There are perks to being a musician: you get to experience the exhilaration of creating music, and you get to share your talent with your family, friends, and complete strangers in the audience. But there’s one person who usually doesn’t get to hear the progress you’re making firsthand: you. As a musician, you’re too busy worrying about staying on beat and in key to truly hear the sound that’s coming from your own instrument. That’s why we, at Music & Arts, think every musician should try tracking their progress by recording themselves. Here’s why and how.
You Sound Different Than You Think
Have you ever heard your voice on a voicemail or video and thought “wait, I sound like that!?” You’ll find the same rings true for the music you create. As a performer, the sound you hear from behind your instrument isn’t the same sound that’s hitting an audience member’s ears. From your perspective on stage you might be absolutely killing it, but the person in the back row of the auditorium could be experiencing something completely different. This is the revealing part of recording yourself as a musician, and lining up your perception of sound with what’s actually coming out of your instrument is one of the best ways to take your playing to the next level.
It Establishes a Benchmark
Runners use timers to track their performance, and weight lifters use pounds or kilograms to monitor their progress. But if you don’t record yourself, how can you, as a musician, establish a benchmark? You can’t improve if you don’t know what needs improving, and you won’t know what needs improving until you take a step back and listen to yourself practice/perform objectively. And the best way to do this, as you’ve probably already guessed, is by recording yourself. Is your timing off? Are you bending your notes slightly out of tune? Does your embouchure need some work? You won’t know any of this until you listen to yourself perform.
It Makes You Better…Faster
Start recording your practice sessions, listen to the recordings with a critical ear, and see how fast you improve. (To make this experiment extra fun, don’t tell your music teacher you’re doing this and see how quickly he or she notices the difference!) When listening to your new recordings, try to identify the area that needs the most work, and focus on that problem. Once that’s solved, move onto the next. Once you do this for a while, finding issues to focus on will be more and more difficult, which will transform you into a more critical musician.
Try Recording with Video, Too
Of course recording audio is more important, but something can be said for recording with video, too. As a performer, it’s important to see what you look like while playing your instrument. If you sit, are you sitting correctly? If you stand, how is your posture? What about your physical technique? Are there any bad habits (gum chewing, rolling your eyes, etc.) that you should be working on before your big performance? You should be able to answer all of these questions (and more!) if you opt to record yourself using both audio and video. In addition to looking for bad habits, if you know what you look like when you play you can begin to try to imitate the professional musicians who inspired you to pick up an instrument in the first place.
How to Record Yourself: Some Tips
Obviously, if you have a home recording studio with tons of recording equipment that would be the best place to record. Most aren’t so lucky, but there are still options for recording your practice:
- Portable audio recorder
- Recording gear
While the quality won’t be studio level, recording with your phone makes sense for a few different reasons: phone are accessible, you can easily record video and audio, and there’s a ton of storage space on most phones. To help with recording, consider getting a tripod for your phone.
At the end of the day, recording yourself and honestly listening and critiquing yourself is one of the best ways to progress as a musician. Only you can make an effective decision about where you stand and how much you’ve improved, and in order to do so you must measure your progress. While we’re on the subject of progress, familiarize yourself with Five Harmful Beliefs That Hold Musicians Back.