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Writing an Effective Music Review

When it comes to review writing of any sort it can be hard knowing where exactly to start. There’s more to writing a music review than a simple statement of “I love this” or “I hate this” and with this article I seek to explain a little more about writing an effective music review.

For many years now I have been writing music reviews for my personal website Alt-UK. For Alt-UK I’ve written over 500 music reviews but in total I would say that I’ve written over 1000 over the years now. I love to write, to get my personal opinions across and like to think that I’m improving all the time.

When writing a music review it’s important that you get plenty of personal opinion across. If you’re writing about an album for example then describe in the best way you can the music that is on offer. Some people like to write about every track on an album, others however choose to focus more heavily on a smaller number of tracks; perhaps a few personal favourites and a few weaker tracks also. I personally like to concentrate generally on a couple of tracks in particular that I have really liked or disliked, to convey the mood of the album as a whole in my writing and to write quite generally about the album and the way that the musical piece works as a whole. I like to put across in my writing how strongly I feel the album has been constructed, and for the most part tend to talk about the album as a whole rather than singling out tracks individually. An album is a collection of tracks and the way I see it as that an album review should therefore give a strong overview of the album, a personal opinion of how well the music works and how strongly the music has been presented by the band in all areas (quality of the vocals, guitars, drum beats etc.)

When writing album reviews I always try and pick out at least three or four tracks for closer analysis; tracks that give an accurate overview of the album as a whole. Sometimes albums provide an eclectic variety of tracks and I therefore talk about more tracks in order to put across the mood of the album. With most artists mentioning three or four tracks is generally enough I feel, it gives people a good idea of what tracks to listen to and potentially which ones to avoid. For those that wish to talk about every track that’s perfectly fair enough; music reviewing is entirely down to the individual doing the writing; this is just my way of doing things but really when it comes to reviewing there is no definitive right or wrong way of doing things.

It’s important always to remain fairly objective and to research the artist you are reviewing beforehand. This may not be the first album released by the artist, it could then be appropriate to refer back to earlier work in order to draw comparisons. Don’t draw too heavily on earlier work and always make sure the album you are reviewing is kept to be the main focus, do not be afraid of saying you prefer an earlier album for whatever reason however or in fact of stating how much an artist has improved compared with earlier recordings. Lyrics can often be extremely important in music, personal life events can impact hugely upon the lyrics that are written and sometimes it can be worth mentioning things you feel may have moulded the lyrics of particular tracks. Don’t make the review too much of a life story about the artist, definitely do not be afraid of suggesting where lyrical content inspiration may have come though.

When writing it’s important to have fun and enjoy yourself, writing about your favourite artists and albums is therefore a strong starting point and a great place to begin as in talking about your favourites you’ll surely have plenty to say. I started off by writing reviews purely for Amazon, before long however I wanted to post my writing at a place I could truly call my own and that’s when I began my music blog. Since then I’ve never looked back; I write daily and do in fact now write for a living. I love writing and album reviews have always been my main area of interest. Get plenty of personal opinion in your reviews, include some facts but don’t overdo it; most of your writing should be opinion and facts should always be kept to a bare minimum. Basic writing rules apply here; don’t use sentence structures that are overly long and use spelling and grammar checkers to make your writing as accurate as possible.

I write a lot of music reviews and hope that some of the things I have said here have been useful. Read around, get an idea of how others write their music reviews, and ultimately just write in a way that feels right to you and in a manner in which you feel most comfortable. If you’re writing for yourself then there are really no restrictions, have fun with it and let your words flow. When writing for magazines there are always certain rules to follow, write in the style expected but always retain your personality. Writing can sometimes be quite lifeless, inject energy into your style and really bring your words to life on the page. There’s nothing worse than reading a technically well written but completely flat piece of writing, make your words interesting to read and the reader will always crave more. If the reader has interest in what you’ve written then the likelihood is that they will seek out further writing of yours in future, there’s nothing more satisfying than building up a readership and it’s always warming to feel that others are enjoying your work. Although it’s nice when others like what you write, never write merely to impress others and just write with a goal of pleasing yourself.

Enjoy your writing and always have fun with the words that you write. Writing music reviews can be incredibly fun and when it ceases to be enjoyable then you know that it’s time to take a break from writing them. I write about a large variety of different things, throughout the year’s music has always remained my favourite thing to write about however and music has always been something I have been hugely passionate about. Music review writing can be greatly pleasurable, if you’ve got a passion for music then my best advice is to get writing as soon as possible and show the world of music journalism exactly what its been missing.

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12 Responses to “Writing an Effective Music Review”
  • louie jerome
    May 9th, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Excellent review,keep at it!

  • Patz
    May 11th, 2008 at 4:23 am

    I agree, write about things you like and it’s never a chore. Keep it up.

  • Liane Schmidt
    May 12th, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Interesting, great work.

    Best wishes.


    -Liane Schmidt.

  • Nelson Doyle
    May 15th, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Excellent advice. This can really work for any type of review. Of course, it’s just as important to find your own voice and add a bit of your own personality throughout the words, so to make the review still interesting, even if what you are reviewing is not, so much.

    God Bless,

    Nelson Doyle

  • Vinith
    July 16th, 2008 at 4:30 am

    Nice article. I am very much interested in writing music reviews. I have been writing reviews in my blog.

    The only difficulty i’m facing when writing a review is Vocabulary. I want to know various words which are more appropriate to music. I’m bored with words like “appealing”, cathy rhythm”, “good orchestration”, “interlude”, “mesmerizing” etc. These words make my review monotonous. Would like to know more words!!! Can you suggest me some websites/books where i can learn words to describe music.

  • Rich Leigh
    July 16th, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Hi Vinith, what I’d personally recommend is that you read through others music reviews (be it through looking at reviews in magazines, or reviews online) and just see what you like about them. Perhaps note down on a pad what words you feel are most effective in other peoples reviews, what sentences you feel work for them, and then just style your own writing around what you like about others whilst obviously retaining your own personal style. When I started out writing music reviews my reviews were really basic and I found that I too was repeating a lot of words and therefore my reviews were monotonous. Over time the music review writing becomes more fluid and natural, but only through reading others and taking hints/tips from their writing styles. Through reading others you really do pick up a lot and it definitely helps to improve upon your own personal review writing style.

  • Vinith
    July 17th, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Hi Rich,

    Thanks a ton for your swift response. I totally agree with your words. In fact, I started writing reviews only after seeing others’ reviews. I got inspired by two people’s review which made me start my own blog. I have been learing a lot of words by reading review on various sites/magazines. Except one or two, rest are monotonous like mine. I am trying to learn more words. I guess the problem with me is, I’m confined to Tamil (a language in India) albums. I need to read music review of English albums also. I dont listen to much of English songs. I need to kick start reading English Album reviews!

    Thank you once again for your swift reviews.

    The above is my blog. Have look at it. I would sincerely appreciate you if you can mail me your feedback/suggestions/comments on my reviews.

    Thank you,

  • jelisa
    September 26th, 2008 at 8:58 am

    i really truey believe that u r blessed

  • fedhz
    January 12th, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Wow! you write well. I tried writing an OST of one of my favorite movie, but I ended up retelling the story of the movie. I incorporated the songs to the scenes in the movie where they were played..hmm…

  • Maximillian Menhart
    March 9th, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Hey, this was really helpful. I’ve just started writing a couple of album reviews, and it’s great to have a little bit of insight.

    Good article.

  • ClarkW
    July 6th, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Thanks for this article, it’s definitely given me a bit more thought about how I should write an album review!

  • Annie
    November 15th, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Admittedly, I only skimmed through this, but as the Managing Editor for my high school’s paper, it’s fantastic to give to my staff writers to write reviews; this article says everything I want to tell them, but don’t know how, from lack of expertise and experience. This article should be used in all journalism classes!

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