It’s been about forty years since I sat down in front of my first tape recorder, hit the record button and played a couple of guitar chords into a cheesy microphone. After recording I hit the play button and as the sound of my guitar filled the room, a giant smile crept over my face…..I was hooked.
Years later I realized that not only was it completely fun and satisfying but I had also learned a great deal about my playing capabilities and how imagination can lead you down a road of musical self discovery. I would encourage everyone to consider learning a bit about audio recording as part of their education as a modern musician. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or overly expensive either (although it can be). A simple portable stereo digital recorder today sounds as good as some of the giant analogue tape recorders of yesterday.
Why record yourself? For one thing it gives you a new perspective as to what is really happening with your playing. I don’t know how many times I thought I had just nailed something until hearing the playback from the tape and then realizing there were some problems. Why? Because when you are playing you are caught up in the emotion of the piece (hopefully) and sometimes the playing is not as precisely executed as you would have liked. This is a good thing. This gives you the opportunity to spot the problem areas and focus on solving them.
How about recording your practices with your band? Want to find out if that killer arrangement of “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” done in the style of Metallica is up to snuff? Record it and find out. The cold hard light of playback will tell you if your vocal harmonies are spot-on or if someone needs singing lessons.
Recording your music will also generate enthusiasm within the band as a tangible reward for all your hard work and practice. When you finally decide to lay out some hard earned cash for a session at a commercial studio, you will not be going in blind to the pitfalls of recording because you will have gained valuable experience working on your own with a tape recorder.
We all want to keep evolving and growing as musicians right? Of course we can learn a lot by listening to other people and mastering new tunes but recording yourself and listening objectively to your playing can help you take all of those influences and focus them into a style of your own. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a lifetime process.
I always try and record as much as possible with whatever means available. Whether it’s a cheap video camera mic or a digital flash recorder, just do it somehow. You know that if you don’t, somewhere, sometime, you’re going to have one of those magic nights where everyone played all the right notes and it will be lost in time forever. If nothing else, eventually your recording efforts will become a sort of musical diary and will have helped define who you are as a person and as a musician.
Better living through audio!