Dealing with Criticism – a Singer’s Guide

Dear Jaime,

After my last gig, a really important music biz person told me I didn’t sound as good as I did the previous time they saw me. I was totally crushed and am now freaking out over my upcoming gig. What can I do??


Sorry, Arno; I feel your pain…and I’ve listened to plenty of criticism about my singing (not to mention from ME, my own worst critic!).

The good news is: it didn’t deter me from singing; hopefully it won’t deter you either.

Let’s look at what can we singers can do to minimize the sting of criticism and how we can actually MAKE FRIENDS with criticism….whaaaat?

Firstly, just like we practice singing, we have to PRACTICE accepting criticism so we get used to handling it–crazy, I know, but try!

Can you listen and not get upset? Can you keep your face relaxed and your breath steady? Can you look at the person as they speak?

This is tough stuff but I promise that with practice, you can train yourself to stay calm while receiving a not-so-great review.

Compose a simple comment to say after the criticizer finishes, like, “Wow, I’m gonna think about what you said—thank you…”.  PRACTICE saying it.

That way, if someone says something unflattering, you’ll be prepared, both on the outside and on the inside…where it really counts.

Secondly, think about WHO is giving the critique: are they jealous of you and your fabulous-ness? Do you respect their opinions or do they love singers and bands you despise? Do they offer constructive criticism, with advice on how to improve….or destructive criticism, with the intent of knocking you down?

Get good at knowing your criticizer and recognizing their potential motives; this is some good People Skills 101 for life in general!

Thirdly, ask yourself (and BE AS HONEST AS POSSIBLE EVEN IF IT HURTS):

Is there any truth AT ALL to the statement?

Were you not as good this time? If there are video/audio recordings, check them out and A/B them.

Also, think about the circumstances: were you prepared? Warmed up? Feeling physically okay and emotionally unstressed?

If there’s any validity to any part of the criticism, then congratulations—you were real with yourself (great job!) and most importantly: you learned something.

Like Joni Mitchell says, life is for learning (Google Joni Mitchell now…you’re welcome).

If you become a better singer because someone gave you some food for thought, then….you’ve made friends with criticism, yay!

Robert Cohen, a renowned drama professor, said this about criticism:

“If you can learn from it, use it. If you can’t learn from it, forget it.”

Enough said!


  • Top Hat Kenney

    I like the part about…”Is it true”…I have to be willing to look at myself with the possibility I might not have done my best this time…I need to be willing to learn when people talk to me about my performance…great article thnx…

  • Hannah

    great post Jaime :-)

  • Thanks, Hannah! :)

  • You’re so welcome, THK!