I often urge my students to record themselves practicing, and to do so on a consistent basis. Music is a continual growth process. We should persistently seek to improve various aspects of our playing. Hundreds (if not thousands) of thoughts fill our minds during a practice session. The last thing we need is to have to evaluate the aspects of our playing that we are trying to change, while trying to change them… while also trying to play all the notes correctly… and musically… AND have fun. You get the point!
Recording your practice sessions, or portions of your practice, gives you a chance to step outside yourself, and hear what others hear when you play. The recorder doesn’t lie. Sound recordings are great, but video recordings are even more insightful! Not only do you get to hear exactly what happened during your practice, but also having the visual component of recording provides awareness about how you are physically affecting what you hear on the recording.
For practice purposes, the camera on smart phones, computers, tablets, or an “old-fashioned” camcorder are all just as suitable as a traditional recording device. Coach’s Eye is a great recording app for Apple and Android devices. The app was designed as a sports app, but can be used for analyzing music practice and performance as well. Coach’s eye allows for lining two videos up side by side for comparison. The app also has annotation tools that you can use in analyzing your videos. You can read about additional features here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/coachs-eye/id472006138?mt=8.
One way to use recording most efficiently is to start off small. The first few times you record, try only taping 5 minutes of your practice. When you watch the video, make observations and take notes on what you would like to work on based on the recording. Then, brainstorm possible solutions to improve each thing you want to work on. Also take notes on things that you liked, and brainstorm solutions to ensure that you are able to execute those things consistently. This is equally as important as observing things to correct!
And now the reality check: a lot of musicians are mortified when they first hear recordings of their daily practice! That’s because the recording alerts you of things that you may not notice while you are playing. Recording yourself allows you to be your own teacher in between lessons. Think of it this way: imagine that you record 5 minutes of your practice everyday for one year. Each time you record yourself, you go back and fix one thing that you would not have noticed without the recording. Think of how many things you can improve on in between lessons in this manner. Now, let’s imagine you practice everyday for one year without recording yourself… Actually, don’t even waste time there. Just record yourself!
CALL TO ACTION: Record part of your practice session, playing a brief exercise or etude. It should be something you can play fairly well, but that gives you trouble here and there. What things do you notice from the video that could be hindering your progress that you didn’t notice from simply practicing the exercise/etude? How can you fix these things? What did you like in the recording? How can you ensure that you consistently do those things? Now you have the power to accomplish these tasks BEFORE your next lesson or performance!