Constructive vs. Destructive Feedback

Published by on September 13th, 2019 in music blog

This article is about a topic which is also covered in my book, Coaching for Musicians:

coaching for musicians


Feedback and critique are expected in an artist’s life, and you will encounter them throughout your career, including every time you perform in front of an audience or a jury. You will be criticized and you’ll receive both constructive and destructive feedback.

You will have to be confident in yourself and in your value before you expect others to be. Sometimes this feedback will help you learn something important and you’ll gain more confidence and courage from it. Other times, it may pull you backward, making you question your value and abilities as a musician. In what follows, you’ll see how to recognize and differentiate between the two types of feedback, and you’ll learn how to overcome destructive feedback.

Constructive Feedback

The truth is that you will meet a few people capable of offering honest, constructive feedback that will help you grow and develop. By nature, artists are sensitive beings who have the tendency to take critique and feedback personally.

Not everyone who offers feedback does it tactfully or takes into account the artist’s feelings, so pay attention to how you receive their opinions. If you are unsure whether the feedback is constructive, here are some questions to ask yourself that might be useful:

  • Did the person providing feedback discuss concrete examples from your performance?
  • What was your state of mind while the feedback was being offered?
  • Do you feel confident, energetic, and motivated to make the suggested changes?

If your answers are affirmative, this is probably constructive feedback.

In his book Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success, author Mark McGuinness offers some more characteristics of helpful feedback.

They have perspective

The person offering feedback has a clear point of view and doesn’t leave a know-it-all impression.

They are specific and offer examples

The feedback is clear, and you understand exactly what it applies to; the criteria and the examples provided also are specific.

It is relevant

The person’s feedback is based on the most relevant aspects of your work.

It is nuanced

Your performance is evaluated in various degrees.

It is respectful

The feedback does not address you as a person and doesn’t leave the impression that you are not a good performer. It pertains to your performance and to what you can do to improve in the future.

In conclusion, such feedback is beneficial and it will leave you feeling confident and motivated to make the necessary changes. It’s important to look for those people who can offer you constructive feedback and let yourself be inspired by their ideas and suggestions.

Does someone come to mind who has given you or could give you constructive feedback?


Destructive Feedback

Unfortunately, destructive or unconstructive feedback comes more frequently than constructive feedback—sometimes even when we haven’t asked for it. Sometimes, you may already realize something in your performance wasn’t right. Or you might feel your performance was much better than the perception of the one offering feedback, or that your abilities and performance are not appreciated by them.

You will have to learn to have confidence in yourself and in your capacity to judge whether the opinion comes from a competent person and if their feedback is justified through examples from your performance.

If you notice that the feedback you receive is not nuanced, does not have perspective, or is based on irrelevant aspects or criteria from your performance, then the feedback is destructive or unconstructive, and the best you can do is leave it aside.

Maybe you have received destructive feedback before, but you didn’t know how to face it. This type of feedback is harmful and can hold you back. Destructive feedback can affect your spirit, as well as your opinion of yourself as a musician. You could be demoralized, extremely critical of yourself, and lacking the motivation to make necessary changes.

I offer suggestions below for how to easily overcome destructive feedback in the future.


How to Easily Overcome Destructive Feedback


  • Make a recording with your entire program (audio or video) and analyze it objectively. You will certainly notice the positive aspects, along with those that need improvement.
  • Offer yourself time to think, and don’t unconditionally accept 100 percent of the feedback you receive, especially immediately after the performance when you’re still emotionally involved.
  • Notice if the feedback comes from a competent person or someone who is a specialist in the field. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by unprofessional or irrelevant opinions.
  • When the feedback is vague and lacking examples, ask questions that can help you understand the person’s point of view.
  • Ask the opinion of other persons who were in the jury or audience. They might be your teacher or colleagues. Other opinions are important to hear.


When you ask or receive feedback, make sure the person offering it is able to give you the solutions you need.


Lidia Marina Sperling, Coach, Author and Professional Flutist


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