In the first of a three-part guide to practice strategies, the violinist gives advice on how to reap the benefits of recording yourself in your practice sessions
Recording yourself is hard. It’s really hard. But there are ways to make it easier, and make it work for you.
We all know it, and yet we take the plunge so rarely: recording ourselves in practice. Although it’s easier than ever with our phones, the psychological hurdle prevents us from using this, the most powerful of all the tools in the practice dojo. Recording is the best way to be your own coach. Isn’t this what practice is - a time when you teach yourself? If we are intentional about how we approach recording, we can preserve our self-esteem. Like all transformative habits, it helps to ease into it, then gradually intensify our efforts, and finally persevere with a new habit.
Start by recording just one phrase every day that you practice, and gradually work up your recording muscles. Don’t expect too much of yourself, but do insist on daily recording, regularity is key.
Remind yourself that recording allows you to practise less, but better. If you need more encouragement, enlist a recording buddy - check in via text to spur each other on. Maybe you’ll even exchange recordings for comments? Don’t forget to celebrate in some small way.
Less is More
Record one little phrase every day. No need to run a whole piece.
Always make a recording sandwich
Record, listen, record and listen again. This way you will hear your progress and believe in the process over time.
Hone one skill at a time
Avoid listening to every aspect of your playing. Instead, pick one thing like pitch, articulation, or phrasing to pay attention to.
Level up on your equipment
Recording on phones is great, but every so often make sure to listen with headphones, or use a better mic, or both. The phone mic and speaker don’t represent your true sound, and working only with the phone all the time can lead to discouragement.
Mix Audio and Video
Audio gives you the what, and video recording shows you the how. Audio recording apps show you the waveform, which can be great for working on dynamics. Since string players’ technique is so external, you can teach yourself when you’ll see the mechanics of the bow, left hand, and posture.
Aim for variety
One day record a scale, the next day record part of a piece, and so on. You’ll notice more about your playing and you’ll be more forgiving if you are not always hearing repertoire only. Record early in the process, and start backing off the recording process before performances. This will allow you lots of time to fix things, but get you in the “less critical zone” before a concert.
Susanna Klein, associate professor of violin at Virginia Commonwealth University, is the author of thePractizma Practice Journal and the Practice Blitz YouTube Channel. Her research focuses on finding ways to make practice more delightful and insightful.