Your playing under the sonic spotlight
6th Jun 2012 | 13:20
The importance of listening to yourself
Talking to some guitarists recently there was one area of their guitar time that was woefully undervalued - recording one's own playing.
In this day and age of smart phones, stereo digital recorders, camcorders and inexpensive computer DAW (digital audio workstation) software, there's no valid reason for anyone to overlook recording themselves if they're serious about getting good. If you're still a 'red light virgin', I wholeheartedly recommend you get acquainted with the biggest game changer and critic a musician can have.
The plan is, you work hard to get a piece to performance standard then record it. The playback then demonstrates how your tone, timing and articulations sound under the appraisal microscope.
First off, mind you don't get too deflated about what isn't successful. Rather, consider what is good and draw some satisfaction from that – this will keep you in good humour for the next part. Then turn your attentions to the less than ideal areas – and these may not always be the same as what you think are your weakest areas.
For example, having practiced bending intonation the playback shows the work has paid off but you may be dismayed by a previously unchecked shrill vibrato (vibrato practice alert!). Or perhaps busy chord changes were troubling you before hand but after recording it's your timing that is amiss (never assume rhythmic ability should be easy).
The audio never lies but that stated, I'll say again as it's important - be mindful the recording doesn't affect you too negatively. Always use it to build on and improve playing, but never to dishearten. So for this coming month, I urge you to work diligently on one tutorial from the magazine you find the most appealing. Once sorted, record yourself playing against the accompanying backing track (if applicable). On playback, let your ears 'skim' over the recording, listening for the main three core components – tone, timing and articulation.
Take note (sic) not only of technical details such as bends, slides or vibrato (fine tune these later) but also if you've overall musical conviction. It's about confidence in what you've to say, complete with dynamic colour ranging from tempo changes (typical with solo guitar music) to volume (loud/soft) and tone (sweet/biting). For sure, it's a juggling act of many related performance aspects that make for a performance that will appeal. Happy recordings and playback!