The lists below are not complete. The goal here is to get you thinking about who specifically might be willing and able to help you. I have grouped the suggestions into three broad categories:
- Experts are people whom you would approach because they know more about the subject than you do. Even if you are already an experienced musician, if you are exploring a new type of music, a new instrument, or a new activity (such as composing), there will be many people whom you can treat as experts.
- Allies are friends, family and colleagues who are interested in you as a person and will want to support your efforts to learn and grow. They may not be music experts, but they almost certainly have experience listening to and thinking about music. They also may have more time and more willingness than experts to discuss things with you in depth or over an extended period of time.
- As research has shown, crowds have an expertise of their own; comments from many different strangers may give you a good sense of the typical reaction to your musical ideas or creations. Keep in mind, however, the reason that many music students develop stage fright: Unlike allies and music experts, crowds of strangers are not invested in you as a person or in your development as a musician. Some may choose - for reasons that have nothing to do with you - to make negative, hurtful remarks rather than give thoughtful, helpful feedback. Seek comments from crowds only when you believe that you are sharing the best that you are capable of producing right now and are certain that negative comments will not knock you off course as a music learner.
- Private music teachers - Music teachers make their living giving feedback to developing musicians. Although most music teachers want to focus on a particular program of study in their area of expertise, any vocal or instrumental teacher whom you see regularly should be willing to also occasionally give feedback on your personal music projects. Some music teachers are also willing (for a fee, of course) to give just one or a few lessons or consulting and advice sessions to music learners who have their own specific goals.
- School teachers - If you are taking a music course in school, your teacher may be willing to help you with your own music-learning project. If you are in school but not taking a music course, find out what courses are available to you. Some music courses are flexible and project oriented, which may provide opportunities to submit your work for one of the course assignments. If you are not in school, but there is a community college, music academy, or adult education program nearby, you may be able to enroll for a course or two.
- School ensemble directors - School directors tend to be very busy but also very interested in their students' growth as musicians. If you are in a school band, orchestra, or chorus, you may be able to make an appointment with the director to get some feedback on your project.
- Community ensemble directors and members - Another possible source of free help from an expert may be available if you are involved in a volunteer ensemble, such as a church choir, town band, or community orchestra. Other members of the group, including the director, may be highly experienced musicians and may judge that helping you develop as a musician will be good for the whole group.
- Professional and semi-professional musicians - Like professional music teachers, those who earn a living (or just some extra money) performing are often willing to be paid for the occasional lesson/consulting session.
- Peers and band mates - If you are in a band, orchestra, chorus, or music class of any kind, your peers may share musical interests with you and may even have a strong interest in helping you develop as a musician. Some may have more experience in the area that interests you.
- Friends - You may have friends who share your musical interests, who would enjoy an unusual discussion about music, or who are particularly good at giving useful constructive criticism.
- Family members - As with friends, family members might enjoy discussions about your musical interests or goals, or enjoy demonstrations of your projects. They may also be particularly interested in seeing you grow and succeed as a musician.
- Fans - If you are already a performing musician with a following, your fans might enjoy being asked their opinion about your new project.
- Live audiences - If there is a venue where you can present your project to a crowd, consider talking to audience members before or after the performance and asking for specific feedback.
- Online audiences - If you cannot gather a live crowd, you may want to consider publishing your efforts, for example as a video file on the Internet or a blog about your music-learning adventures, and inviting comments.