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How to Write a Music Review – Even if You’re Not a Music Major

October 26, 2015 - Posted to Writing

Content how to write a music review   even if you re not a music major x essay

How to write a music review

Many claim that it is impossible to write a music review if the reviewer does not have a strong knowledge of music theory and styles. Yet, many students do take music classes without such knowledge and are charged with writing music reviews. So for those of you in this situation, here is the information you need to have.  

Defining “Music Review”

Like any review, you will be writing a piece that summarizes the piece (song, CD, concert), some background on the musicians involved, the venue through which the music was delivered to you, such as a television performance or through an MP3, your analysis of the meaning of the piece(s), and your overall impression and opinion. A music review is, above all, subjective. Just like books and movies, everyone has different tastes, and you can only review music through your personal “eyes.”

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Choosing the Topic

If you have options regarding the music you review, of course you will probably choose a song, album, or a concert that you really like. However, this is usually not the case. Music reviews are usually assigned as a specific period or style is studied. Within that period or style, however, choose something that appeals to you personally or is the least objectionable to you. Let’s suppose for purposes of this post that you must produce a music review of a specific artist or group from the fold music era of the 1960’s.

Steps in the Review Process

Follow these steps and you will have a review essay that meets the expectations of any instructor.

  1. Listen to the music many, many times and take notes as you do. You want to be able to comment on lyrics, overall sound, and any unique elements that you hear/see, such as an interesting solo voice.
  2. Do a little research on the artist or group. Suppose you have decided to write your music review on the group, “Peter, Paul and Mary.” How did the group begin? How many “hit” songs did they have? In what years were they most popular?
  3. Prepare your outline. It doesn’t have to be formal, but you do need to have a solid organizational structure. Here’s a good format:
  1. Introduction
  1. Name of artist, band or group (Peter Paul and Mary)
  2. Name of song, album
  3. Type of Music (Fold Music)
  4. Give a Thesis Statement – Was this group reflective of the times?
  1. Body
  1. Background of the Group
  2. Analysis of the song(s) – meaning (quote some lyrics)
  3. Unique sounds of voices or instruments that you especially liked or dis-liked
  4. A comparison of this song or album with their others.
  5. How was the group a reflection of the times (in this case, the 60’s – protests against Vietnam, civil rights movement)?
  1. Conclusion: Your overall impression and opinion of this music – what do you like or dis-like? Justify your opinion. How did this song(s) impact music if at all?
  1. Write Your Piece, edit and proofread, and prepare you final copy.
Do’s Don’ts
  • Do listen to the song(s) many times before you put anything in writing
  • Don’t express an opinion without some detail that supports it
  • Do cite references when you include background information
  • Don’t try to be a professional critic, commenting on music unless you have the background

Additional Points to Consider

  1. YouTube has videos of even older artists, bands or groups. Get on and view some of the performances. These will give you more perspective into the “personality.”
  2. Read what other critics have written about this particular song, artist(s), or band. You will gain more insight.

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Some Final Thoughts

Remember, you may enter this assignment not knowing how to write a music review. Now that you have read through this post, you have a step-by-step process for crafting a review that is scholarly and comprehensive.

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