Friday, April 20, 2007

Recording Practice

For most musicians, recording one's practice time can be an immense eye-opener really. All of those little things you think no one will hear, you hear loud and clear on a recording. The first recording I ever made used my parents' stereo in our den. I remember having to announce each piece before I played it (no editing!) and only doing a few takes of each piece. Of course, I had to use complete takes. The sound of my voice was shocking to my ears as I mispronounced Adagio. My Dad caught my mangling of the word, but I insisted I was correct. Thankfully, that recording is no longer extant.

Over the years, I've made recordings using tape recorders, mini cassette recorders (the 1/2 speed function on these machines provide me with many an hour of mania), mini discs, and my laptop.

The thought of sitting down and committing to history a recording of me playing was horrifying. In the beginning, the first few takes of any piece usually ground to a halt as I got used to the mic pointing at me, much like a bazooka. Frankly, at least the bazooka's effects would be washed away with time. Once a recording is made, there's always a chance it could be released to the public. (Look what happened to Harold Wright, after all. What if those recordings were the only ones we had to tell us of his playing? Oy. )

These days, the first take is usually the best one. It's usually got the vitality the piece needs as well as a lack of little glitches. As I continue to play through takes, those areas where I focus get better, but other areas feel the effects of my tension and frustration. Imprecise articulations, sloppy legato, and slipshod rhythm are usually the gremlins that sneak in. Of course, I'm most famous (amongst my own multiple personalities...) for getting a tone that is more and more grating and unfocused as the day's recordings go on. That is no longer the case.

All of this little background is just a preamble to me saying how pleased with myself I am. Over the last week or so, I've taken my practice time and used it to record a few excerpts. (If you must know: Beethoven 6: I; Brahms 3: II; Scheherezade cadenza; Capriccio Espagnol: I, III; Mendelssohn Scherzo; Prokofiev 5: IV; Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf. On the whole, I'm just tickled pink (to use a phrase blatantly stolen from my Grandmaternal and Maternal Units) with the results. Although I'm just using a small, cheapish microphone and open-source recording software, the quality of the performance actually sounds good. I'm especially happy with some of those excerpts with which I've had so much trouble in the past.

This is all called progress, right?

Now...gotta find some more long-term work, eh?


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