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Recording in Your Practice Room

In July, I am giving both an unaccompanied solo recital and taking an audition. It's a lot to undertake all at once (the timing was, unfortunately, outside of my control). In order to perform at my best for both events, I need to practice as efficiently as possible. I have always been a proponent of feedback to enhance performance. In order to improve you need to know what you are doing. As an old professor used to say there are four stages of learning:

  1. Unconsciously incompetent (you are bad & you don't know it)

  2. Consciously incompetent (you are bad & you DO know it)

  3. Consciously competent (you are competent, but you have to think about what you are doing to ensure that it is accurate)

  4. Unconsciously competent (you are competent & and the skill is completely integrated into your performance without conscious thought)

When you are on your own (either in the practice room or if you no longer have a music teacher), one of the best ways I know to receive accurate feedback is to record yourself. I have done this and practiced this for years.

But I have recently refined my practice room to be more conducive to receive accurate, instant feedback. As you can see in the picture to the left I have an audio record (Zoom H4n) set up directly in front of my music stand.

Previously, if I used this high quality device, I would have to eject the SD card and insert into my computer and then listen from there. As a result, I often used a lower quality microphone (such as the one on my phone) to receive this feedback, which isn't as helpful because of the distortion in the recording.

Needing to find a solution that met my need for efficiency and quality, I decided to plug the H4n directly into my audio receiver, so I could play the sound back through my sound system. I use Bowers & Wilkins 685 S2 bookshelf speakers. With this microphone & speaker system, I can record & play back my performance with very little effort. The high quality system, provides an accurate representation of my performance. And the feedback has been invaluable as I continue to prepare for both the audition and solo recital.

While some might consider my speaker set entry level grade, it was still a significant investment. Regardless, both a quality microphone and speaker system are worth the investment for every serious musician. The combination provides such great feedback that enables me to quickly identify where I am "unconsciously incompetent" and enables me move to "unconsciously competent."

If you aren't in a position to make such an investment, I still encourage you to record yourself regularly in your practice. Listen with a careful ear, noting what you want to do differently (rhythm, style, articulation, etc.), troubleshoot the issue, rerecord to see if you have improved, and continue to refine your playing.

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