V.com weekend vote: Do you record yourself practicing?

October 31, 2021, 12:37 PM · My teacher, Susanna Klein, recently posted a motivational blog about recording practice sessions. It got me thinking about recording and how much I absolutely hate it. As a woman of a certain age (the reel-to-reel age, that is), I still perceive recording as a novelty.

Susanna Klein
Violinist and Virginia Commonwealth University Violin Professor Susanna Klein.

I was a teenager before I heard my own voice the way others hear it. And it was horrifying. Getting to hear my few performances that were actually recorded back-in-the-day was also rare, as you needed to have a 1,000-pound reel-to-reel player. I came of age as a musician rarely hearing my performances and being quite comfortable with that fact.

Fast forward several decades, people walk into rehearsals with Smartphones and simply hit record. Concerts are now routinely live-streamed. And I personally am intimidated by all of it! I’ll always have the spirit of a live performer. I’m sure that’s true for most of us. I don’t like knowing that my mistakes and intonation issues are cemented for all eternity.

But Susanna is right. Hearing, analyzing, and accepting my playing is vital for improvement. There are tons of wonderful tools available. So I’m personally going to take her advice, starting with her Oreo approach.

How about you? Do you routinely record your practice sessions or are you as audio-phobic as I am? Please pick the option that best represents your situation and then leave a comment with your thoughts.

Replies

October 31, 2021 at 06:36 PM · I never have but I've come close a few times. My teacher recommends video recording for checking posture, etc.

October 31, 2021 at 07:09 PM · I don't record my daily practice, however, all my lessons are recorded. I listen to them the next day, take notes, and listen to parts of the lessons during my practice sessions. I ask my teacher to play the assignments for me, and I use those recordings as a standard to move toward.

October 31, 2021 at 07:13 PM · I don't record my practice sessions in general, but I use routinely use recording for targeted feedback when I'm polishing. i.e. when I've gotten to the point where I need to record to really hear what I sound like. Timing and interpretive stuff is where I find it really useful. Slight rhythmic instability, too much or not enough time taking on a rubato, etc. is much more easily heard when recorded.

October 31, 2021 at 07:33 PM · I think everyone recognizes that self-recording might be a very effective tool. We also have to be realistic about time. Every 5 minutes you spend listening to your self-recording and reflecting/writing about what you see and hear there -- those are minutes you're not playing your violin. So if one has limited "practice" time, then one has to decide how best to use that. And don't forget that there's time involved in messing with the technology (setting up your phone or camera to record yourself, etc.), unless you can keep your gear set up in a dedicated room.

I'm preparing a piece for a mixed recital -- I'd like to record that because it's at the point where small details matter. I'm meeting with the pianist tomorrow so I think I'll bring my camcorder. But I'm also working on the E Major Praeludio -- I don't need a self-recording, at this point, to know where the problems are in that piece, because they're huge gaping potholes. Or, do I?

So I guess I'd be curious to know how often Prof. Klein (whose writings I have long admired) advises her students to self-record, for how long, and at what stage in the process of bringing a piece along? Are there any generalized "best practices" for self-recording that her studio has found particularly effective?

October 31, 2021 at 07:44 PM · I've recorded myself on video quite routinely for a long time, due to self-teaching. I don't often record entire pieces, but mostly record trouble spots so I can both see and hear what I'm doing, or spots that seem open to a variety of interpretations so I can hear what works well and what doesn't. I do occasionally record an entire piece to get a big-picture view and spot any issues that I didn't notice while playing.

October 31, 2021 at 08:27 PM · When I was taking lessons, I routinely recorded them. My teacher would occasionally say something "for the tape" and I would transcribe comments and directions to the music I was working on before practicing the day after the lesson.

October 31, 2021 at 09:07 PM · Oh my! I am just like you. I'm from the (glad)stone age and don't record myself. And yes, every time I hear my voice on a recording I'm sure it's not me! I still have one of those 1000 pound reel-to-reel tape reorders gathering dust in the basement! I actually made my first voice recording on my iPhone about 2 weeks ago!

October 31, 2021 at 10:59 PM · I made a little app for myself that automatically plays back what I play after a period of silence. Would publish it to Google play, but the process is too much of a pain.

October 31, 2021 at 11:14 PM · I wouldn’t say all the time, but I do record myself a lot when practicing, even scales, mostly for intonation. It’s the strangest thing: I swear I’m playing in tune, but when I listen back, I’m horrified. I think what may be happening is that when I’m playing, my imagination is engaged and I am hearing what I am imagining ( or what I want to hear).Listening back then is much more objective. It’s kind of like when you look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Hmm…not bad”. Then you see a picture of yourself and you say “Oh, my God!”. In the mirror we see what we want to see, but the picture, like the recording, is reality.

November 1, 2021 at 01:50 AM · I'm enjoying reading about everyone's approaches to recording! I will have to borrow Warren's "for the tape" as I also have some students who record lessons. Urban - make the app, it sounds cool!

In answer to Paul's question, I tell my students to record "only three times a day"...this is of course tongue and cheek, but I do say that recording one little thing every day makes a world of difference getting used to it and continually refining the ears. I recommend early in the process (while learning the piece, line by line so to speak) over late in the process. Then, if students recording entire pieces there should be nothing too terribly shocking. I don't advocate recording dress rehearsals, but I know some people who have the stomach for it and I admire that! I think everyone has to find their own way, my tips some general ideas for making it less depressing and getting into a routine.

November 1, 2021 at 01:50 AM · I can't vote for any of the preferences> I have recorded occasionally and almost certainly will do so again, but as for trying and getting comfortable recording more often, I have no intentions either way.

November 1, 2021 at 02:55 AM · I never intentionally record myself. When I did commercial recording sessions in L.A. I would avoid listening to the play-back. I would rather trust the director or the engineer. For the few times I did listen to myself it was very discouraging, enough to quit the instrument. Not that I was bad or out of tune or out of time, I don't need a recording to hear that, but because I sounded so Ordinary, I think the French word is "mediocre" , like an orchestra second violin playing safe. I also sing, and I have Never heard myself. I assume the experience would be even worse. I get compliments and applause; that is enough. I have a cousin in LA that does voice-over recordings and impersonations. He tells me that everyone dislikes and does not recognize the recorded sound of their own voice. Is this technology helpful? I am sure it is. Is it necessary? --Not for the excellent soloists before Edison's invention.

November 1, 2021 at 02:13 PM · Susanna -- thanks for that thoughtful reply. I will give it a try.

November 5, 2021 at 01:54 AM · I am definitely trying to get more comfortable recording myself. It gives me really important information so I can maximize the effectiveness of my practice, and also has made a huge difference in shaping my awareness of my own playing.

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