Tips for Recording Your Practice Sessions

Oct 18, 2023

There are countless benefits to being a musician. You get to be the star of the show! You get to experience the exhilaration of creating music from nothing with other musicians. And you get to share that music with family, friends, and strangers. But there is one thing that can be very difficult to experience while you’re playing your instrument: you don’t get to listen to yourself.

When you’re performing, you’re too busy hitting the right note, keeping time, and listening to your fellow musicians to really hear what’s coming from your own instrument. But what would that be like, to be a listener at your own show? What if you could focus on each note in your solo as it’s being performed – what would you sound like?

And more importantly, would you like what you hear?

There are many benefits to recording your practice sessions. But before you can reap them, you need to make sure you’re recording yourself effectively.

Ways of Recording Your Practice Sessions

Video Recording

The biggest benefit to using video to record your practices or performances is that it gives you the chance to see what you look like when you play. Is your sitting and posture correct? How’s your physical technique? Are there any glaring bad habits that need to be fixed?

What’s more, if you can see what you look like playing, you can start to imitate what your idols look like when they play.

Spend some time watching videos of your favourite performers and focus on how they move. Every performer has a slightly different technique, but the best use is very efficient movements. Said another way, they don’t waste energy. Compare these performances to your own, and you’ll be able to see the differences in movement very clearly.

Audio Recording

There are also benefits to skipping the visuals and only recording audio. Music is, after all, primarily for our ears, and our eyes can often in in the way of enjoying the experience. If you’re really getting into the music and making all kinds of gestures, you may be tricking yourself into thinking that you’re playing perfectly. The truth, however, may be very different – it could be possible that you’re not making any of the sounds your body tells you you’re making.

This is why it’s so important to sometimes focus on just the audio. In fact, some auditions and competitions are “blind” simply because seeing a person perform can impact the way judges perceive the performance. During an actual performance, you should be making those gestures – they help the audience relate more easily to your music – but using audio recordings can help you get the music down perfectly first.

Now, let’s get to those tips!

Benefits of Recording Your Practices

Tidy Your Style

Dive deeply into your material when you practice. Refine your tone, rhythm, and interpretation. Try to keep other sounds, like shifting your feet, turning sheet music, and loud breaths to a minimum as much as you can.

If you’re used to performing, but not recording yourself, keep in mind that rough edges that go unnoticed during a live performance sound obvious in the studio. Listen to your playback with the discriminating ear of a studio music producer.

Keep Still

When you’re recording, the sound source – your instrument – and the microphone need to be about the same distance apart throughout the recording. You should also try to keep your body as still as you can to limit extra sounds.

Keyboardists usually don’t have too much trouble with this, but for other instruments steady positioning can be tiring. The more you practice proper posture and positioning for your practice recordings, the more comfortable you’ll be in the studio or on stage.

Manage Your Beginnings and Endings

Use longer silent counts to launch each piece you’re practicing, and then bookend them with longer closing silences. Frame every selection in stillness.

While practicing this helps your analysis of your recording with clear beginnings and endings, it’s even more critical practice for actually being in the recording studio. Those clear breaks, full of crisp silence, are especially important when it comes to making beautiful recordings.

Focus on One Mistake at a Time

As you start to watch or listen to your recordings, you’ll begin to notice multiple mistakes and all sorts of things to work on. It will be tempting to start taking notes of all the places where you need to improve and begin to work on all of them at once. But that will leave you spread too thin and will make progress more difficult.

Instead, focus on just one or two areas that need the most work or will have the biggest impact on your overall performance. Work on those areas alone until you’re confident in them, and then move on to the next problem.

Downside of Recording

There is really only one major downside to recording yourself – it can be an extremely time-consuming process. Not only do you have to take the time to set up and record your practice session, but you’ve got to take more time to listen and analyze yourself once it’s done.

Once you’ve got your problem spots identified, you’ve got to go back and re-record the whole thing from the beginning, making the necessary corrections, And then listen again to make sure you’ve actually improved. That said, like all good things that take time and effort, getting into the habit of recording yourself will pay off big in the future.

Give it a shot! Switch on a recording device and play away! Once you realize how many benefits you can reap from recording and analyzing yourself, you’ll know this is the right path to take. It certainly beats practicing bad habits and being blind to where your weaknesses and strengths lie.

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