If you have ever listened to a recording of your voice, most likely, you hated it. Whenever we hear our own voices on a recording we don’t like the sound of it. This is because you hear yourself different than everyone else hears you. This can be directly related to music! In the same way that you hear yourself speak differently than you actually sound, you also play differently than how others may hear you.
Sometimes during band our director will record a song that we have been working on for awhile, even if it isn’t performance ready. After recording it, he will study the music listening for mistakes and things that should be changed and records them for us all to see. This is really beneficial to knowing what we need to work on. Our director says that it is easier to analyze the music that we make when he isn’t busy conducting. This can also be done when you are practicing individually!
Last year I was preparing a piece for an audition tape. I practiced the music a lot, but I couldn’t get any better than a certain amount. Then, I realized that I could record myself and listen to it. When we are practicing, it is difficult to fully hear ourselves because we are focused more on all the different aspects required to play than we are on listening. When you record yourself, it is much easier to really listen for small details. You also hear your tone differently. Jennifer Cluff, a Canadian flutist, says:
You will in fact hear thousands of things about your playing that you will want to change and correct once you sit back and really listen to a recording of yourself practicing. Play any thing and everything into a recorder and ask yourself: Is the pulse steady? Can I dance to that? Does it sound musical? Do the phrases make sense? Are the dynamics audible? Is the mood right? Is the tempo right for the piece? Are the legato sections smooth? Is the articulation clean and precise? How is the tuning? This will increase your speed of improvement immeasurably. Hear for yourself. Use your own senses to create in your playing what you wish others to hear.
Cluff raises a variety of questions that we should try to answer when we are practicing. Not only is recording yourself useful for music, but it is also useful for many other things such as practicing dance and sports. People who play sports often watch old games and study technique. When I took dance lessons, a friend and I would record ourselves, because it helped to see what we actually looked like, which was different at times than how it felt to dance. What ever you do that you strive to be good at, try recording yourself doing it! It may help you to see the details that need improvement which can allow you to take it to the next level.