True Confession time

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I really feel like an impostor and a sham here. I hear people with great voices, crazy good instrumental skills, and brilliant ideas for songs... and then I listen to my own stuff... and yeah. I know we're not supposed to judge on recording quality, and I don't have and can't currently afford recording equipment per se, but I doubt myself hard.

I know the big part of doing this is learning from your mistakes, and I think I am doing that, but I really feel like I'm treading water pretty frantically (this in spite of my song count).

I just want to know... does this feeling go away over time or am I just stuck with feeling like "that guy who wants to hang with the cool kids but really belongs at the dork table"? (story of my life...!) don't have the monopoly on that feeling. I feel you're being far to critical on yourself. :P :P :P You're a bard! Smile

Some musings from an 'umble soul wot haz gone through 18 of these confounded Timed Songwriting Challenges:

i) Some of us don't even sing, compose or play at all. This means we will escape the attention of some participants, but we still get plenty if we make a solid effort to get into the community spirit (or people happen to think we're good and follow us with genuine interest)
ii) A well-composed song with lower production values is typically more enjoyable than a poorly-composed song with high production values - Track 13 on FAWMpilation Vol 3 is a lo-fi, one-take, one-instrument interpretation of a lyric - and it remains my favourite song on the album
iii) If somebody tells you they like your work, they're probably being sincere.
iv) Regardless of their talent, equipment or skill set, everyone can (and typically does) improve through having taken part in this challenge.
v) The closest I have ever got to 50 songs in 90 days is 20. And I'm OK with that.
vi) I used to have a rather lofty impression of talented FAWMers. Then a number of them started collaborating with me, and my impression of a cool kid/dork divide began to fade fairly quickly... although I'm still quite aware of the variety in levels of talent.

TL;DR: She'll be right, mate.

How long have you been writing and recording songs? That's an important vector in all of this. Before you compare your own output to mine, you first have to realize I'm 30 years into this journey, and for the last 10 of those years, I've been doing this in earnest. I guarantee you that, when I first started as a teenager, my songs and recordings were equal to the worst of anything posted at 50/90. And it took me a long time to get good.

Does the feeling go away?
All feelings have the potential to go
but the loss of them may be worse than their presence.

At every stage of songwriting (and life in general) there will always be those who are better than you and those who are worse. Learn from those who are better and support those who are worse. Oh and make sure you are enjoying yourself!

If you enjoy what you do and get pleasure from doing it, it's valid. Music is not a competition, despite the best efforts of the media to try to convince us otherwise (X Factor, The Voice, et al).
If other folk like it too, that's a bonus.
The song is what it is, regardless of recording quality, performance expertise or any of the bells and whistles.
There are no dork tables here. Smile

You're definitely not alone ...

I started writing a song for the last Sunday skirmish ("write a song about you"), didn't finish cause it was too depressing but title would have been "tootoobee - wannabee" (nice rhyme isn't it) and verses full of complaints that I can't play an instrument beyond beginner stage, should practice singing at lot more, never managed to use EQ and compression, ... with a chorus sung by some monsters that I should leave this stuff to the pros ...

Not alone. I felt the same way and still once in a while on aspects of my music. My inner critic started as the guy shouting in my face about every mistake or perceived misstep. For 5090 etc., I joked about sending him (I call him Joe) away, or basically ignoring that part of me. Rather than craft and perfect a few songs, I have made a conscious choice to have fun and experiment with a lot of song styles, instruments, and methods to write a lot of songs. Joe is still sitting there on the "shitty committee", but is much quieter now. I put him to work when I feel meh about a song that I want to develop and it is time to edit. Or on a painting after it dries and it still bugs me. In the end it is my music, my art, and made for me. If someone else likes it then great, if not, I'm already working on the next thing.

"does this feeling go away over time?"

I doubt hasn't for me at any rate. Often we're our own most critics anyway. I think whatever level you reach, you're always going listen to someone else and think "I wish I had a voice like that" or "why can't I write songs like that?"

I think the trick is to realise and acknowledge the achievement in what you produce yourself. It may not sound quite as polished/weird/hip/beautiful as Little Miss Angelic Voice from Paris (or wherever) but it is uniquely YOU and just maybe someone else prefers it to that squeaky clean produced ballad by LMAV from P.
Just try to be content with what you do - but self-doubt is a fact of life...well maybe not the Donald Trump's of this world but then who want's to be one of those?

kc5's picture

As someone who has collaborated with you, Metalfoot, I think your production is "good enough", not really my realm except as a listener. I have listened to many of your songs and have been impressed by your variety of melodies, creativity with them, your guitar skills and you have a pleasant and flexible (as in good for many genres) voice. I was really impressed with what you did with "Blaze" in particular. It wasn't what I had envisioned for a genre, but love it anyway! You seem to enjoy what you do and that comes across in your work--no worries! Just keep on keepin' on!

Oh @metalfoot, you are not a dork. Nobody in Challenge is. You have a beautiful tenor voice and you sing in tune. Like in Butterflies ( collab with @cindyrella and @levesinet ):

You have a nice vibrato. It means you are singing with good techinque. Having a voice and vibrato like that to start with is rare. I bet if you found a good teacher, took some lessons, you'd be singing like an angel in no time. Smile

I still feel like I don't know what I'm doing. So I just work harder. But sometimes instead of for example practising the song I just do multple takes and edit the mistakes out. Typically a simple demo with voice and a guitar can have about 20 audio splices plus ten volume edits. That alone takes couple of hours. I have the time.

But psst... let's keep this just between us, @metalfoot ok? Smile

Interesting thread - I imagine every creative person who puts his or her work out there has to have at least some degree of self-doubt and that it's part of the drive that keeps you creating.
I think I actually have less self-doubt than most. From the very first time I took up one of these challenges (FAWM '08) I knew what my purpose was - to create story-songs that I could perform as a solo acoustic artist. From 2008 through about 2010, I had some plans to take my music beyond local venues, but no more - I used to imagine giving up teaching school (even though I enjoyed it) to become a full-time troubadour. Now that I have become a full-time yoga studio owner/instructor, I find that I have just enough time to pursue my music the way I want to (which includes creating music for yoga).
Knowing just what I'm doing with my music - and that includes making it just because it gives me joy and purpose - gives me a certain degree of confidence. But - always a but, isn't there? - I certainly listen to other 5090ers and FAWMers and think, "Man, I wish I could do that!" Sometimes in terms of production, sometimes in terms of genre, sometimes in terms of writing a really great solo acoustic song that I'd love to cover.
I don't even think I have a drive to get better - whatever that means - anymore, so much as a drive to explore different ideas and sounds. I've written 500 or so songs in these challenges, and there's bound to be some similarities (a lot of similarities!) among them, but I try to throw in just enough twists and turns, and not necessarily strive for outlandish departures.
I can't help but give advice (I'm a teacher after all), and the piece of advice that just popped into my head is: Don't ever apologize for the music you've created - and that goes for your liner notes on your songs here.

Hey MF,

If the, that feeling goes away, ...well, so many cliches come to mind. Great feedback above.

Song writers, lyricists, in particular are extremely opinionated folks, with an axe to grind, and bury deep in the head of that glitch that drives them. If you didn't have that, you would not be here.

Case in point, me. I've been "in" music, since ... ~6 yo, in a non-musical, brutally judgemental, tortuous family demeanor. I've been told I suck, I'm stupid, ... unworthy of life itself for having a person "have to read" my writing.

--- Still "here", (here, is figurative, not literally here)

Turns out, as if I cared, I don't suck. Right? Right! (Knew, you'd agree Smile )

I even, on occasion, had a following. However, "that", turns out, means as much Smile to me as the "you suck" demeanor. All that matters to "me" is, how I feel in doing it, then listening.

I have songs, I forget on occasion, play, with others around, and me, them go "ewwwwow" who's that! We look, and by God, it's me..., what happens, -- no more, ewwwahhhwow ? WTF!? Really? Ok.

That happened at a fairly large venue, meaning ~300+, ... Young ones from a Manhattan location, a band, ran up to the stage and asked where they could get sheet music for the one song they heard..., me, -- I said, oh, they said..."but, who's song is that"?..., mine, -- oh. End of conversation.

MF, get over it, remain tortured, and join the "real world" ... One idiot thinks your Krappe, another Cries real tears, from your Lyric..., rarely folks who like chocolate, like vanilla... I like a good swirl... But, I am "uncommon".

-- A good place to be

So, to be clear, I have all the correct answers, just ask, I'll be glad to write it all out for you! Smile

And..., "this place" gave feedback, on what I consider total Krappe, yet was work to do, so posted it, --confused, myself. But, because of the positive feedback, really... ... ... Hard..., looked at it. It gave me a new direction and joy. "Oh, I said", for the *explanation of, "sounds good, like it"..., lucky for me, hit the nerve, and was "good". --- You want REAL, real, feedback, -- that's its value. You don't want, "sounds great like it" -- unless it is real, reliable. Don't ask Mom, what she thinks, or Mate... Folks here, well, other places for me too, live in other countries, will never meet you, and have no stake in your work. If they say, hey, "this here..." -- consider it well. They took the TIME to comment it, --why? Do you? No..., why would they?

Why would I write all this? Because, you're a ... ...., or, seems, of value to do for a talent, in this community.

I absolutely get what you're saying, @metalfoot . I feel like a sham most of the time, too. I don't know how to read music and know zilch about music theory. I hear "real musicians" talk about obscure jazz chords, classical scales, and bippityblahblahlydian modes (!) and I say to myself, "You know NOTHING about music.Why even bother?" In fact, I typically refrain from calling myself a "musician", because I feel like that'd imply that I "know" something about music. I kinda feel weird saying I "write" songs, too. It just sounds wrong when all I do is noodle around. hehe

Then, I think of Lennon & McCartney, the ol' acoustic bluesmen of yore, plus all the folk musicians around the world throughout history, and remember that they too had no formal training. It didn't stop them from being musicians, learning what sounds good, and creating something special. I stop being so hyper-critical of my own shortcomings after that. Smile

My favourite musician-related quote is from my favourite guitarist, the late Mississippi John Hurt. When asked how he came up with his music, he said matter-of-factly, "I just make it sound like I think it ought to." That pretty much sums up my approach. I just keep pluckin' and hummin' away until I come up with something that catches my ear. I figure if I don't know the rules, I also won't know when I break 'em. Hehe. But still, a part of me very much wants to gain the knowledge to compose classical symphonies and put together Brian Wilson-like harmonies/arrangements! My worry, funnily enough, is that I'll lose whatever I have now if I do that and just end up "playing by alphabet" [as one of the old bluesmen derisively said].

Anyway, I kinda went off on a tangent there. But whatever. The point is: I get how you feel. Smile

Hey, @Deaf Steever, you have nothing to worry about. Believe me, you can play. Frankly, I'm in awe.
I know almost no music theory, and the extent of my "musicianship" is strumming a few chords on the ukulele. Do I get jealous or intimidated? Yes, sometimes, but then I remember that it doesn't matter, cos I'm having fun making my own kind of music.

If you're writing songs that are better than what you wrote ten years ago, but not as good as you wish they could be, then you're exactly where the rest of us are. You're not an imposter or a fraud. Keep writing, keep learning, keep experimenting.

@metalfoot I don't know your stuff....but I did just listen to one...sounds good. I would just keep doing what you are doing until you have 50. After that, you can clean up what is bugging you the best that you can. I mean with the music. In this challenge we want to put up numbers. Most of my stuff was crap (I've been doing this for years) but I always had gotten a few that were worth remembering. That said, I haven't even tried this year because of real life disturbing situations that make me not want to sing. When I don't have singing its not a song to me. And even though I have a few on the me my count year is zero. If you need some help with the music I may step out of retirement for limited time. Just hit me up and I'll probably do something with you with the music. Your not in a funk. Most people can't sing, can't play, and can't write (includes pros). You already do more than what most people can't do, and that's play music, write songs, and sing.

Thanks, everyone, for understanding... some quick responses
[@brrrse] I'm only a bard because you declared it so!
@Stephen Wordsmith That's really quite helpful. Thanks.
@Guitar Kim First recorded song was around the age of 12, so 28-odd years ago. Made a couple cassettes with limited distribution about 18 years ago. Stopped writing, largely, for about 10 years. Have been writing off and on the last few years.
@anonymouse You make a good point. The feeling of "not good enough" does drive me forward.
@johnstaples I wouldn't still be here if I weren't enjoying it. I am learning.
@Dragondreams I do enjoy it, and thankfully have a cluster of family/friends outside of 50/90/FAWM who actually like my music too. I am glad of that.
@tootoobee It's good to not be alone. And like you, I don't post EVERYTHING here. But if I did... 50'd be in the rear view by now.
@AndyGetch Your willingness to experiment inspires me. Smile
@the pannacotta army I know I'm not LMAVfP and I've made peace with that. And it does impress me, the number of songs I've written/cowritten this year... well over 90 at this point. Maybe I'm at creative fatigue and need to sort through my winnings, as it were.
@kc5 Thankful for your willingness to work with me and challenge me, KC!
@Klaus Though I haven't had any voice lessons for 13 years now, I have had a few. Only so much money to go around and voice lessons are low on the priority list right now. Thanks for not thinking I'm a dork!
@Chip Withrow From hearing your stuff at FAWM, Skirmishes, and here, I've gathered you have a style you've cultivated. I think part of what I'm trying to figure out is if I have a style or if I'm a musical chameleon, and that can be tiring, too.
[@ustaknow] Thanks for the words of encouragement!
@Deaf Steever If we could get it to work out, would love to come and jam with you in the Peg sometime. I think you're a splendid bluesman and you know your way around the fretboard instinctually in a way I can only dream about!
@Fuzzy Yep. That, exactly.
@iveg I'm not quite sure how to compare my stuff from 10 years ago but I think I am developing even from the start of FAWM. Part of that is the simple gain in technical proficiency that comes with sitting to play a lot more than I did before FAWM came along this year.
@jcollins I have every intention of keeping on till 50 and beyond. Thanks for the reminder of the purpose here!
...hope I got everyone!

Well, some are born bards and some have bardness thrust upon them. If the shoe fits.... And there is a real "condition"? or state of mind called "imposters syndrome" and from my research, everyone battles with it in some way or another in life. *hugs* darlin. Go back and listen to some of my "cellpphone" demos.... seriously LOL especially "Mondayest Tuesday Blues" where my son is yelling about the cartoon he's watching in the background Smile

I will say this type of feeling will definitely go away. Don't lose faith in it, just keep hammering away on songs each day and everything should be okay! Smile Some of us aren't good singers to start with or have virtuous skills in guitar either. There's a reason why lyricts and songwriters exist because some of them are not good guitar players and singers, or lack confidence in recording their own material and rather have their stuff collaborated with a musician instead. But the songwriting thing is something that we tend to grow from song to song and the more you write songs the better your songwriting will become!

I think you should give your recordings a few weeks worth of listen to really appreciate your songs. It took me few weeks of listening to like my songs!

What is that you're not liking about your songs, is it recording quality? Improving your recordings will make them sound better but it won't make you a better songwriter. So just concentrate on becoming a better songwriter and worry on recording quality later on. Is it your songwriting? Well you said that others have better songwriting ideas. Well why not compare your songs to those other better songs you heard and figure out why is that. Why not try taking challenges here as these challenges are meant to give you new ideas on your next song and refresh you as a songwriter. Another thing you can do is to write your song on a different genre or try writing a song for someone else that's outside your genre. Doing any of the following will refresh you as a songwriter and can be a fun ride in attempting them as well!

Also listen to as many songs as possible. Some songs out there whether good or bad would give you some inspiration to try our new things or to keep you motivated as a songwriter. Smile

As for the dork table thing, well I would honestly follow my own path than to imitate others. Look on the bright side, you're older which means you're wiser because you've already experienced things that they haven't before. You've already found yourself, you know what you want to do in life, you've learned to like yourself. You created offspring, you're kids.
In contrast, these "cool kids", haven't yet found themselves and thus may apply self-hurting if anything goes wrong with them that keeps them away from the "cool kids'. They don't know what to do life, they need some type of leader to guide them in life. They haven't learned to like themselves, these "cool kids" aren't usually being themselves but copying or following the other "cool kids" around and that's not good. At least as the "dork table" you are original and not following someone else, you are the orderly, not trying to show off or even bothering in showing off, you are the outsider, you're doing cool things that the cool kids aren't doing.

Depends. I definitely see growth from my first year, but I also see how far I have to go. Honestly, I think I'll always be trying to be better, but it's just now, for the most part, I'm not embarrassed to post, which I was at first. If it helps, I've enjoyed the stuff I've listened to on your page.

@Rainchaser Thanks for your ideas!---it really is recording quality rather than song quality that bugs me most.
@katpiercemusic Thanks for your kind words-- I'm definitely not afraid to post my stuff!--and I'm hoping I'll improve.

@metalfoot you're amazing! Keep doing your thing!! Smile

(I'm never happy with anything I write, either, so you're definitely alone in that... :/ )

@metalfoot To get a good recording quality, here are few tips that I gathered would give you that professional sound!

Treat your room with acoustic items that absorb the frequencies that's causing the trouble with the room. That may cost a lot of money but there are cheaper options. If it's only for vocals, you can get like a mini bass trap that you put behind the mic so that way the vocals sound crystal clear after recording them.

Another route is to try to keep the room as quiet as possible during recording.

Also depending on what you use for recording ( assuming you're not using an analog mixer or a tape recorder) don't record too hot, meaning don't record too loud! You should be shooting for -24dbfs - -15dbfs! Lower the volume of the microphone as much as you can to the point that recording leveling isn't passing -15 dbfs. What you're trying to achieve here is dynamic range which it allows your recordings to sound natural without compression. And actually compression destroys dynamic range by attenuating the peaks and making the quiet sounds louder! So yeah achieving lower recording levels can make your recordings sound better and more relaxing. Smile

@metalfoot I've seen people so good I sometimes question why I even play music. All you can do is just do the best you can. Besides, who cares how good they are? I don't care how good they doesn't matter to me. I've got superstars collecting dust over here, and I may not even bother to listen to them for another year or two or three. That said, in this group and FAWM I sometimes listen to people and make comments on some of their songs. If I hear something and I like it I say something and then forget it. That's just the way it is as there are endless good songs. Every song I listen to outside of this group is good. Believe me, the only garbage music that I listen to is my

Recording: It sounds good on my laptop. Usually that means it will sound good on my audio system. If you want a fuller version than you could bring in a collaborator to build an arrangement around your song. Your playing sound pretty steady from what I've heard. The collaborator doesn't write your song but they may be able to make the original version a little better by adding more instruments. Sometimes they call that remix but remix could be chopping your audio up and using samples of it with a totally different version than the original. Further, I know you play more than one instruments so if you had a DAW you could overdub multiple instruments and maybe make better demos. That said, I'm thinking going back to just me and my acoustic guitar for a while. Productions is a different hobby and can more work than the song is worth. Also, I get sick of drums making all kinds of noise in the recordings. No, I'm not saying no to drums. You can't just use a loop that plays the same beat over and over. It takes time to build fills, breaks, and have perfect timing with the song. A DJ remixer cuts sample from the original audio, stretch to tempo, and then make loops for a new version. Sometimes its good and sometimes people wipe it Long story but there once was a guy in a collaboration website who took everybody's song and made it a hip-hop version. Some of it was good but most of it was crap. That was his hobby and he never wrote songs. Yes, a different hobby than writing, playing, and recording music. That's what he liked to do. He died young, unfortunately, and I don't want to say anything else about him. My point though is that making records and making songs is a different hobby. I've studied both for years. I still

I agree with many of these posts. It's a universal feeling. For my own remedy, it means I get busy at something, be it a small thing like a single verse, or mastering a minor passage. Then move on to the next activity. These things add up, and eventually confidence and self talk improve. Your greatest instrument is inside you. It is your job to let it sing.

It's common to all the arts. Seems there's always going to be a gap between the first inspiration and the final result. Then everyone judges the final result against other people's.

We all have 24 hours in a day, and most of those hours are filled with other things. And it needs to be that way, or we've got nothing to make art about. For me, writing lyrics is something I value. I cut out some other things to make room for it. If I've got to wait for someone, I try to have a scrap of paper and pen, so I can use those minutes to write.

I love and hate the forums. It's a great way to figure out what I think, and try to express it. It's also a way to get other people's ideas, opinions, and points of view. Ultimately, it steals time away from writing lyrics, writing music. So I must say goodbye for today, and move on... Smile ¬°Adios!

I made a very similar comment on a social networking site a few months ago, because I feel exactly the same way. I was amazed when some friends - many of them professional musicians with impressive CVs who I never for one moment thought would suffer from self-doubt - said "Yeah, I get that too." Several of them recommended Barry Green's book "The Inner Game Of Music" as a source of tips for overcoming your inner heckler. It's not a brilliant book, but there are some useful insights.

And @metalfoot - the positive thing to take away from this is that, as you're suffering from Imposter Syndrome, you're intelligent enough (and have learned enough) to have moved past the stage where you're so inexperienced you still think you're an absolute genius at this. That condition is known as Dunning-Kruger Syndrome, and explains much of modern life, particularly politics, Hollywood, and, as John Cleese says, "almost the entirety of Fox News."

@Chandra83 You keep doing your thing too!
@jcollins I think I've made my peace with the distinction between songwriting & demoing vs. recording for production and distribution.
@JamKar Thanks!
@iveg Good thoughts and encouragement.
@headfirstonly It is good to know one is not alone in such things.

what an interesting question and responses. I try to just blag it when i feel like an imposter, in a knowing way, so it doesn't matter... you get it.. that thing...

@metalfoot Don't ever call yourself an imposter because you create the work you're own self! You don't steal people's songs and claim that's yours, now that's what I would call an imposter!