The #1 way to become a better musician: record yourself

July 20, 2011, 12:05 PM ·

 I’ll tell you the easiest thing you can do to improve your musicianship.

The single best thing you can do to improve as a musician is to listen back to recordings of yourself practicing or performing.

The key is listening frequently, and critically, in order to shorten the gap between what you think you sound like, and what you sound like in reality. In other words, when we play there are two things happening:
1)The sound our playing makes
2) What we perceive our playing sounds like.

John Blake Jr., Bill Contreras, Christian Howes, Camille Howes
Four Generations of Jazz Violinists!! (John Blake Jr., Billy Contreras, Chris and Camille Howes)

During the moment you’re playing, you may not have a clue what you actually sound like. When you listen back, you perceive something closer to reality, and the more you listen back, the more you shrink that gap in the moments when you’re playing. The goal is to be able to hear what we really sound like while we’re playing.

This is important: When we hear things we don’t like in our recordings, we can make a mental note to refrain from those bad habits in later performances. For example, as long as I remember, I can restrain myself from playing that same tired lick, habitually sliding into notes, playing long run-ons, etc… as long as I focus/remember to inhibit these bad habits and keep checking updated recordings, I’ll get better.

Consider this analogy: The best way to live healthier is to STOP putting bad things in your body. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, buy fancy foods or learn a new skill set. Identify and stop bad habits and you’ll be twice the musician. Quit doing stupid stuff when you play and you’ll sound twice as good. The trick is in being aware of those bad habits.

An awesome way to expedite this process is by using looping technology. I like pedals, such as the digitech jamman or the boss RC50,( I got mine from,) Cellist, Adam Spiers discovered a FREE way to do this and I’ll let you in on his secret.

First, here’s a loop-pedal video featuring a tune I named “Pat From Memory” in honor of guitarist, Pat Metheny.



I edited the video to skip over the loop setup, but the lop was made in three parts
1)strumming pattern
2) bass line
3) long notes/ pads..

You can LIKE or SHARE this blog, email me that you did it, and I’ll send you the music in the next week.

Want to know about that FREE looping software?

Adam Spiers is an I.T. professional from the U.K. who recently quit his job in order to pursue jazz cello full time.
He’s been an active student in the cool online program I mentioned before, and he also takes regular private lessons with me via skype.

He’s very thorough and takes you step by step in this awesome blog about how to use Audacity for free instead of spending money and lugging around fragile loop pedals:

if you’re seeing this before 10 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday July 21, you’re in luck!! I’m doing a rare public webinar on ustream. here’s how to join in on the ustream at 10 p.m. Eastern Thursday July 21:
Go to and sign up for a free account.
Use the search bar to search for my channel (Christian Howes Creative Strings) and join in on the stream. I’ll answer all questions and take on all challengers!




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