loudness, but it’s is a bit easier to manage. You’ll need a metering tool such as the IKmultimedia TR5 Metering or the lovely Hawkeye from Plugin Alliance. They are costly but necessary. For a mix, you have to keep in mind a few details: the loudest peak should be -6dB, the RMS (more or less the density) around -13 to -20dB, in LUFS, I’d suggest to be around -15dB and dynamic range to be above 10. A plugin such as Reference will also indicate loudness, and that can be really useful to see if you’re in the same ballpark.

Please consider these are numbers I deal with, and that for certain genres, it can be completely different.

If you come to struggle with the low end, the guys from Mastering The Mix also have a low-end validation/enhancement with the excellent Bassroom plugin. Again, you’ll need a quality reference to do the trick, but once loaded and with some practice, a muddy, weak low end will be a thing of the the past.

These are the best technical validation tools I’ve used in the last few years. They’re efficient, affordable and very useful in whatever I do.

Self-Mastering and Mixing

Pretty much anyone who’s been making music for a while or has studied audio engineering will agree that mixing or mastering yourself isn’t the real deal. It’s doable, understand me right, but you’re not winning. With the previous listing of all the technical tools I shared, you can make some really efficient mixes, but perhaps sometimes that’s not enough.

As an engineer, the main thing I’ll say is that someone else might spot things that are in your blind spots, plus that person is also emotionally detached from the music itself, so making decisions feels like less of a risk in itself. If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you know I often refer to our duality as humans to have a analytical side and a creative side. When I work with musicians, I invite them to see this duality as a muscle. Your creative side needs to be exercised; it needs to constantly be fed because it’s a sponge. You want to find the perfect routine and be efficient at it, then break it to pieces to reinvent your new way of making music by re-combining them for a new version of yourself.

The way I see music-making isn’t about trying to be in full possession of your potential, but more about always putting yourself into a state of instability and risk, so new creative ideas emerge. You’ll connect the dots of the past to create a path in the now.

This state of mind is one that is not always technical, and it’s raw. I would invite you not to tame it, but to create spontaneous ideas and raw projects.

This approach is basically the exact opposite of sitting in front of your computer to design and fix a snare. There’s nothing wrong with that if you like, it but like I say to people, artists should become experts at flow, not perfection. They want to be artists, not craftsmen. But I won’t stop you from being both—I just often feel that technical production doesn’t age as well as solid creative ideas. The only thing that stands the test of time is simplicity, and that comes with a mastery of both flow and technical expertise.

If you want to be a master at everything, you’ll be very average at everything as well for quite some time, or potentially forever.

So, imagine you have an amazing idea that you made but you are very average at mixing and new to mastering—you’ll probably be butchering your idea when you try to do either. Yes, you save money and learn by doing it yourself, but I think if you’re aspiring to release something on a good label, to get attention, it might be a good thing to have someone look into your mix, even a friend. But if you really want to do it all yourself, get yourself solid tools to make sure you get the most out of them.

If you want to practice mixing, I suggest trying to find what I call, a swap buddy who can send you their mixes and vice-versa. You both learn by tweaking each other’s work, and going back to your own music after will feel easier, and clearer as well.

Psychological Validation

Now, psychology is an area where don’t get any tools to help that we all have to deal with. It’s that limbo where you maybe made a few different mixes and feel unsure which one is best. You know technically everything is there and in order, but in the last bit you’ll try to label your song into one of these buckets: Good, Not Good, Still needs work, Ready for mastering…etc.

Are advanced, experienced, and veteran producers exempt from this state of mind? Not at all. After decades of making music, I still have no idea if my music is “good” or not, even if got in the top 10 on Beatport or if my friends all love it. Deep inside, sometimes, I’ll doubt myself. However, I came up with some personal rules to help me judge if I think my own work is decent or not.

Deal with technical points first: This is why I started this post with technical stuff. I see in our Facebook group, people giving feedback, and my observation is that it is often biased by their mood or listening situation. What has become clear to me is that when giving feedback, you need a common reference. I can tell you that your kick is too loud, but compared to what? I have clients sometimes who complain about the low end being overpowering but in the same mastering session on that day I had another client who loved really, really loud kicks. The difference was laughable and both had the exact opposite feedback: one had weak low end but he felt it was too much while the opposite was a bass orgy but he wanted more. Could it just be what they hear? Yes, probably, and this is why you need to be able to use a FFT to check, but also, listen to you music in the middle of a playlist that has other songs of the same genre to know if it sounds right.

A client was telling me “It sounds right in the studio, wrong in the car and at home, its a different song… which one is right?”

The one that is right should be your studio version, but it should be cross-validated technically with other songs. If it doesn’t sound right at home, then find a song that sounds good there and then study it at the studio to see what that song has that yours don’t.

Know that you’ll never really have a permanent opinion about your music. Each day your mood might change and affect how you appreciate your music. Down the road, you’ll learn new techniques and then hear mistakes in your song, you’ll hear a better song than yours… all these points will make you doubt yourself. You’ll always want to go fix something. Since you know you’ll never be really satisfied with it, then you can accept to move on faster. Just start another song, apply what you learned, use your new influences and try something new.

Nothing exterior will validate your music. No matter what you think or do with your song, you might doubt it. This means, you don’t need the latest synth or to be on that specific label. “...and then I’ll be happy.” is a fallacy. Knowing that, it re-centres you to count on a handful of friends for feedback.

4. Let things age. Nothing better than taking a few weeks off before listening to know how you feel about it.

What’s interesting is that, whenever I receive criticism, I start see a perspective I didn’t look into enough—super important. Music production and audio engineering is often discouraging and that’s the reality of the art. That said, I don’t think there’s a day where I make music that I don’t learn something new. Accept that everything is work in progress. This is why songs that take too long to finish are often because my perfectionist side took over, and that’s not where I can make magic happen—it’s often the other way around.

Music Feedback: When to Take the Opinions of Others Seriously and When Not to Care

If you make music, you’ll get what I’m trying to explain here—the head space where you’re fully aware that it’s important to make music solely for yourself, but yet you really want to share it with the world, with other people who could potentially like it. If you love what you do, maybe someone out there also loves it, too?

Where should you draw the line between making music for others versus making it for yourself?

Honestly, it’s a tough question. The voice of reason in most people will answer it with something moralistic, like:

Making music for yourself is the way. Sharing is good, but don’t make a big deal out of what people say.

Unless you have a real mastery of your emotions, if you’re an artist, you will, at some point, want to share your work. If you share your work with “random” people, especially close friends or family, you’ll mostly get random feedback which can be confusing and hard to analyze constructively. Sharing your work is, at its most fundamental level, about seeking validation. Even old fart producers like me who have 20+ albums and have toured, still carry the need for validation. The difference I see between myself and younger artists, is that I carefully pick the people I share my music with—a way of knowing if you’re still relevant to people you trust. In past posts, I’ve explained how to network properly and how to build a circle of solid contacts.

A pattern I often see is artists having a very productive session, and the resulting track feels very emotionally powerful to them. Validation comes in when they seek to determine if the emotions in the session were valid, or if they were hyped over something bogus.

This sort of pattern results in an “they’re right, I’m wrong” thought process that causes cognitive dissonance. Let’s examine this pattern from a technical point of view:

  1. You make music absolutely for yourself, but this is artistic masturbation; it’s normal to want to connect with others to validate these feelings.
  2. The opposite is making music for a label, other artist, crowd, club, or festival, in which an artist is chasing other people’s opinions and lacks control over their own work—they usually end up frustrated.

If you ask someone for advice about music, sometimes people come at it from the problematic position of “I’m right, you’re wrong.” They’ll tell you what they think is good or not, based on their point of view. Sometimes people are not totally open to giving real feedback and will be biased. When most people are given the opportunity to criticize, they’ll find something wrong. It might not always be useful, but sometimes with music, particularly concerning technical aspects of production, there’s value in receiving good feedback.

When Should You Take Someone’s Feedback Seriously?

It’s up to you, but it’s heavily dependent on your ability and accuracy in evaluating your own work beforehand. Here are a few tips for evaluating your own work before seeking external feedback:

1. If your track creates emotion in you, never doubt it, even if it never reaches anyone. Not all tracks need to be released, heard publicly, or shared. You can make a song for yourself and perhaps a few friends—this is a totally valid way of making music. The “need” to release all your music is really a misconception that you’re entitled to be heard because you made a song. Honestly, you aren’t.

2. Listen to your song in different contexts to see what it feels like. For example, listen to it while commuting, in your living room, in your car, in front of a friend (in person!) or in the middle of your favourite playlist. This can reveal flaws in your work. If something feels off and you are limited technically, then you know that asking someone for feedback with a precise request should provide value to your work.

3. Use a reference tool such as Reference from Plugin Boutique which, if you compare your work with a song you like, you can easily see what is missing (tone or loudness). Fixing issues might be a roadblock for some artists, and that’s another reason it might be useful to get feedback.

Once you’ve done these three things, I’d upload a snippet to Soundcloud to get a reaction or share it privately with a few friends. I would never post music in forums without knowing what regular users are like in the first place. I also don’t share with close friends; they never get it and sometimes it can make the friendship awkward. I prefer having two circles of friends: music-related and non-music.

Never forget that it’s important to age a song for a few weeks or months, just like a wine, then come back to it afterwards—this trick reveals incredible details you can’t initially see or hear.

When is Feedback Disposable and Not Worth Taking Seriously?

  • When someone implies that you should change something in the arrangement or sound design based on their tastes.
  • When someone discusses some so-called “unwritten rules” about how music “should” be made (ex. you have to make all your sounds from scratch, you can’t use samples, etc).
  • When their technical feedback is questionable. For example, some people might comment on bass without having access to a sub.
  • When someone who lacks empathy can’t understand the vision of the track and tries instead to see it from their own point of view. For example, my ex never understood that music I made at home would translate differently in a club.
  • When someone tags your music with buzzwords. Sometimes people would listen to a song and say “oh, it’s chill” but not understanding that on a large system, it might groove.
  • When you receive comments such as “X is good” or “X is bad“. As if the person had the universal understanding of some permanent elements in music—such comments don’t mean anything at all. We all know that if person X finds it bad, person Y might think it’s genius.

I hope this helps you understand what type of feedback is worth taking seriously!

SEE ALSO : Common mindsets of musicians who have writer’s block and how to solve them