V.com weekend vote: Do you get more insight from an audio recording, video or live performance?

November 4, 2023, 10:33 PM · Being a musician involves a certain amount of "intake": listening, looking, absorbing.

There are a number of ways that you can "take in" music - you can listen to an audio recording, you can watch a video or you can see a live performance. Which of these do you prefer, and which gives you the most insight?

Music lady

Each way of taking in music offers its own kinds of advantages. Listening to an audio recording really hones in on your sense of sound, without visual distractions. Of course, this depends greatly on whether you are listening while driving in a car, listening while chopping potatoes in the kitchen, or listening in the dark while sitting on the couch. For me, that last option is my absolute favorite way to truly take in music - almost no distractions, including visual!

But you get get a lot of musical insight from visual cues, and you can also see someone's playing technique. Both a live performance and a video can offer this. A live performance gives you the entire atmosphere: an event, with musicians right there and the sound being created for you in the same room. Of course, your perception does depend on where you are sitting, the quality of the hall, and if there are any other distractions around you - for example, that audience member unwrapping a cough drop...

A video can be great, especially when it is filmed from an optimal vantage and recorded with quality sound equipment. You can also easily back it up and go over something many times, if you wish to catch something (and this is also possible with an audio recording, though without any visual element). Of course, it might not be filmed or recorded well, and also you might be watching it on a computer screen, which likely does not offer optimum sound. Still, it's pretty amazing that you can see a performance given by a special artist from last century or any number of performances by today's best players.

So what is your favorite, of these three ways of taking in music? Please participate in the vote, and then share your insights and observations.

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November 5, 2023 at 07:25 AM · Didn't vote. For me, it depends on the situation. I'm likely to understand the most from a first listen if I hear the piece in a live performance. If I'm studying the piece more closely, I'm more likely to want to see a video performance (if I'm looking at technical aspects of my own part) or an audio recording (if I'm studying the score).

November 5, 2023 at 04:08 PM · Same here. I prefer live performances for other reasons. As to learning from a performance it depends on the quality of that performance. If it is properly prepared and planned (musically like choice of tempo, rubato, dynamic, vibrato etc., I am not talking about technique) there is stuff to learn from in it.

I don't think we can learn much technique from watching performances. We have teachers or this forum or youtube videos for technical improvement.

November 5, 2023 at 05:22 PM · Of course the very best way to take in music is to participate!

November 5, 2023 at 06:52 PM · First of all,a big endorsement for Steve's comment. I couldn't make my mind up to vote, as I find insight in all three forms of listening. That said, live performance has primacy. I like to make a ritual of attending performances, and that includes NOT listening to recordings of the same music on the day, so that my hearing and mind are clear and open.

November 6, 2023 at 02:35 AM · Greetings,

In general I agree with Albrecht’s comment about not learning much in terms of pure technique from watching. But there are some possibilities. Simon Fischer pointed out in The Violin Lesson that one might, for example, Look at Oistrakh playing the Shostakovich cadenza where one can objectively match speed, And sound point while using WBs and thereby explore how Oistrakh did that particular thing. It can be incredibly useful to learn more great players in this way.

Warmest Regards,


November 6, 2023 at 02:39 AM · I voted for live performance. Maybe it's because I've bought a ticket, sometimes for a princely sum, so when I'm there I'm more focused than I might be watching a video that I know I can see again if I'm not really paying close attention. Can't see from the mezzanine? That's what field glasses are for!

November 6, 2023 at 02:59 AM · When I mention studying technical aspects of my part on video, I'm referring to things like bowings, bow distribution, and sound point -- that is, things specific to the piece, not general technique. I've compared multiple video performances to decide on bowings on a number of occasions.

November 6, 2023 at 09:19 AM · It is circumstantial. If I am at a live performance after a long day of work, and am seated far away, then I may learn less than from a video.

In general, I learn a lot from live performance, especially in small settings.

Videos are a more recent phenomenon. Getting a high quality video of a performance is still not easy. They cut to shots of the conductor, etc. Resolution can be low. This is to say nothing of the audio quality.

With videos and recordings you can repeat them, which is very useful. However, I find the eureka moments most often in high quality live performances.

November 6, 2023 at 11:13 AM · Steve Jones mentioned participation (of which playing it yourself, which is how I gained the most insight into the slow movement of LvB Op 10 No 3, is a special case. I also didn't really get to appreciate Brahms 4 until I participated as Violin 1).

There is also examining the score - Not normally much good to me personally, I'm not that great a musician, but I did get to realise that the reprise in "Es is Vollbracht" needs to be faster, not slower than when it it is played the first time.

November 8, 2023 at 03:41 AM · For me it depends on what I am after. If 'how to finger this section' then video (though usually the camera pans away just be fore the section!). However, if I am after the musicality, the expression and what the musician is trying to say then a recording by itself is best.

I voted for video because it can of course serve both by turning the screen off ;)

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