Who Actually Records Themselves?

February 19, 2019, 4:19 AM · Many of my students don't record themselves because they're afraid of hearing what they actually sound like. And yet, it's by far one of the best ways of improving one's playing, especially with the easy access to immediate recording that modern technology provides.

Anyways, since I was perplexed by this, I was wondering how many other people also refuse to records themselves - despite the obvious benefits - because they are afraid of getting discouraged?

Replies (53)

February 19, 2019, 4:23 AM · I record myself. I can't always afford my lessons and so it's my most consistent and reliable source of feedback.

I can use it to fix most things, and then when I get to my lessons my teacher will catch the rest and set me straight if I've strayed. Rinse repeat.

Would I ever *post* my recordings? Now that's a different question.

February 19, 2019, 4:54 AM · I tried it before and was absolutely disgusted by my own playing. I recognize the benefit of recording yourself, but I don't do it myself so I will continue to play this instrument. I would be very grateful if anyone who has this problem can share how do they overcome it.

February 19, 2019, 4:54 AM · I routinely record myself. In general, I sound like I expect to sound. Recording helps me catch things that i don't hear in real time, but the issues themselves generally don't surprise me per se.
February 19, 2019, 5:07 AM · I have been lately with the viola, as I am teaching myself on the viola (have grown up playing violin). I find recording my self on the viola, I can hear where the intonation needs work, or the bow strokes are inconsistent. That way I can focus my practise on the areas that really need the work.
February 19, 2019, 5:07 AM · I routinely record myself. I've gone without lessons for most of the time I've played and currently have difficulty scheduling them in my area (may have to resort to Skype), so this has been my main source of feedback for quite a while.
Edited: February 19, 2019, 6:02 AM · What Sivrit said.
I recorded myself when I thought I was starting to sound decent (for a beginner) and was so depressed I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it since. I practice, trying to picture what the playback would sound like, as my imaginary critic.
I’m trying to think up a system where I could hear myself in real time so I could correct myself while playing, . I don’t know if that would be less scary . I suppose I have to adjust my mental attitude to bring myself to record and listen to it, assuming it’s going to sound awful, but that’s To be expected and go from there.
I have admiration ( and sometimes morbid fascination ) for the beginners that post their progress on U-tube, but I find them mostly encouraging.
February 19, 2019, 5:58 AM · I have recorded myself, but found that before I had worked on tone-production, it sounded the same on the recording as it did to my ear.
Since I have been working on tone-production exercises, I can hear things that don't necessarily sound good to me, but I know they would sound better to an audience, so I'll be recording myself again soon. My teacher refuses to record herself, but she's been a pro for 30 years, so there's no big need.
Edited: February 19, 2019, 6:58 AM · I record myself. I'm no longer a student with a teacher, and this routine of self-recording is, to me, the next-best thing, for now, to having a teacher. In listening to playback, I find myself catching little details that a teacher might point out in a lesson:

"Execute the up-shift a little faster."

"Ease up on vibrato at the end of the sustained low D. Don't oscillate above target pitch. If you do, it will be especially noticeable at the end of the note."

"Dig in more on the sul G tones. Don't waste any bow. You should get a full tone from the beginning of the bow-stroke."

FWIW: I wear foam earplugs, L/R, dB factor of -33, every time I practice or play. Besides ear protection, this helps me get a more objective assessment in real time of the sound I'm producing, since the sound I get this way is more like what I'd hear if someone else played 10-20 feet away from me. Then the playback of a digital audio recording doesn't sound much different from what I heard in real time.

I find recording and playback invaluable. On playback, I catch little nit-picky things that I sometimes miss in real time. Subsequent re-recording and playback of the same piece, following initial self-critique, will invariably show improvement.

February 19, 2019, 7:11 AM · Yeah I record myself but not very often. I should do it more. The thing is, it takes time. Time to set it up, time to review it, etc.
Edited: February 19, 2019, 7:23 AM · Me too. I found myself subconsciously neglecting occassional intonation problems to please myself. Recording confronts me with the truth.
February 19, 2019, 7:35 AM · Our brain can only hold on to about 3 "mistakes" in which the outcome was not as intended, maybe the shape of a phrase, intonation on a particular note, or even the style of vibrato. I think there are two main reasons for self recording. One is to pick up all the little nuanced things for improvement. But I think more importantly, it allows you to have performance practice. Playing through the piece without mentally holding onto the "mistakes" and getting back to focusing on the moment, allowing ourselves the opportunity to get out of the criticizing mode and into the music and art making mode. Then going back and listening with a critical ear. Sometime the things we think are a big deal are actually not the biggest issues we should attack first. So recording can do a lot to make practice time more efficient.

Even though we tell our students to self record, I model it in several lessons so they understand the technology, process, and benefits. I actually ask them to video record so they can also see if anything technically sticks out, i.e. tension during a shift.

February 19, 2019, 8:05 AM · Unless David Krakovich can prove otherwise I lay claim to being the most recorded violinist on the internet! Not for the purpose of showing off or improving my technique (well past saving) but in order to give exposure to otherwise unrecorded string string chamber works
February 19, 2019, 8:17 AM · I record myself pretty much only before performances (although I should probably do it more often). I find it a really great way to find mistakes and ways to improve.
Edited: February 19, 2019, 6:44 PM · I record myself constantly because I had become too reliant on using a tuner when playing anything at all. The main reason is a total lack of confidence in my ability to discern if I'm in tune or not. Therefore to break the tuner habit I started recording myself instead.
February 19, 2019, 9:33 AM · Just a few questions for those who regularly record their practice:
1. Do you record only the audio or you record video as well?
2. Do you record the entire practice session? Or do you work on something until it sounds "good enough" before taking out the phone/recorder/camera?
3. If your playing already sounds "funny" in the first few bars, do you stop the recorder and do another take, or you just do single take regardless?
4. Do you share your clip with your teacher (if you have one) often?
5. Usually what is the proportion of your practise time is spend on recording and watching your video?
February 19, 2019, 10:07 AM · I record myself now, but there was an activation energy hump to get over. When I first recorded myself I was appalled and hated what I heard. I think this is a common experience.

I think what helped me get over it was being in a support group online in which people all share their practice recordings. When everyone is in the same boat and shares imperfect recordings, warts and all, it makes it less intimidating.

Also, the first group I posted in has a rule that you can only offer feedback if it is asked for. And the first few times I posted something, the only feedback I wanted was something generic and positive, such as the much-maligned "good job!" Or "I enjoyed listening to this," so I didn't ask for any real feedback. Now that I've been recording and posting for a while I'm much less self-conscious and I am willing to listen to specific, constructive feedback on my recordings. It took me about a year of recording and posting to be comfortable enough to do so.

I now expect my recordings to sound a certain way, and I know that my phone camera isn't great, and I just take that into account when I listen. I stubbornly believe that I sound better in real life ;-)

February 19, 2019, 10:07 AM · 1. When I am troubleshooting a passage and just need to hear it, I do audio only. (VoiceRecord Pro is my app.) If I am preserving my playing for some reason -- for instance, to track progress -- I take a video. If I am trying to visually diagnose what's going wrong, I'm more likely to use a mirror.

2. I generally do not record entire practice sessions. I usually have a specific reason for recording.

3. If I am trying to preserve an artifact, I try to get a "good" version. If I am troubleshooting, I play just enough to be able to do so.

4. I do not share practice recordings with my teacher. I have shared rehearsal recordings with my teacher, though, as he can often spot things that I haven't.

5. Virtually none of my time is spent on recording.

February 19, 2019, 10:27 AM · @Sivrit Mizael - Answers to your questions about recording practice:

1. Audio only.

2. Not entire practice session. I sometimes record my warm-up sessions -- bow-arm exercises, left-hand warm-ups, scales, shifts, double-stops. This keeps me on my toes and gives me the incentive to strive for a good, musical sound from the start. As long as the air is warm enough for my hands to have instant grip and reliable traction, this works out. I will sometimes do a first take on a repertoire piece or past etude -- but only after I've gone through the warm-up routine.

3. I don't ordinarily stop for a retake -- even if I don't like the sound right away -- unless something goes seriously wrong; e.g., a string suddenly unwinds -- extremely rare.

4. No teacher anymore. So far, these clips are tryout sessions. I make them with my smartphone, using the phone's internal microphone. I'm going to have to re-do some of my best sessions with an external mic -- e.g., the Yeti -- to get the audio quality I want. Then they should be ready for YouTube.

5. Portion of practice time spent on recording and playback: On the days I record, about 50%. I wait till later to play back the tracks -- when practice time is over.

February 19, 2019, 10:30 AM · @Timothy Smith, I watched your second video. Thanks for sharing that fun tune. Do you learn your tunes entirely by ear? I ask because you seem to be looking at your left hand while playing. You don't need to watch your left hand to put your finger in the right places. The reason I think this is important is because your head is turned so that your chin is over your chin rest. See if you can straighten out your head so that your chin rest is underneath the left side (say, 10-o-clock position) of your lower jaw. This in turn might help you hold your violin more securely -- ideally with just the weight of your head and not by straining your neck. And in turn this could enable you to free up your left thumb which is presently gripping over the top of your fingerboard. It would be better if your left hand were dropped down just a little and the thumb came alongside and a little underneath the neck rather than where it is now. How do you reach the notes if your left hand is lower? The answer is that you rotate your elbow underneath your violin some so that your wrist comes up and your hand comes up and over your finger board more. Your left wrist also should be straighter (palm should not be pointing straight up).
February 19, 2019, 10:31 AM · I don't record myself practicing. I know it's a weakness. I don't even listen to my spots that I did on commercial recordings. When I must listen to my play-back in the recording engineers' booth, I just want to give up-I sound so ordinary, mediocre, in the original french meaning of the word. I have never heard myself sing - I assume that my reaction would be even worse.
February 19, 2019, 2:26 PM · I think my comments echo Lydia's. I don't spend a lot of time doing this because it takes no time, but I do record a lot of my practice of difficult sections. I mostly do audio only as I watch myself in a mirror when I practice anyway. I listen to the recordings and then delete them usually. These days I'm seldom surprised by what I hear, but doing this process keeps me honest. When I first started I was devastated by my sound (as so many are when they first do the same).
February 19, 2019, 2:32 PM · I record my playing. When playing, you can sometimes get so caught up with the motions, that you have issues monitoring the sound. Recording is good for you.
Edited: February 19, 2019, 2:55 PM · 1. Do you record only the audio or you record video as well?

Video. When I started recording, it was audio, but I've recorded video since I first got a smartphone in 2013.

2. Do you record the entire practice session? Or do you work on something until it sounds "good enough" before taking out the phone/recorder/camera?

I don't record entire practice sessions. Whether I work on something before recording depends on what I'm working on. Typically, if it's a technical exercise or etude, I start recording immediately; if it's repertoire, I generally record at the end of the time I spend working on it.

3. If your playing already sounds "funny" in the first few bars, do you stop the recorder and do another take, or you just do single take regardless?

Usually I stop if something goes wrong at the very beginning, but once I've gotten through about 5 seconds of playing, I just continue.

4. Do you share your clip with your teacher (if you have one) often?

No teacher. I only had a teacher for 3 months out of all the years I've been recording, and did not show her clips because the entire time was spent retooling my basic bowing technique and she could see me playing in person.

5. Usually what is the proportion of your practise time is spend on recording and watching your video?

I don't spend any time expressly playing to record, I simply put my phone on a tripod routinely and record myself doing things I'd normally do anyway. 1-2 minutes out of every hour may be spent starting and stopping the camera. I review video outside practice time. On average I record about 10 minutes' worth of practice per day, and spend 15-20 minutes reviewing it.

February 19, 2019, 3:54 PM · Hi everyone, new member here after more than 2 years of lurking :)

I started recording myself pretty quickly as I started learning on my own with the help of Youtube (yes, I know...) and was extremely inspired by all the "progress" videos that are posted there. I thought it would be really cool to have several videos that I could later watch and use as a reminder of how much progress I would have made. I had an iPad at the time, so it was really easy to make them.

I pretty much stopped videoing myself once I only had my phone left, and no iPad, just because I find it so much trickier to position the phone correctly and I can't really be bothered. I do record audio on my phone quite regularly, the latest of which was just 10 minutes ago. I've been doing it for so long that I know and can accurately expect how I will sound on the recording (which is pretty much how I hear myself), and I focus on intonation mistakes that are much more noticeable on recordings.

I never show my recordings to my teacher.

February 19, 2019, 4:06 PM · I recorded myself for a spell and hated it so much - the act of recording, the playback/review, everything about it. Unlike a lot of folks who find success recording themselves as a teaching tool, I found it to have the opposite effect on my playing (for example: I would find so many things to "fix" that I got overwhelmed and would lose motivation). So, now I only record myself to capture a moment in time for "nostalgia" and to check back for later progress. I think it depends on what is best for the individual in terms of how they work, think, approach learning, and so on.

I guess I should add that I will record myself (without listening to the audio) of my posture and bowing as this is a long-standing sore point and the only way for me to know how successful I've been with this is to see it "in action" away from a mirror. The camera is the next best thing to having my teacher there in those moments.

So - I record myself, but I do not listen to the audio. Maybe one day I'll decide to record and listen to myself, but not right now.

February 19, 2019, 6:52 PM · FWIW I mostly record audio only using an app called Music Memos on the iPhone. It's great in the sense that you can set it to "Auto" so that it starts recording when it detects enough noise and stops when things go silent again. Makes multiple takes easy although if I'm using the metronome then I find I have to manually stop each take. It also makes it easy to copy it to Dropbox or the like to get it uploaded to my PC.

Additionally, I usually record things like scales just to be able to check that I'm in tune, and will record and listen to many takes. Once I'm happy to move onto the next part of my practice I just delete all the takes. As far as repertoire goes, then I'll aim to try and make one good take that I can keep as a record of my progress over time.

Like some others, I HATE how I sound in the recordings. To me my viola sounds more like a harmonica most of the time. I'm still not sure if that's a function of the iPhone mic/app, OR my instrument really does sound that bad, OR my playing (the prime suspect).

Anyway, I do recommend the Music Memos app for ease of use.

February 19, 2019, 7:07 PM · 1. Do you record only the audio or you record video as well?

I record video because I have learned from that. There are things that I see myself do on a recording that I hadn't realized I was doing, such as bouncing the bow from too high a height when doing spiccato, or rocking my body back and forth, or not having a straight bow, or being too far at one end of the bow or the other. I can sometimes use a mirror for that, but I don't always catch it in the moment. Also, recording video is easy with my phone.

2. Do you record the entire practice session? Or do you work on something until it sounds "good enough" before taking out the phone/recorder/camera?

It depends. I never record the entire practice session. Often I do before-and-after recordings. Then I don't mind how bad the "before" sounds because if it's really atrocious that guarantees I'll see some progress in the "after." Otherwise I record problematic parts and then watch and analyze them to see what I'm doing and then I try to do something different.

3. If your playing already sounds "funny" in the first few bars, do you stop the recorder and do another take, or you just do single take regardless?

Again, it depends. If I want to save it and show it to people I'll do several takes to get a good one. But if it's just practice, and just for my personal use, if it sounds funny at the beginning I might try to analyze what about it is making it sound funny so I can stop doing whatever it is.

4. Do you share your clip with your teacher (if you have one) often?

No. I usually only share performance clips with my teacher, and even that is rare.

5. Usually what is the proportion of your practise time is spend on recording and watching your video?

Sometimes it can be up to half of it. This was especially true when I first started recording because I was surprised and appalled and I watched and re-watched several times to make sure I was really seeing/hearing what I thought I was. Now it's probably about 10-20%.

Edited: February 19, 2019, 7:38 PM · When recording engineers set up to record a violinist they'll typically position the microphone 2-3 feet above the instrument pointing at the f-holes. I decided to try that with my Tascam DR-07mkII, and what a difference! I bought a mic stand with a boom arm, and I monitor the sound through closed back headphones, at least while I'm setting up. This way the recorder gets a powerful audio signal, allowing the recording level to be dropped down which then eliminates room resonance and extraneous noise. Before I did this, I found the sound of my recordings to be insufferable. Now they sound virtually professional, with the same recorder. And when the recorder/microphone is correctly held I can easily move towards or away from it while listening through the headphones to find the sweet spot. It's amazing how much difference 12" can make. And you don't want it too close either, because it will sound shrill. Microphone distance and direction are CRITICAL for making pleasing recordings.
February 19, 2019, 8:20 PM · I record video of myself sometimes to check positioning and to see if I'm using my shoulder too much when I bow (I usually am). I also make a weekly video of myself playing something and post it to YouTube to monitor how I'm progressing.
February 24, 2019, 9:23 PM · I got over my issue of getting discouraged by my recording practice, especially early on in my studies by keeping a log and looking back from time to time to see it as a way to track progress too. That helps me stay motivated. Recording is an excellent way to improve however so absolutely worth it.
February 25, 2019, 4:40 AM · I record myself almost every day. It sucks but it can reveal things my ears don't (want to) pick up.
February 25, 2019, 6:28 PM · Timothy Smith, nice Sailors Bonnet!
February 26, 2019, 11:08 PM · @Timothy Smith
Be careful with which notes you slur together when you're playing Irish tunes. You always want to slur across the beat, not with it. You did this in some places, but if you listen to the recordings I think you'll also hear some places where you're bowing with the beat.
Here are some guidelines:

While there isn't really a standard bowing for reels, you want to avoid anything that resembles the following:
(12)(34)(12)(34) or (12)3412(34) or (12)34(12)34

For the jig, avoid
(123)456 or (123)(456)
A common jig bowing is 12(34)56 | 12(34)56.

February 27, 2019, 12:45 AM · I have tried recording myself for the violin, but soon got frustrated with sound quality, was it my playing ability and or the microphone or the placement of the microphone. Not to mention the high cost of a decent microphone. Then the trouble of the difference between what the player hears and what audience hears. So essentially gave up on the recording of an acoustic violin. Personally I would prefer a system that gives real time feed back of what it sounds like to the aduience. This has lead me to the disire to use an electric violin, you only hear what the audience hears and it is in real time, can be recorded and feed into a DAW. Perhaps I am going a bit off topic. But with other virtual instruments I record my self often and find it useful.
February 27, 2019, 10:23 AM · It's definitely not a notation anybody uses! I just needed a quick method to try to indicate slurs relative to the beats in the measure. If you're in cut time, then I imagine
12341234 | 12341234
to be 2 measures of single bows.
The parentheses indicate slurs, so slurring four notes together would be:
(1234)(1234) | (1234)(1234).
You can indicate any number of patterns with this, for example the following would be:
3 single bows, a three note slur, two single bows (measure break)
a three note slur, a two note slur, and three single bows
123(412)34 | (123)(41)234

February 27, 2019, 11:57 AM · It's probably the best anyone can do to improve their playing.

I've seen a few self-taught violinist on youtube, and met a few in real life. I bet the main thing that makes some self-taught people on youtube fairly decent is their habit of recording themselves playing.

February 27, 2019, 12:22 PM · I believe that recording yourself is a good idea, but I doubt it's nearly as useful for beginners as for more advanced students. Someone who doesn't have an idea of what they want won't benefit as much from seeing how they actually play when they are trying to work basic technical stuff out as someone who has a good idea of how they want to sound but could use that more objective viewpoint to put them closer on track.

In fact, I could see it being kind of dispiriting for beginners, in the sense that we are often wrapped in the warm glow of our own ignorance, which sometimes lets us not worry too much about being really self-conscious about how bad we sound.

February 27, 2019, 2:08 PM · I'd agree with that assessment, christian. The most important trait to keep in a beginner is encouragement, and sometimes that means sacrificing a bit of honesty to keep their spirits up.
Edited: February 27, 2019, 5:46 PM · I already posted a response to this thread but I have a new perspective that I thought might be worth to share.

I am just back from my first ever violin recital. I played 5 pieces in total, 3 with our string ensemble and 2 solos (2nd and 3rd movements of Vivaldi A minor). Although I didn't really want her to, my mom recorded everything (video). I started by watching the ensemble pieces, curious about how it sounded to the audience compared to us. Then I wanted to look at my solos with the sound off, just so that I could look at my bow arm. But after 3 seconds my curiosity got the better of me and I just put the sound back on.

My impressions from playing were: 2nd mvt: super nervous, very bouncy bow arm so the sound wasn't great, and quite a few intonation problems. I wasn't very happy with it as I usually perform this movement pretty well. 3rd mvt: made several mistakes during passages that were never a problem. Managed to power through them and stay in rhythm but that was all I could think about afterwards.

After watching the video, I can finally believe my family weren't saying my performance was good just to be nice to me. Yes there are mistakes but I'm mostly very happy with my tone and for the 3rd mvt with my intonation as well. I genuinely believe it was pleasant for the audience to hear.

So there's that :)

February 28, 2019, 3:10 AM · I use a Blue Snowball microphone which you can get for around $50 that does the job. It's meant for recording voice for YouTube commentary and things, but doesn't sound terrible with the violin. Or maybe it does. You be the judge... (Just ignore my poor intonation)

February 28, 2019, 5:50 AM · Hi,
Russell...have you only been learning violin for 3 weeks?
I saw your video....and for 3 weeks learning,you are doing
VERY well.Do you play any other musical instruments?
Keep up the excellent work!


Edited: February 28, 2019, 8:26 AM · My "take" on a couple of comments from earlier replies:

"The most important trait to keep in a beginner is encouragement, and sometimes that means sacrificing a bit of honesty to keep their spirits up."

The words "a bit" are key here. It's only right to tell the beginner "the truth … and nothing but the truth" -- but not necessarily "the whole truth" right away -- e.g., via audio playback. Intonation errors in a beginner are more forgivable than they would be in an advanced student; but they're still not acceptable -- any more than "2+2=5" from a beginning math student would be considered "acceptable."

”I am just back from my first ever violin recital. … My impressions from playing were: 2nd mvt [of Vivaldi A minor] super nervous, very bouncy bow arm so the sound wasn't great, and quite a few intonation problems. I wasn't very happy with it as I usually perform this movement pretty well."

Don't know in what order you played all your pieces. FWIW: One thing that helped me as a kid, just getting into recitals -- and I discovered this very early: Play the more aggressive material first -- something that expends a lot of energy and burns off some adrenaline. With that out of the way, I was ready for more lyrical fare afterward. If you're suffering from nerves, pieces like the 2nd movement of the Vivaldi or the Meditation from Thais will instantly betray a case of nerves.

Edited: March 1, 2019, 3:38 PM · @Jim Hastings: thank you for the advice! The irony is...I knew about this from lurking constantly on this forum! My teacher told me 1 month before the recital that if I had time to learn the 2nd mvt I could then play it in addition to the 3rd. Considering they're part of a concerto, I didn't consider playing them out of a order. And I couldn't/wouldn't play the 1st movement: firstly, too many students at the recital to play a whole concerto, and secondly, I had practiced it for soooo long that I burned out and really didn't want to spend one more minute on it...
I had played the 2nd movement fine at the rehearsal 3 hours before but at the recital there was so much time to wait between the ensemble pieces and my solos that my stress levels rose. It's all part of the experience, I guess!

@Timothy Smith: Thank you! I'm glad to finally take part in the discussions :) I don't think I will post the video of the recital; I have borderline obsessive perfectionism and it took me quite a lot of effort to work on my mindset so that I would a) be willing to play at the recital even if I couldn't play my piece perfectly b) be happy with the experience and my playing despite making mistakes and the performance anxiety. The last thing I want or need is people pointing the mistakes I know I made, or issues with my technique, etc. ;)

I am however planning to, at some point, post a video of me practising to get feedback from the talented members of v.com! I am in love with the Bach double and now that I can finally start playing it, I plan on doing the best I can with it, so additional feedback to my teacher's would be valuable!

Edited: March 1, 2019, 9:21 PM · Thanks, Timothy and Malcolm, and yes, I've been playing violin for 3 weeks (when that video was taken, 4 weeks now). And also, yes, I've been a musician on other instruments (trombone, piano, drums, guitar, bass guitar) for 25 years off and on.
March 2, 2019, 12:35 AM · Prior to about November of last year, I rarely recorded myself practicing. I did record my lessons, more to record what the teacher was saying than what I was playing.

Now I record my practice quite a bit. I use a practice app called Modacity that (among other things) makes it really easy to record and playback immediately. I don't record every minute of every practice session, just specific things I want to work on. The app uses the built-in iPad mic/soundcard, so it's not great, but I have learned to "hear past" the ugly supercompressed sound. At least, I hope it's just the iPad and I really don't sound like that ;-)

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