Friday, March 5, 2010

Is This Thing On? Simple Rehearsal Recording Tips

By Mark T. Burke

Once you have a great digital recorder in hand, then what? First let's review the benefits of one of these little devices.  Just for clarity, I'm talking about REAL digital recorders, not those little voice recorders you can get at a local office supply store.  A great example is the Zoom H2 pictured here. 


Benefits:
  • Easy to setup
    • They are light, easy to carry and put to use.  The H2 for example comes with it's own little tripod for setting on a table or you can use the included microphone stand adapter and pop it into any mic stand.  No need for external mics for simple recordings, just make use of the on board mics. 
  • Low cost of ownership
    • These devices use non-consumable media (ie - no tapes).  No more racks and racks of stored media.  As I mentioned above, most recordings turn out well using the internal mics so there's no need to invest in external mics. 
  • Sound quality
    • These devices provide amazing sound quality.  Instruments actually sound like instruments when recorded with these devices...go figure.  
  • Flexible recording options
    • The H2 for example can record in 2 track or 4 track, from the front of the device, or from both the front and back.  Other options include several sound file formats to meet your needs. 
  • Built in features
    • The H2 includes a metronome and a tuner for those that want an all in one device. 
  • Connectivity to other devices
    • I use the H2 as PC mic as well for applications such as SKPE and online meeting software.
Now that you understand the benefits, here are my tips.

Turn It On and Leave It On 

When practicing, record the entire session.  Listening to your entire session provides you with a chance to learn more about your practice or rehearsal pacing. As an individual, you can discover how efficiently you use your time. You may find that you spend a ton of time looking for the right music and flipping through pages or you may find you spend a lot of time warming up and little time working on drills and music.  

If you're a band director, using the recorder for rehearsals allows you to hear what you say in between the music.  You'll discover if you are consistent in your messaging and advice as well (maybe you pick on the flutes for articulation but say nothing to the trumpets on the same subject).  You can also learn more about your pacing.  Are you spending most of the rehearsal warming up and tuning and little time working on phrasing and making music?

Don't Hog The Recording

This only applies if you record a group.  After you've recorded the session, make a copy in some way (either burn it to a CD or post an MP3 file on your site or blog).  I find the CD's work great for longer sessions and are easy to send out to others.  An MP3 of a several hour rehearsal can be pretty big :-)  I know I said these devices don't use consumable media.  At some point they may, but it is an option here, not a given.  

Your task is to share the recording and let others make observations about the rehearsal.  Try not to say anything to others first, just send the recording and ask others to listen.  When the group gets back together, ask others what they observed, heard or felt about the recording.

If you or the group like something on the recording, share it with others.  Posting sections of songs on your blog or website is a great way to get others interested in your work or the work of your group. Remember to consider copyright laws though, that is always your responsibility.  Nothing advertises a musical group better than the music itself.

Spread the Love

Volunteer to record others once in awhile.  Taking your little device on the road can be a great way to improve your own musicianship.  Let's say you have a friend who doesn't have one of this little devices.  Volunteer to bring the recorder and record a session of that person practicing or playing.  As you use the device with another person, you'll be amazed at how well you listen (probably better than when you are practicing yourself).  Of course, don't judge the other person, just record and give them any advice they ask for.  But the key is, give them the recording.  As you make the recording for them (again putting it on CD or creating a sound file), listen and think about the music they made.  You'll no doubt hear great things that you could benefit from.

Making recordings of others also gives you a chance to improve your recording and processing skills and IT'S FUN!  Since you're volunteering, try different placements of the device during the rehearsal.  Make sure the person or group knows you want to get something out of this session as well.  If they are looking for a professional recording session, make sure you tell them that may not be the intent.  The session gives you a chance to experiment with file types and file processing as well.  Over time, those skills build into a really nice skill set that can benefit you, your group or even others IF they do call on you for a more professional recording.

Look around and you'll see the world has become a media driven.  We consume all type of media as a way of learning and growing.  Informal music recordings are now easier to create than ever with these little devices.  The benefits are many with just a little bit of technique and thought toward how to integrate them into your musical routines.

How do you use your digital recorder?  

No comments:

Post a Comment