Mistake #3: Not Recording Yourself

Recording yourself is the best self assessment tool you can possibly get. It surpasses even a gifted teacher. There is no way to ignore the funny squeaks and buzzes when you are listening to yourself on a recording. This is a surefire way to make rapid progress, and lets face it: if you are planning to make a album one day best get the shock of hearing yourself out of the way early.

Even if you don’t have a recording setup yet, a simple exercise is to play a piece and check if you are really listening to what sounds are coming out of your instrument. Is what you think coming out of that box with strings is actually what is coming out? If you haven’t done this before, this simple listening practice will benefit your playing profoundly.

I would recommend that you try to record sometimes audio only and sometimes with a video. I actually think video can be a more encouraging start as errors can sound much more exposed on an audio-only track. Also, a video recording can give you feedback on perhaps the most fundamental aspect of live musical performance, how you are visually communicating to the audience as you play.

Recording Gear and Tips

These days you don’t need thousands of dollars worth of gear and a dedicated studio to get a high enough recording for self assessment purposes. Here are some options to consider:

  • Any modern smartphone gives a good video quality and reasonable audio quality, and is simple and fast to setup. However, unless you have a ledge or desk the right height they can be a bit annoying to try to setup so the video shot is framed correctly. I use a small Joby tripod I got from Amazon with my phone, and I place this small tripod on a desk to record – it works really well. To frame the shot I use the front facing camera so I can see the shot on the iphone screen as I’m recording.
  • For audio, a budget option for an microphone is the Blue Yeti USB microphone. It sounds amazing and has a lot of ‘depth’ to the sound. Being a USB microphone it simply plugs into your computer, and can be used with any recording software. It comes with it’s own stand so you can simply put it on your desk in front of you and away you go. Another handy feature is that it is iOS compatible, so you can use it with several recording apps for iPhone/iPad.
  • Another quality alternative is the Zoom h4n Handy Recorder. This is even a simpler setup it has some pretty good microphones on the unit and it records straight to SD cards without the need for a computer. You can also get recorders by Zoom that can record high quality video and audio simultaneously.
  • My personal setup for recording is my Katana amp connected directly via the headphone out into my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface, and using software like Adobe Audition. For simple recordings though something like Garageband for Mac or Audacity for PC does the same job as Adobe Audition – there is no need to buy pro software unless you are planning to release the next platinum album.

Your Assignment:

Start recording yourself. You don’t need to have anyone else listen to it. One tip is to not listen back on the same day, sometimes you can get a totally different perception on what a recording sounds like if you listen to the recording after a few days. I find my perceptions are much more positive if I leave it for a while.

Ok that’s it for Mistake #3. In the next installment we are going to talk about why guitarists who are making regular time AND establishing clear outcomes STILL aren’t making progress. See you in the next one!

~ Greg from FretDojo



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