Recording yourself is an incredibly helpful activity that allows you to speed up your guitar learning progress significantly. Despite the value of doing it regularly, it’s often surprising that some players don’t do it. Especially when you consider that current technology makes recording so effortless.
One of the cool things about recording yourself is that it allows you to get accurate feedback about your playing. This might not sound like a massive benefit, but it is. Feedback is critical in any learning situation. If you don’t know what improvements you need to make, then it’s pretty hard to make those improvements!
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few specific benefits…
Avoiding American Idol Syndrome
Although I definitely don’t make a habit of watching American Idol, I have seen some of the episodes where they are auditioning people for the show. Along with some really talented singers, there are some people who are horrific and can’t sing at all. Unfortunately, these truly horrible singers often think that they are much better than they really are. I call this tendency for some untalented people to rate themselves highly “American Idol Syndrome”.
Many guitar players are like these deluded singers. They simply think that they are a lot better than they really are. While being confident in your abilities is not a bad thing, it’s also important to realise that if you want to keep improving as a guitarist it is critical not to delude yourself. By recording yourself, and listening to the recordings in an honest way, you’ll be able to notice what weaknesses you currently have.
Increasing Feedback Frequency
Many guitarists realise the value of getting regular feedback. Because of this, they get lessons from a professional guitar teacher. While getting lessons is very helpful, I still feel that recording yourself is vital. Think about it this way. If you’re getting lessons once a week then that means that you’re getting feedback once a week. While getting feedback once a week is better than nothing, it would be optimal to get feedback much more regularly than this. By recording yourself on the days that you don’t have your lesson you’ll be able to increase how often you get feedback.
One of the challenges of improving on guitar is that act of playing itself can take a lot of concentration. This means that it can be very hard to observe yourself accurately while you’re playing. If all your brainpower is focused on actually playing, then it’s really hard to accurately notice what is good and bad about what you are doing. If you record yourself while you’re playing you’ll be able to listen to the recording with 100% of your attention. Which is great, because you’ll notice things that you just won’t notice when you are playing.
Elevating Your Musicianship
Many guitarists like to learn cover songs that they like, which is a fantastic thing to do. So we’ll use learning cover songs in this example.
What did you do with the last cover song that you learnt? If you’re like a lot of players, you probably did one (or both) of the following…
- You played the song by yourself.
- You played the song along to the original recording of the song.
While these are both great things to do for fun and enjoyment, they can definitely limit how much you improve as a musician. In the first case, because you aren’t playing to a steady beat you can get away with playing out of time. You can speed up in the easy bits of the song and slow down in the hard bits. In the second case, because you are playing along to the original recording, the recording itself can make you sound much better than you really are. Your mistakes will be covered up by the original guitar parts.
Here’s something that I recommend doing with all cover songs that you learn. It’s simple to do and will help improve your musicianship a lot…
- Record yourself play the song to a metronome click. If you don’t know the whole song yet, then just record what you can play.
- Listen back to the recording you just did a few times. If you have a means of listening to the recording at half-speed then do that as well.
- Write down what needs to be improved. Be brutally honest.
- Listen to the recording of the original song.
- Compare your playing to the playing on the original song. Be sure not to compare the recording sound quality. Just compare your actual playing and performance of the song.
- Repeat steps 2 to 5 as many times as you need.
- Write down some areas of your performance that need to be improved. Be as specific as possible. Improving these weaknesses will become part of your weekly practice schedule.
Although this might seem like a lot of work, it will definitely make you a much better player and musician. By using the guitar playing of the original recording as a model, you will quickly find areas in your playing and musicianship that need to be improved.
A Few Last Words
I must admit that when I first started recording myself I was truly horrified. I couldn’t believe I was as bad as I was! If you haven’t recorded yourself before then it’s possible that you might be like me and react negatively to what you hear. For that reason, it’s a good idea to listen to your recordings in a non-judgmental way. (Easier said than done!). Just notice the flaws in your playing, but don’t beat yourself up about them.
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