“Many musicians perform freely in front of people but become self-conscious when recording.”
–The Musician’s Way, p. 222
For countless aspiring musicians, recording sessions are trying affairs.
All too often, when the recording gear switches on, artistic and technical fine points that they thought were under their control slip from their grasp.
The following eight practice tips, adapted from Chapter 11 of The Musician’s Way, help performers excel in the studio.
1. Spruce Up Your Style
Practice your material deeply, refining your tone, rhythm, and interpretation. Also mitigate extraneous sounds such as shifting feet and loud breaths.
If you’re accustomed to performing live, bear in mind that rough edges that go unnoticed in live shows will sound crass in the studio. So in your practice room, record yourself, and then listen back with the discriminating ears of a producer.
2. Maintain a Stable Position
When you record, the sound source and the microphones need to be in a steady relationship. Added to that, excessive movements generate noise.
Keyboardists usually aren’t troubled by this issue, but, for many others, steady positioning can be tiring. Acclimate in practice to any positioning constraints, and you’ll be more at home in the studio.
3. Manage Your Beginnings and Endings
Use longer silent counts to launch each piece, and then extend your closing silences. Frame every selection in stillness.
4. Solidify Tempos
Jot down metronome settings in practice and be a stickler for consistency of tempo. For editing purposes, all takes of a piece should be at identical tempos.
5. Plan the Length of Takes
If you’re dividing pieces into sections and recording those sections individually, practice starting and ending each chunk.
6. Polish Intonation
Regularly refer to an electronic tuner, keyboard, or other pitch source to guarantee that your intonation is reliable.
That is, announce titles and take numbers (“Prelude, first section, take one”), create ample silence, maintain a stable position, and play or sing through errors. In general, execute complete takes, even when things get bumpy midway.
8. Ensure Quality
You or your engineer can edit your takes together to eliminate glitches, but you can’t turn a mediocre performance into a superior one. Only schedule a recording session, therefore, after your performance level reaches the benchmark of excellence.
Recommended gear for self-recording in practice:
- Zoom H4N PRO. Outstanding sound quality & features. A musician favorite!
- Zoom H2n. An excellent option for self-study recording.
- Zoom H6. Extraordinary six-track recorder with 24 bit, 96K capability.
- Tascam DR-22WL. A less-expensive but good-quality choice.
For more about preparing for recording sessions as well as concerts, auditions, competitions, see Part II of The Musician’s Way.