In the Marching percussion activity, there is an unspoken rule that says it is perfectly fine to critique someone’s drumming video online even if they didn’t ask to be critiqued. Whether the drummer in the video is a beginner, a novice, an instructor or a highly experienced professional, you’ll often find such comments as “your heights are too high,” “you need to turn your wrists more,” “you are rushing the 2nd bar,” etc. My question is: WHEN and WHY was this ever made to be OK???
In the real world, a non-drumming equivalent to this situation is if you were to walk down the street and some fashion student were to tell you that your outfit doesn’t match. Is this behavior acceptable in our society from our friends or even people we know, let alone complete strangers? Would it make it more acceptable even if they were qualified? Of course not! I know…I know…honest feedback and critique, even if it is negative, is absolutely essential for our growth; I get that. But what if you did not ask for the critique? What if the crique you received was completely unsolicited?
Even if I personally don’t think this is ok, I think in some ways, unsolicited critique is ultimately filled with the good intentions of the activity. After all, the activity forces us to be good at looking for flaws in our own playing and the playing of our peers because it is one of the few things we depend on to improve our ensembles. I also think that overall, the need to critique ourselves and others is born out of the desire to help each other out so that other members in the group can get better. Also, we allow this critique because, well, quite frankly, the activity is mostly filled with really good people who don’t want to offend anyone by telling them their critique is somewhat unwanted. But outside of this, I think the motivation of unsolicited critique is not as pure.
I think that when we give unsolicited critique, it is a way for us to boost our own ego knowing that our approach to drumming is superior to someone else’s and validates our technique by devaluing someone else’s. You may think that you are helping that other person out, but when that person literally did not ask for your opinion or feedback, are you truly doing it for that person or are you doing it for yourself?
Of course, I’m not saying we shouldn’t critique each other at all, as that would be utterly ridiculous. Nor am I saying that this blog is a license for everyone to be mediocre. What I’m saying is, whenever possible, put your work out there and make a formal invitation for people to critique your playing to help you see things that you might not be seeing. It is often times very difficult to see outside of ourselves, which can hinder our growth but an outside perspective can help us with our “blind spots.” On the other hand (and I am calling for this RIGHT NOW to be the new standard in our activity that I am going to highly campaign for), if you see a drumming video please DO NOT CRITIQUE the video unless the person in the video specifically ask for your critique! If you can sit there and appreciate a pure expression of art, then by all means leave a nice compliment. But if you have something negative to say, even if it is constructive criticism, refrain from doing so, because quite frankly… nobody asked you! I think this is just good etiquette and good practice of self awareness to know what is and what isn’t socially acceptable.
Overall, I hope you enjoyed this blog and the ideas within have gotten you to re-evaluate some of the current socially acceptable norms of our activity. And if you think I am only saying this because I am afraid of critique, well, I can prove that is not the case at all…
So either way, anytime you get critique (whether solicited or unsolicited), take it for what it’s worth, don’t get offended and use that feedback to get better! You might as well use the critique to improve your drumming skills even if we can’t stop the practice of unsolicited critique right away. But if you agree with me and want to help END unsolicited critique for the benefit of the entire activity, make sure you share this blog!!!
Have you ever given or received unsolicited critique? What do you believe are the pros and cons of this practice? We would love to hear your thoughts!