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Your experience listening to a recording of yourself versus live


outofnames
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I was wondering what the experience is of members here who record themselves playing and then compare to what they heard under their ear.

I occasionally record myself on my iPhone to see how things sound.  What I’ve found is that on a recording, my playing sounds warmer with less scratches.  In many ways I think it sounds better than what I heard under my ear, though some of the subtle harmonics do seem to get lost.

 

Which had me wondering…what would a listener hear when I play?  What I hear?  What the recording sounds like? Or neither?

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Among the crap that I own, is a higher end Zoom recorder.

A friend always records his practice and reviews the work if there was problem with any particular section. Not sure what percentage of students record themselves.

Mr Victor and I grew up in the same era that we learned how to listen to playback of our recordings.

Modern cell phones record differently. Apple does have an extensive audio team, so what you hear is a tiny microphone in a greater three dimensional space. But likely better than the average phone. Not trying to be annoying, but one might learn a substantial amount about an instruments projects by experimenting.

Our proximity to the instrument, as a player, poisons the reality. I played a job in Seattle once ( many decades ago, ) thinking I was hotsh*t on a very fine instrument not supplied by Maestro Stone. As it turned out, under the ear, at the face, it was awesome, but to the audience it sounded very weak. Fortunately, this was pre- cellphone.

Depending on where we are in our instrumental journey, it makes a difference. If we want to play for the audience, then the cellphone at various distances in a room makes sense. If you want the hard truth, try recording outdoors. I am currently going through storage looking for a cellphone stand for recording.  

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The instruments performed on, are for the audience or my chamber partners. The bows help. But unless they are happy with what is delivered, the relationships suffers, or might suffer. Not knowing ( completely ) how to please a customer. 

Knowing how I might want to sound, the reliance is on others and, well, microphones. Like dancing with unicorns and owning llamas. I worked with a guy who owned llamas and he left work two hours early to get back to his farm. 

When every I can get space in a hall, I do record on the Zoom unit. 

The way I hear and instrument, set up for a student, is not always how she hears the instrument. There is a tremendous amount to learn.

Hey for the rest of us, it is like hearing your own voice for the first time, by others.

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23 hours ago, matesic said:

It's the best way of discovering your inappropriate habits and tics.  ( ... )

It is surprisingly helpful.

It might help to have balanced playing over the long run. There are also positives. Better characteristics should also be listened for and worked on. But it should also not restrict one's playing. We also learn to listen to, and evaluate our playing.

Do not become the zombie or slave to any particular process. We work and progress at many levels. 

At first, it is disorienting. One might listen to their own voices too. Along with my angry resting face, I have an angry normal voice. Someone once told me that my helpful voice sounded creepy.

Now "Bulginess" is just curious.

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When I was a sixth grader starting lessons in the mid sixties, my teacher did not do recitals, but did  regularly record and discuss my prepared solos on a reel-to-reel tape deck. I suffered greatly for the lack of regular recital experiences (significant nerves, to the point of shingles!) but benefited immensely from the taping experience, which led me to look with some objectivity on my playing and to focus on particular issues such as tone and fluency. I had an idea of what I wanted to sound like from a very early age.

As an adult player who has been called upon to do principal duties, I have had to prepare some of the more important and challenging solo viola passages in orchestral literature and can listen to the recordings of the performances without wincing--in fact, with a significant degree of satisfaction. I thank my teacher for this. 

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I use my iPhone to observe my playing, and it is a useful tool.  However, you cannot listen back through the iPhone speaker or you will hate yourself.  Not even a few seconds.  It amplifies all the problematic violin frequencies, especially around 3K - 3.5K, and reduces whatever rich tone your violin produces.  Get out your little earbuds, at least... the sound there is reasonable to use for evaluation.

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On 9/14/2022 at 9:51 AM, outofnames said:

I was wondering what the experience is of members here who record themselves playing and then compare to what they heard under their ear.

I occasionally record myself on my iPhone to see how things sound.  What I’ve found is that on a recording, my playing sounds warmer with less scratches.  In many ways I think it sounds better than what I heard under my ear, though some of the subtle harmonics do seem to get lost.

 

Which had me wondering…what would a listener hear when I play?  What I hear?  What the recording sounds like? Or neither?

It's interesting, usually people have the opposite reaction upon hearing themselves play: "I sound awful!"

So much of learning to practice actually comes from training yourself to hear what's really happening.  A mirror in the practice room can be revealing for some technical issues, but there's nothing like watching a video of yourself playing to make you, literally, self-conscious.

These days, I'm often pleased enough when I hear recordings.  My intonation is still better under the ear than a microphone several feet away, so that when I think something was quite out of tune, the recording will only sound minimally out of tune.  But I find that my bow changes are not as smooth in reality as I think they are as they're happening, and my vibrato isn't as consistent as I want.  Probably, the most valuable thing for performance though is being able to hear when phrases aren't clear, or when a note is much too loud or soft in the phrase.  And always posture (and how posture effects issues of sound production).

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6 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

 ( ... ) But I find that my bow changes are not as smooth in reality as I think they are as they're happening, and my vibrato isn't as consistent as I want.  ( ... )

If we are to believe that our brains are incapable of multitasking ( not arguing here ) our brains are always leaping forward to the next vital passage or technique.

This can be an issue at times. If other players are not nice enough to share observations, this can go on for years. Nice rooms flatter us. Or constant mindless work. Vibratos, intonation, tone, shifts, bow changes are all masked over by a friendly room. For the pro, we develop bad habits if thoughtful and considerate people do not point out the "obvious."

As a "pro" I still take an occasional lesson and at least speak to or play with other professors. 

Music Unions are generally useless as there are fewer protections for paying practitioners. Often there are no workshops and one is on their own. The younger generation might change this. But as odd quirks develop, sometimes our minds gloss over small things. They develop because of pain, of lack of practice or old age. 

To Mr Fine, not at your playing as I do enjoy the posted recordings. But there are those of us, old timers who would never consider recording themselves because they have a regular paying gig. They should find a friend and do it. 

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14 hours ago, GoPractice said:

This can be an issue at times. If other players are not nice enough to share observations, this can go on for years. 

As a "pro" I still take an occasional lesson and at least speak to or play with other professors. 

To Mr Fine, not at your playing as I do enjoy the posted recordings. But there are those of us, old timers who would never consider recording themselves because they have a regular paying gig. They should find a friend and do it. 

Recording myself and posting it online is something I never would've done when I first came out of music school.  My standards were much too high.  But even in school we were encouraged to use recording equipment (I was in school during the brief period when people thought that minidisks were the future, so I had a minidisk recorder).

Now, while I still cringe at recordings of myself, I've come to realize that what I was taught was important in music school (technical/musical "perfection") is not, in fact, very important to an audience.  The music does not reside within the perfection.  Perfection is just a party trick or a feat of athleticism and focus.  It's separate and only detectable by some people anyway.  Technical problems can detract from the music, but music can happen without technique.

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27 minutes ago, Stephen Fine said:

Now, while I still cringe at recordings of myself, I've come to realize that what I was taught was important in music school (technical/musical "perfection") is not, in fact, very important to an audience.  The music does not reside within the perfection.  Perfection is just a party trick or a feat of athleticism and focus.  It's separate and only detectable by some people anyway.  Technical problems can detract from the music, but music can happen without technique.

Hear, hear! (pun intended).

I think I can claim the distinction of being the most recorded violinist on the internet although technically surely one of the worst. For the last decade and more I've been multi-tracking myself in rare (usually previously unrecorded) chamber music and arrangements of my own and posting the results on IMSLP. 

https://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Steve's_Bedroom_Band

Once you figure out the tricks of Audacity it's much quicker to multi-track a strange 4-movement string quartet than to get three other players on board. For a couple of years I was knocking them out a rate of one per week, a bit worried to start with about the response they might provoke but I soon stopped caring about that. Non-playing enthusiasts for music are very tolerant of technical deficiency.

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Recording is a valuable tool.

Use a smart phone. Record the e- string or g- string to start. Listen to the file.

Play a simple piece. Listen for the phone ( mic ) placement and see if it sounds hollow as in too much room, or too much noise ( instrument ) and work on placement. Critical listening might make a difference. Take your time. Try weeks or months later.

Microphone placement is a big deal, if not everything. I never assume the engineer knows. If it takes more than 20 minutes to mic a string instrument, the 2nd engineer might be padding the billing.

With a smart phone, we listen for rhythm and pitch then tone. For an ensemble, if it's not possible to play together ( pulse, nee rhythm ) pitch won't matter. I learned this too late in life.

Rhythm has subsets of downbeats, upbeats, flow and the 2 measure, four measure and eight measure patterns. Music is still about phrasing and rhythm/ structure is poetry.

Pitch might be about the groupings of harmonies and how the melody nestles itself in the overall message.

Record for fun. Listen and make adjustments. It is so easy with the phone. Never sounds perfect; work on sounding tolerable.

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Recording on a phone has been really valuable for quartet rehearsals - it reveals ensemble problems readily. Like any tool, it requires learning, i.e. learning not to pay attention to some things. Using a phone certainly doesn't sound like a good recording in a good hall with great mics, but pitch and timing problems are certainly evident, and to some extent tone and blending between instruments. It can be disconcerting at first... of course!

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  • 1 month later...

I think people listen in different ways and its hard to answer your question for this reason.

I usually think i sound ok or just adequate when live but if i listen to a recording of the same later on i mostly realise that maybe i was too harsh, but i don't want this to change. (i play bass guitar, i liked some of the discussions in this forum so i joined to read more, hope you don't mind)

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