Skip to content

Revisiting audition tapes

March 4, 2012

This week I thought that I’d discuss audition tapes some more, especially the recording process, since I spent nine hours over the past two days making my own audition tape. Actually going through the recording process conjured up bits of info that I think you might all find helpful but that I had forgotten since my last recording session (which was about a year ago).

The hardest part about recording a relatively new piece, at least for me, is actually making it through the entire piece. Of course, there are several levels within “making it through the entire piece.” The lowest level might just be literally playing all the way through. Another level might be playing it all the way through with no wrong notes or pedals. Another one might be playing it through with no buzzes. Ideally, your recording will represent the highest level of “making it through the entire piece” that you can imagine. However, several things make it inherently difficult to do so (as if you didn’t already know).

One of the biggest culprits, I conjecture, would be all the detail level work that we do when practicing. Don’t get me wrong, that attention to detail is crucial to playing a piece well, but its awful for making the entire piece come together for the first time. Take this situation. You’re playing a piece, and it has two sections, A and B. A and B are distinct, and the difficulties that each present to you are very different. There are many details that you pay attention to for each, but since the piece is somewhat new, you have to go through a “calibration period” where you have to play section A, for example, several times before you can actually play it and incorporate all the details that you want to. Sometimes this is due to the newness of the piece itself (you just can’t get those darn arpeggios without playing them a few times first – this fades with time) and other times its due to a “tracking error” – it’s hard to remember all the little details at once before you start the section for the first time! Here’s the issue: section B has an entirely different set of problems that could be described as the ones from section A. You can play section A perfectly after a few warm up tries , and you can do the same with section B, but if you play section A (perfectly or not) and then go right into section B, it’s as if all your detail   work for B went straight into the garbage! Familiar feeling?

Recording forces you to be at such ease with the piece that you are able to anticipate all of these details ahead of time so that you can execute them successfully. Hopefully, you’ll  be able to incorporate some of the details into your subconsciousness to so you don’t have to actively think of them. For instance, it’s okay to have to think to yourself, “Don’t buzz here!” but eventually, your fingers should know what to do without your conscious effort. This allows you to focus on more difficult and/or more important details.

For this reason – that recording forces me to stitch together all the little patches of fabric that are the sections of my piece – I think that recording is an excellent tool to use before a performance. I can understand why someone might want to perform before recording: it allows them to minimize recording time since they won’t be starting and stopping when something doesn’t quite go as planned, the assumption being that several performances of a piece will force the piece together just like a recording session or two would. However, I prefer to be as comfortable as possible in my first performances of a piece, so making sure that its one cohesive piece rather than a string of sections is work that I like to do before I play it for the general public.

Of course, recording is not only for use before a performance – it’s an excellent aid afterward or any time, really. You can view my past post on “Recording as a practice aid” if you’d like to read more on that topic.

Happy recording!


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: