clinic 2014: guide to self-recording

welcome! self-recording is the absolute most essential component of practicing and audition preparation.

audition prep has 3 phases. 

phase 1: learn the notes.

engrain the basic notes, rhythms, tempos, dynamics, and other details into your muscle memory.

phase 2: record yourself.

convert the raw material into polished versions of excerpts.

phase 3: mock auditions.

practice the actual experience of audition performance.

today's class is on phase 2, including the concept, the setup, and workflow of self-recording.


self-recording in action - delécluse: douze études for snare drum

1. updating the traditional workflow

the traditional workflow: PLAY AND LISTEN → PROBLEM-SOLVE → REPEAT

self-recording breaks apart playing and listening, for 3 reasons:

1. eliminate multitasking

2. define the musical vision

3. fix the right problems, for good

the self-recording workflow: PLAY → LISTEN → PROBLEM-SOLVE → REPEAT

2. eliminate multitasking

-don't text and drive.

-when you play, put all your focus into what exactly you can do to perform in an optimized way. 

-don’t take your attention away from this activity.

-once you have the recording, change your focus to listening and analysis.

3. define the musical vision

-listening back to the naked version of your playing forces you to tackle more problems and tackle each problem more effectively.

-self-recording also forces you to grapple with different musical possibilities, analyze each, and execute the chosen version reliably.

4. fix the right problems, and for good

-self-recording finds a ton of problems.

-prioritize and choose the most important one to fix.

-when you revisit your work, confirm whether is was truly fixed.

-if it comes back, find a new problem-solving method that solves the problem permanently.

the self-recording setup

5. set up for efficiency and accuracy

-we need to be efficient because any lag or extra time ends up with many wasted hours.

-we need to be accurate in order to make the most effective adjustments to our playing.

a. location of devices

station one: where you are.


-your instrument

-the recording device

-your headphones

-note-taking materials

-coffee, phone, etc.

station two: 20-30 feet away

-the mic


the self-recording setup

b. the mic

-setup 20-30' away. replicate the distance that an audition panel experiences for accuracy of sound.

-use a high-quality, unbiased mic to represent the sound without alteration or colorization.

c. visual playback

amadeus pro

1. use your computer or tablet and find a fast, simple app with visual playback. i recommend amadeus pro.

2. a visual playback interface will allow you to immediately listen back to the playback, instead of waiting through empty space.

3. use keyboard shortcuts to do simple functions like cut and paste, selecting audio regions, half-speed playback, and other things.

d. keep your headphones on.

-use high quality, sound-isolating headphones for accuracy of sound.

-keep your headphones on so you don't waste time.

e. utilize an easy, organized note-taking system

-your mind is for having ideas, not remembering them.

-collect all the notes, feedback, or comments you've received from:


→mock auditions

→informal sessions with peers

→orchestra rehearsals, from conductors

→previous audition panel comments

-as you work on recording yourself, you'll cross some out or add new ones.

-when you cross something out, it could be because you've fixed it, or you reject it because it was a fluke or from an unreliable source.

-get this list down to zero.

1st: collect all feedback → 2nd: set up a system of notes → 3rd: make a separate note for each excerpt → 4th: filter all your feedback into your organized note-taking system

-i use evernote.


step 1: play

-when you play, your brain instructs your body to do something.

-your body responds, not only to the instruction but to many learned habits, from your life and musical education. already engrained into your muscle memory.

-there's a connection between the instruction that you give yourself immediately before playing a piece, and the end result of the piece. 

-each time you find a problem-solving method, you're thinking of a new instruction that your brain can tell your hands.

step 2: listen

-listening is two parts: listen, and analyze.


-take in what's good and bad.

-write down everything you hear.

-use the following categories:


→pitch accuracy (mallet instruments)




→articulation and tone

→rubato/time manipulation




-what specific problem am i having?

-don't ask "how do i fix this?" yet.

-translate an initial listening into a specific diagnosis.

step 3: problem-solve

-problem-solving is brainstorming.

-you're going to get it wrong more than you get it right.

-convert a specific diagnosis into a new instruction that you can give yourself the next time you play.

step 4: repeat

-repetition of this process is going to weed out the ineffective problem-solving instructions and identify the effective ones. 

-choose the most important problem on your list.

-continue repeating the whole workflow of PLAY → LISTEN → PROBLEM-SOLVE → REPEAT and experiment with new instructions until you've found a perfect one that you can rely on to solve a problem.

-write it down.

-when you're absolutely sure it works, move on to the next problem.

-this process integrates all of your adjustments into muscle memory.

thank you very much to all the people who participated and attended today, and i hope i'll hear from all of you soon.