Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Record Yourself

Our ears often lie to us. Problems go undetected, we let ourselves get away with sloppy work, and we don't fully hear our sound while making it.

We need a second set of ears, and recording ourselves practicing can do the trick. Whether you use a recording walkman (many of them still in use and lovingly maintained), a mini-disc recorder, an ipod recording plugin, or a laptop recording directly to hard drive, there are many ways to record your work in the practice room.

Here is one way you can do it:

1. Record yourself in either a section of a work, the entire work, or the entire practice session.

2. Listen to what you recorded.

3. Decide what needs to be fixed and get deeper into your practice session.

Listening to a playback of a practice session can be quite disheartening at times. The way we sound when we're playing often differs from what shows up on a recording, with the benefit of a little distance from the source. We also tend to have a certain objectivity listening to others play that we don't always have in our own playing. Listening to ourselves on recording forces us to listen with that same audio-specific, objective set of ears and can open the door to new insight that can inform our next step in the practice room.

Next: Add to your Skills by Learning Theory


  1. This is a superb technique, I use it all the time. My little Creative MP3 player lets me record stuff, so I just stick it on record, and balance it on the piano stool.

    It also means I can do rough recording of accompaniments for people, without having to set up the microphones.

    It can be depressing, though, as it does show up my overuse of the sustain pedal, and the fact that I keep getting faster!

    This is a brilliant series, Chris, thanks very much for it!

  2. Thanks, mat.

    I'm always scared of hearing recordings of myself. But it's like having another teacher looking over your shoulder, one who tells nothing but the unadorned truth about my playing.

  3. I find I never take as much time in breath marks or phrasing as I think I do - time may stop for me but in reality it's 3 seconds!
    Great suggestion, no matter what the instrument/voice.

  4. Elinor Lawson, my piano instructor at university, introduced me to recording practices. As everyone has said, listening to the playback can be disheartening to say in the least.

    My studio is set up so I can record lessons for those students who wish to do so. Boy can I tell you refers to their lesson CD's and who doesn't!

  5. I also try to record everything. Then, I have a HARD time making myself sit down & listen. I tell my students (and work hard at telling myself) that even though my top three most hated tools as a singer are 1) the mirror, 2) the audio recording, 3) the VIDEO recording the tools that help me most (of things I can struggle with for MONTHS! & fix within a week using the tools) are: 1) the mirror, 2) the audio recording, 3) the video recording. It's HARD but if you try to listen as a "teacher of a student" and not as if you're listening to "your" performance, it becomes crystal clear the areas that need work & you can immediately "up your game."

  6. I agree, Rachel. Having input like a recording holds the mirror up to us as teachers and forces us use our own tools on ourselves. Physician, heal thyself!