Updated: Aug 24, 2021
By Dr. Clara Blood
I’ll be honest, recording myself playing the oboe has never been a pleasant experience. Listening back to your own playing tends to generate feelings of vulnerability and insecurity. It places your “areas of improvement” under a microscope. Remember how jarring HD television was when it first came out? With such a crisp and clean image you could see every wrinkle, every pore exposed on the big screen.
Recording yourself produces the same effect: a clear and brutally honest picture of the strengths and weaknesses of your playing.
To overcome your fear and unpleasant associations with recording yourself, you must first do it more often and do it from an objective point of view. These two behaviors will complement each other. The more often you record yourself the easier it becomes to listen to yourself from an objective perspective. Conversely, when you emotionally detach yourself and listen objectively, the easier it becomes to record yourself on a regular basis.
While I recommend recording run throughs of entire etudes, movements, pieces, etc., it is equally valuable to record very small segments ranging from a few lines of a piece to a scale or even just an interval between two notes. I notice that if I am having trouble finding the root of a problem- an intonation issue, technical challenge, or phrase shaping, recording and then listening back can help me find a solution. Being able to listen back allows you to become your own teacher.
Finally, when you analyze your recording, be sure to acknowledge both the positive and negative aspects of your performance. Most of the unpleasantness we associate with the recording process comes from our fixation on the negative. While recording does make it easier to recognize and solve problems, it is also critically important to give yourself credit for the things you are doing well. This is where recording the same passage, etude, etc. over the course of a week or two can be incredibly valuable. You’ll not only be able to further refine the details of your performance but to track your progress as well!
Good luck with your recording everyone! Stay tuned for my next post where I present a step by step process for analyzing your recordings in a productive and constructive manner!