We all know it: Musicians who record themselves in practice have the fastest ears. Recording allows us to become our own real-time coach. Smartphones and tablets have made it easy, in theory at least. There’s only one problem: we all hate it. The hurdle is psychological. We simply can’t stomach it. Being faced with our limitations (despite our best efforts) can be shocking and scary. Recording doesn’t just humble us, it makes us supremely vulnerable. If we dive into recording without a system, it can drain us of our empowerment, our willpower, and our optimism.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. We can develop a process that does just the opposite, one that promotes confidence and builds fearlessness (or rather, feel the fear and do it anyway). Apps on phones and tablets can help. Done right, our progress can, in fact, be empowering.
Here are my six tips for empowered recording and some app recommendation to help you build daring:
1. Oreo Recordings
Every time you record a phrase, do it at least twice. Record, listen back, record again - like an Oreo cookie, sandwich the listening in the middle.. The second version will always be better than the first, and over time you will believe in the payoff of recording - and yourself. If you only record once, then fix a few things and move on, you will hear only your first (a.k.a worst) takes, and you will dread recording. Nothing is more motivating than a win, and Oreo recordings allow you to hear your own progress.
2. Record Little Bits
Record yourself in small chunks, or phrases, as you are first learning a piece. Don’t wait until you are ready for a complete run through - at that stage too many flaws have been embedded and you are sure to feel the sting of disappointment. The best time to record yourself is during the "acquisition stage," when you are learning a piece.
Recording yourself early, in little bits, promotes learning correctly. Also, you are doing it at a non-threatening time in the learning cycle, when you still have lots of time. Early practice is highly analytical, where recording can be the most effective. As we move towards a performance date we need to build confidence and get into our intuitive phase.
Record different aspects of your practice and mix video and audio recording. Variety is the spice of life, and it will help you stay light in your work. One day, record a bit of technique, another day part of a piece.
Video recording allows you to see what is happening. Audio recording allows you to perceive informative wave forms (I thought I was making a crescendo?) and lets you remove the visual aspect from the listening activity. Both are good in different ways, and variety yields more interesting results. I find that predictability is the enemy of discovery.
4. Microphones & Speakers
Recording on your phone is just fine, but let’s face it, phones do not capture the beauty of your sound. In order to keep your mojo, make sure - at least every once in a while - to record yourself on better equipment. Listen back through speakers or headphones.
5. Record Yourself Every Day That You Practice
Sigh, I know. But think of all the things we do every day even though we often would rather not: answering emails, cleaning, maybe even practicing itself. Skipping days makes habit-building so much harder. Consistency, not volume, is the key. You can pick one eight bar phrase and be done with your "daily recording obligation." Exercising your recording muscles daily and they will strengthen.
6. Know When to Stop
Recording right before a concert can send some of us into a psychological tailspin. You have to find what’s right for you, but I often stop recording about a week before the concert or audition. Find out what is right for you through trial and error. Protect your pre-performance zone by getting out of the analytical mode well ahead of the performance.
Recommendations for Apps
Here are some app recommendations, if you decide to take the plunge into regular recording and want to level up from the standard camera and voice memo apps. Click on the name for the app link on IOS, and where possible I've also provided the link for Android:
So, record - if you dare!
You might also like:
* * *
We wanted you to read this article before we make our newsletter pitch, unlike so many other websites. If you appreciate that — and our efforts to promote excellence in string playing, teaching, performance and community — please click here to sign up for our free, bi-weekly email newsletter. And if you've already signed up, please invite your friends! Thank you.Tweet
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.