Skip to main content

Recording Myself

I had a student come into her lesson sounding much much better than she had the week earlier. Her Mozart Concerto was stylish and flowing, her intonation was excellent, and she had a focus to her sound that was new, and welcome. What had she done in her practicing to make such a difference?

I recorded myself, she announced, just like you suggested!

And my mind was blown. I suggest that a lot, but I've never had anyone really do it and improve themselves that much. The idea often seems to go in one ear and out the other, like Practice with your metronome and Don't use that Eb key on your forked F.

I do recommend recording yourself. It is one of the many tools you can use to improve your own playing, and to be your own teacher. It can be difficult, though, to do it well and get good information from it.

I record myself often, but if I'm not really focusing on the goal at hand I can listen back to what I've just laid down, say Yup, that was Mozart, all right, and move on. It's very hard to get critical distance from the work I've just done. By the time I am ready to record myself, I have played the piece over and over and settled on the way I want it to go. I'm used to the way I sound playing it. I'm used to the nuances I take, used to the intonation of my instrument, comfortable with the way I'm feeling the pulse and rhythm. And since I've not had a teacher in years there is no one to tell me No, that choice is a poor one. Don't you hear how sharp that B is on your oboe? That attack was awkward.

So I have to take a step away. I record, I leave the room and come back, and I pretend. Ooh, I say, sometimes out loud, I have a new recording to listen to! It's a colleague who has asked for some feedback on her playing. She's taking an audition soon and really wants some ideas to work on.

And now, as soon as I start the playback, I hear faulty intonation. I hear clunky trills. I hear sound quality that comes unglued, or vibrato that spreads too wide or becomes meaningless. And whatever stands out to me the most is what I work on for the next hour. I re-record. I re-pretend. And eventually I can make some real headway in improving even a piece that I know like the back of my hand, that I've been performing for years, that was already pretty good.

The recording equipment itself doesn't need to be spectacular - I use Garage Band on my Mac, or sometimes Photo Booth if I want visuals. It's just for me, after all. And it's one of the hardest and best things I do for my own playing. My student's recent success has reminded me that it's good for more people than just myself.

Have fun, and happy listening!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Resonance

When my students get too MOUTHY with the oboe, I put them in a corner.

Really.

They tend to play the oboe only from the TOP of their body, north of the collarbone, and it winds up unsupported.  Fussy.  Weak.  And out of tune.

So I back them into a corner, and have them stand a foot or so out from it, facing out into the room.  And I challenge them to find a sound that resonates BEHIND them, out from the corner of the room that they are not facing, to fill the space without blowing directly into the space.

It's a weird metaphor.  I wouldn't have any idea how to describe the physical technique to do it. When I find it in myself, it feels like my back is puffy and my body is round, and large, and barrel like, and also collected and zipped up, and supremely powerful.  If you know me, you know that these statements about my body aren't remotely true.  But that's what I feel when I'm blowing well, and filling the room, and owning my resonance.

I teach resonance.  I talk …

Five Minute Reedmaker: Length of the Windows

My Five Minute Reedmaker Season Two seems to be largely about experiments.  People ask me how LONG, how THICK, how SLOPED, etc - and I'm running the experiments for them and for you.

I've been posting these videos on YouTube, and sharing them from my Facebook Page, but haven't totally kept up with sharing here on my blog.

Here are the ones you may have missed:
Length of the Heart
Fallacy of the Long Tip
Moldy Cane

And here's the new one:




Here's the YouTube playlist with all of my other Five Minute Reedmaker videos.  You could subscribe right there if you wanted to - I'm dropping a video each week until I run out of ideas this season.
Here's my website, where you can order reeds or cane or ask me questions.  Questions will keep these videos flowing! 

Here's how you can send me your own reeds to analyze and improve on video for your learning pleasure!

Never Trust an Oboe, Part 2

(Part One HERE)
(Similar story HERE)

Mercifully, THIS one didn't happen to me.  But my poor student was playing an audition for his orchestra, and reached up with his right hand to turn the page of his music.  And heard a "plink".  And when, a split second later, he returned his hand to his oboe to continue playing, he found that his entire thumb rest had fallen off onto the floor, leaving only the post it had been mounted to.

With his hand now contorted uncomfortably, he finished the audition - ably, I am sure - and tracked down the crucial little piece of metal.  Evidently the screw that secures the adjustable thumb rest into its most optimal position had come out - never to be found again - so the thumb rest itself now can escape at will.

He devised a workaround - teflon tape to keep the thing in - but let this be a lesson to all of us.




Seriously, the oboe is not your friend.  It's like a cat trying to slip out the door - it's just WAITING for an opportunity …