V.com weekend vote: Do you enjoy listening to recordings of yourself?

October 1, 2022, 9:00 PM · A few weeks ago, V.com member and teacher Erik Williams initiated this discussion thread, "Is it Possible to Enjoy Recordings of Yourself?" He said that "even if I perfect something, my sound is far too 'familiar' to enjoy."

listen to a recording of yourself

For me, I feel like I've had an entire journey with this idea of "listening to yourself." This might seem pretty novel in the 21st century world of ubiquitous cell phone recordings, but for me, the first time I heard my own voice was when I got a cassette recorder for Christmas as a child of about 11 years old. One of the first things I did was to talk into it, then play that back. What a surprise that was! I could not believe that my voice sounded like that - it sounded so different than I expected, based on hearing it in my own head!

It didn't take long for me to start trying to record my violin and play duets with "myself." I didn't listen very critically to these recordings because they were so utilitarian. They had to be in-tune and in time, but I wasn't exactly listening for subtle musicality.

The first time I made a "real" recording of myself was for college auditions - and back in the day, you really needed to go to a studio for that. So quite suddenly I cared a LOT how that sounded!

In more recent years, I'm listening to both my voice and my playing when I make videos. I've mostly gotten over myself, but occasionally I'll obsess over a bad note, some way I said something, or the expression on my own face. It's hard not to be self-conscious when watching or listening to one's self!

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you enjoy listening to a recording of your own playing? Do you find that you are too busy listening for mistakes or problems, or are you able to relax and enjoy your accomplishment? Please participate in the vote, then share your thoughts in the comments.

A big thanks to Jim Hastings for the idea for this week's vote. If you have an idea for the Weekend Vote, please e-mail me. I welcome your ideas!

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Replies

October 2, 2022 at 02:57 AM · I voted "Usually.” I always have fun doing it, even though I don't enjoy every note during playback. There's always something I can improve. That's part of the fun - always something further to reach for.

My third teacher told me: "Never be satisfied. Always be very critical of yourself." I'm now and then gratified when I can hear that I've improved a passage or solved a problem. But satisfied? Never.

I had six violin teachers from the time I was a kid till I finished school. Today, I often wish I could fit about 6 months of brush-up training with a teacher into my schedule and budget, but that isn’t an option right now. Still, when I started doing digital audio recordings in September 2018, I soon found, even with the poor audio quality from my previous Android phone's onboard microphone, that self-recording was among the next-best things to having a teacher in person.

A few self-criticisms after playback: 1) Articulate more and phrase more - don't just play the notes. 2) Ease up on the vibrato for the last note. 3) Don't give the up-bow a shove toward the end - it creates an unwanted accent. 4) Watch your tendency to drift sharp on the high notes.

Now I have a newer Android and a good external USB mic, I'm sorting through the late summer 2022 tracks I made with this setup. From these tracks, I've started replacing the previous crude Android takes on my YouTube channel. Whatever the recording equipment, it helps to let any audio track get cold overnight - and then listen again. A track that I thought was a big hit yesterday might not sound so great to me today. Or one that I thought fell far short will actually sound better to me after a day goes by.

No perfection - only improvement or regression. We're human, and it helps not to take ourselves too seriously. On that subject, check out this vintage parody, "No One's Perfect," that the late Allan Sherman offered back in the 20th century - run time 3:34:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWpC1Cv2rFE

October 2, 2022 at 03:29 AM · I voted "rarely". To be precise: I record rarely but if I do record II listen 100% of the time.

October 2, 2022 at 05:18 AM · Recording myself does give me the opportunity to enjoy myself, but the enjoyment is rarely musical. It opens up room for improvement that had previously eluded me, and that is enjoyable - and confronting. Then, laughing at my own seriousness, I address the most glaring error, and I await the discoveries of the next recording. The process is enjoyable, but the recordings themselves not so much.

October 2, 2022 at 01:13 PM · Self-recording is such a difficult process. What has allowed me (and my students) to get more habitual are these mantras:

1( Hamburger Recording: Always do it 2x! Or 3x Record, listen, record. Make progress visible.

2) Record bits at a time in the acquisition stage, not entire pieces in the pre-performance mode

3) Record yourself every day, at least one phrase - build a habit.

4) Variety - change what you record often - a scale, a passage, video, audio…

5) Invest in a speaker/headphones and or microphone if you can. Occasional “better sound” recording

6)Recording for nerves is different than recording for “fastest ears”. Do both, but be mindful of which one you are aiming for.

I might also suggest Clipza Video Capture app (IOS), which I created with a bass player/coder friend. With camera open, you can swipe left to replay the last 30 seconds with one gesture, or tap to save for later. Can also be set to longer intervals. Intended to get rid of the psychological hurdle :)

October 3, 2022 at 02:36 AM · Susanna, what wonderful advice!

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