Tips on using recordings in the practice room

When I record myself in practice sessions, I find that I have to beware of the tendency to want to record the same thing over and over, trying to fix it once and for all. If you find yourself doing that, it’s important to step away from the microphone and take a break!

What are some things we can check with a recording? Diction, rhythm, intonation, timing, vibrato

What are some things that might not be easily tracked in a recording? Volume, timbre, projection, intonation if you don’t have some instrument playing with you during the recording

When recording practice, especially if you’re working on solving a problem over more than one practice session, consider these tips:

  1. Always use the same recording level and playback volume.
  2. Always stand in the same place and keep the microphone in the same place.
  3. Consider leaving the recorder on for fairly long stretches of time so that you forget it’s there. Being aware of its recording can bring in subtle tensions by itself.
  4. If you do multiple tries of the same passage, doing them a little differently each time, state before each time what your objective is. It is surprising how sometimes the one you thought was “it” wasn’t, and another one that you thought was “meh” was quite good. These informative “it wasn’t what I thought” results can become scrambled if you do ten tries in a row.
  5. If you record a Cappella a lot like I do, tap a reference tone on the keyboard at the beginning and end of each take. Can be very helpful in pinpointing a problem.
  6. More than three attempts of the exact same thing is probably not going to be helpful. Take a break, and come back to it later and see if anything has changed.
  7. You can successfully listen for some functional and musical things, but don’t expect to hear the complete, full spectrum of your personal timbre unless you have heard other people’s voices on your same set-up and know how accurate it is. And even then, so what? Your voice is your voice, and trying to make it sound like something else is a slippery slope!
  8. When you make a recording of yourself practicing, you must become the teacher listening to the recording of the student. Try not to judge with dramatic adjectives. Observe. What is happening? Why? How can it be made better?

Best of luck to you recorders!

If you enjoy this blog, consider grabbing a copy of Sane Singing: A Guide to Vocal Progress, available in print and ebook!

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