BY ERIN SHRADER
Sure, our smartphones can record audio and video, but they also do a million other things that we might need to access at any given moment. With this in mind, you may want to consider using a portable recorder to have a dedicated, undisturbed recording device for your music lessons, practice, or performances. Another benefit of these devices is their high quality audio recording capabilities—some even allow for using external mics. Here are ten ways using a portable recorder can benefit your music life.
1. RECORD YOUR LESSONS
When the lesson is over, it’s gone—unless you record it. Today’s recorders make it easier than ever to capture and save that gem of an insight or to play along later with your teacher’s wonderful interpretation of that new passage. Parents can use the recording to help youngsters practice the exercises taught in the lesson.
2. RECORD YOURSELF
The best way to get better is to listen to yourself. What you hear in your mind’s ear and what’s actually coming out of your instrument can be just a little bit different—or worlds apart! Recordings hold up an honest mirror to your ear. But a bad recording can be more discouraging than necessary, especially if you’re working on beautiful tone. Today’s digital recorders create clear, accurate recordings of your playing.
3. PLAY ALONG
You can learn a lot by playing along with your favorite artist. Recordings contain information about style, feel, timing, and interpretation that no sheet music or verbal description can ever provide. Stop thinking so hard and try playing along.
4. COLLECT NEW REPERTOIRE
Guitarists and fiddlers were early adopters of mobile technology, lugging heavy cassette recorders to festivals and jam sessions in the 1970s. The skeleton of a tune can be reduced to notes on a staff, but the essence of style is learned by listening, playing along, and trying to match what you hear.
5. TRANSCRIBE JAZZ SOLOS
Some of today’s portable recorders have features that could almost be considered cheating: variable speed playback at pitch, and A-B repeat functions that allow you to select and replay a segment endlessly.
6. MUSICAL SKETCH PAD
Don’t you hate it when a musical idea pops into your head and then pops right out before you can write it down? The smallest portable recorders, the size of a disappointingly small candy bar, fit in your pocket.
7. AUDITION & RECITAL RECORDINGS
The prescreening recording is often the first step toward acceptance at the music school or festival of your choice. For the price of a few hours of studio time, you can get a recorder that will make a high-quality demo without the pressure of the clock ticking. The more robust portable recorders can make broadcast-quality recital recordings with the addition of a couple of good microphones.
8. RECORD YOUR GIGS
Think the band sounds great? Find out for real by recording your gigs. If you managed to capture some of those magic moments, pop it up on your website or fan page.
9. SHARE YOUR MUSIC
Unless you were lucky enough to land a tenured position in a major orchestra or university, a musician is always looking for a job. Self-promotion is key, and having sound samples on your website is crucial. With the internet’s global reach, you never know who’s listening.
10. CHOOSE YOUR NEXT INSTRUMENT
A professional musician from California looking for a new instrument took a digital recorder along on a shopping trip back east. After trying several fine instruments, he recorded himself playing his favorites. Listening to the recordings later confirmed his opinions, and he made a purchase based purely on sound.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Stage & Studio. Click here to download the entire issue for free.