I recently got a promotional email from Jeff Schneider. You may know him from some of his interesting YouTube instructional videos. He was talking about how many takes he had to do to get a video down like he wanted. I won’t share the video or the links he has trying to sell some courses. But as he rambles in the following, he brings up a very good point–you need to get feedback on your playing. I hope you find this helpful. His comments follow:
I was reminded of an important lesson every musician needs to hear…
Ready? Here it is:
You HAVE to record yourself.
“Yeah, Jeff. You’ve told us that one before.”
Indeed. But wait, there’s more…
You HAVE to record yourself a little at a time and listen back frequently.
Oh, and there’s more…
You HAVE to record yourself a little at a time and listen back frequently and record the same excerpt again but this time with a style or technique adjustment.
And one more for the road…
You HAVE to record yourself a little at a time and listen back frequently and record the same excerpt again but this time with a style or technique adjustment and then listen back AGAIN to hear if your adjustment made things better or worse.
Why is this process so essential?
Because in order to become good at something, you need feedback.
And by feedback I mean a clear indication that what you’re doing is either working or not.
Unfortunately, musicians don’t get a lot of this kind of feedback, especially in the practice room.
And this is true for two reasons:
- Music is not as measurable as other pursuits.
In sports, you’re either a winner or a loser.
In math, you’re right or wrong.
In construction, your verticals are either plumb, or they’re not.
But in music, good/bad is more subjective.
Here’s the other reason that musicians don’t get sufficient, quality feedback.
- It’s extremely difficult for musicians to accurately assess their playing while they’re playing.
For example, when I was recording all of those singing takes, I thought some were stellar. But when I listened back, it was clear that the adjustments I’d made to my technique and style were, in fact, making me sound worse.
And I would never have known had I not recorded myself and listened back.
What’s more? Had I recorded myself for a whole bunch of takes instead of just a few, it would have taken that much longer for me to realize the error of my ways.
It’s scary to think I could have been practicing sounding bad for who knows how long.
Luckily, it’s an easily avoidable situation.
So, please put this nugget to use…
Get out that voice memo app on your phone and hit record.
Start small. No more than 30 seconds.
How do you sound?
Not as good as you’d like?
Make an adjustment.
Then record the same excerpt and assess whether that adjustment made you sound better or worse.
Here’s another pro-tip: Grab a reference track by one of your musical heroes.
Record yourself imitating a tiny excerpt from the reference.
Compare and contrast your recording to the original.
Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat.
I’m not saying it’s easy. But it sure is simple.
And it works.