Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How To Read Comment Sheets

Competition time is upon us! And with competition comes the dreaded score sheets and comment sheets.

For a sensitive introvert like myself, I approach reading these comment sheets with the same amount of dread and fear as sticking a red-hot poker in my eye. The internal pain of getting a bad comment is just as bad as the external pain would be of burning out my eye socket.

So I developed a system, one which separates the subjective from the objective. Ever since I developed that system, reading comment sheets are much less damaging to the soul and much more educationally beneficial. Here is my process:

Step 1- Know your judges

As a judge of the ICCA and ICHSA, I know first hand that every judge looks for something different. I approach my comments from a choral director perspective, whereas someone who has no choral directing experience might judge based on a professional experience with recorded music. Really, it’s a crap shoot, and unless you understand the mind-set of every judge, you won’t truly understand where their comments are coming from. So once you know who the judges are (and they are always listed in the program), make sure you do a quick Google search to get a sense of their background. Only then can you begin to interpret their words logically.

Step 2- Compile all of the comments and write them out on a big sheet.

Once you know your judges well, it’s time to eliminate the subjective aspect of judging. The best way to do this is to write down the comments of every judge, but on one big sheet so they all blur together. That way, you won’t begin to assume one judge “has it out for you” or “he/she is taking your performance personally.”

Step 3- Eliminate the paradoxes

This happens all the time. One judge says you have a great vocal percussionist, one judge says you have a terrible vocal percussionist. If you find any conflicting comments like that, cross both of them out. Statements that directly contradict each other only prove what you should already know: that you can’t please everyone.

Step 4- Find the patterns

If there is one comment that the majority, or all, of the judges make, take that comment very seriously. If everybody noticed it, it’s a problem or it’s something you do very well.

Step 5- Summarize your findings

Instead of taking each comment literally, categorize the comments. For example: These four comments talk about your vocal quality. These eight comments talk about your choreography. These eleven comments talk about your vowels.

Organizing and categorizing these comments gives you a much broader picture of what you need to work on for next year. If you have four comments about dancing and twenty-one comments about vowels, maybe you should start working on vowels.

Marc Silverberg

Follow The Quest For The A cappella Major:

1 comment:

  1. This parallels very closely what I tell my recording/mixing clients when I ask them to get outside opinions. The paradoxes, the patterns, the sources - it's just humanity, and any one opinion (no matter how "expert") doesn't hold much weight. The more people you can get to "practice judge" your work before the real thing (in competition and performance as well as recording), the better.

    In making records, a group that makes all of their own choices as to how it should sound usually makes many horrid rookie mistakes by ignoring how it will actually be perceived by the 99.9% ears (both expert and novice) of non-group members who will hear the final result - simply because of their own (over)familiarity with their own voices or arrangements. The same works in competition - if you already have gotten 30 or 40 "judging sheets" before you go for the 5 that actually count, you will probably have corrected 90% of any rookie mistakes before you get to the actual competition.