How To Improve Your Fiddling Through Recording

You can accelerate your progress on the fiddle if you record yourself playing and then listen back to it.

There are lot of great online videos and resources to help you. But these things don’t provide you with feedback on your playing. If you’re learning on your own, you need to Be Your Own Teacher, and so recording yourself is especially useful, maybe even necessary. This will provide you with the feedback you need to improve. It’s hard to analyze your playing while you are playing. When you listen to a recording of yourself playing something, you’ll more easily be able to pick out the parts that you need to work on.

The other good thing about recording is that you’ll have tangible proof of your improvement, which will motivate you to keep practicing. A lot of students reach a plateau in which they think they have stopped improving. Record yourself immediately after you learn a tune, and then record yourself playing the same tune six months later. You’ll be able to see if there’s improvement.

HOW TO RECORD YOURSELF

I record myself all the time using the Voice Memos app on my phone. I use it mainly for recording ideas for tunes and songs, but also for rehearsals and fiddle practice. I do lots of better quality recording in my home studio (including play-along tracks for FiddleHed). But nothing beats the simplicity of just opening the stock voice memo app and hitting record.

If you don’t have a recorder on your phone, try a free online recording app like Audacity. Or go to a thrift store or pawn shop and buy a cassette recorder! I don’t use cassettes any more but after years of four-tracking they are still dear to my heart.

I spent hundreds of hours with this thing recording songs tunes and weird sonic pieces

I recommend that you give each recording a title and date. The voice memos app I use automatically has the date below the title. As the recordings build up, it will become more difficult to find what you are looking for if there is no title. Just give things simple titles like “New tune”, “Arkansas 9/27″ or “D scale variation”.

WARNING

When you listen back to your first recording, you may not like what you hear! Be prepared for this. HAVE FAITH that if you keep doing it, not only will your playing improve more rapidly, but you will also come to enjoy the sound of listening back to yourself.

if you practice

PROCESS

The next time you learn a new tune, try self-recording with the following steps:

  1. Once you’ve learned a tune and can play it all the way through, record yourself playing it. Title and date the recording.
  2. Identify the difficult parts. Take notes.
  3. The next day you practice the tune, start by not playing the whole tune, but practicing just those difficult parts. Allow yourself to play through the whole thing only after you’ve worked on the difficult parts.
  4. Record yourself again. What is still difficult? What new challenges are presented? Repeat the process for another week.
  5. After working on the tune for two weeks, don’t record that tune for 4-6 months.
  6. Record the tune again after 4-6 months. Compare this recording to the first one you made. Do those difficult parts still feel difficult? How does the overall tune sound and feel now? If you are practicing steadily during that time, you will be pleasantly surprised when you compare the before and after recordings.

If you have a good teacher, then they will provide you with even better feedback then recording. A teacher can more quickly pick out where you are struggling and can give you guidance and exercises to work on that. But even if you have a teacher, self-recording is a powerful tool for you to focus your practice and accelerate your learning.

If you don’t have an in-person teacher,  record yourself on a daily basis and use the lessons and play-along exercises in the FiddleHed course:

D3-A0, two bows 

As with all things I teach on FiddleHed, self-recording is just a suggestion. Verify whether it’s true for you through your own practice. Perhaps when you sit down to play fiddle you just want to take a break from technology and don’t want to bother dealing with your phone or iPad. Ultimately we are here to make music. Do your best to find your own way.


Lessons complete in Module 1.5: 

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17 responses to “How To Improve Your Fiddling Through Recording

  1. Also, the trees I planted 10 years ago are doing pretty well, I’m more critical of my fiddle playing , since I look at video recordings of myself I find myself distracted by how grey my hair is getting, so I’m switching to audio recordings on my handheld sony digital recorder that I record lessons and tunes I want to learn on…eliminating the vanity distraction..

  2. I’ve recorded myself playing with the webcam on my photobooth thingy on my imac. It is helpful-the video showed I’m making huge movements with my left hand instead of keeping my fingers as close to the strings as possible. Part of why I do that is that I started out playing 12 string guitar and when I play from sheet music I’m looking at the notes instead of my fingering. Watching myself on video is quite instructive… my motto this week is : The best time to take up learning a musical instrument, like the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago…the second best time is right now.

  3. What platform do you use to store your recordings? I’ve recorded a few tunes here and there on the iphone to share with FB groups, but they’re far and few in between. I get flustered because I’m all over the place with storage, and then forget where I put them.
    Can anyone advise on the best format to keep all of the “fiddle stuff” together?
    Thanks!

    1. Ok, I re-read the blog…lol I see Jason uses voice memos on the app. That makes sense. I always pictured a VIDEO recording, but I guess it could be just an audio. That’s easier to do, since it could be done in my pj’s lol.
      I’d still like some ideas of keeping them all consolidated.

      1. Hi Lisab~
        Great question, maybe others will chime in on this.
        I use voice memos quite a bit as well and ensure I title it ASAP if I’m keeping the recording so I can find what I’m looking for later.
        Google Drive can be a good platform for storing/organizing recordings.
        If you use your iphone to video record, I’d suggest right clicking on the video your going to keep and adding it to an album to access more easily later.
        Calling Apple support can be a great help for getting this all familiar and easy to do 🙂
        Looking forward to hearing how you make out with this, a challenge we can all relate to in these times!

  4. I started my 3rd year of violin in July. Recently my inner critic has made me wonder if I will get this. I recorded myself with video and saw my arm ,wrist and fingers looked stiff. So I went back to recording some back to basics of open string bowing. And tried to watch form and flexibility. I hope this works!
    Thanks for the great suggestions and pointers.

  5. I’ve been taking videos of myself playing to see progress and it really helps a lot. On some other songs, like Kerfunken Jig and I Saw The Light I’ve used GarageBand on my phone to record my own accompaniment track on the guitar to play along with and I’ve found that helps make it more personal and encourages more practice.

  6. I had to laugh at the idea that what I’m playing now is better than it was six months ago…because as of today, I’ve only been playing for three months. (Haven’t missed a day of practicing yet!) I’ve been recording weekly and then monthly “Marco Polo” app videos of my progress and sending them to my daughter in law in another state. It’s a good thing she loves me….because there’s a whole lotta screeching going on! ??
    But it’s getting better. Slowly. ? I agree, recording is a really good idea. It shows me what I need to work on, and gives me some encouragement that I am, in fact, improving. I wonder what I’ll sound like six months from now??

  7. Recording is painful, but very beneficial. Slightest misplacement of a finger and the note is flat or sharp! I’m using scales in Dmajor, 1-2-3-3-2-1 and Kesh Jig, Bill Cheatham and Foggy Dew as my practice tunes.

  8. I find recording my playing to be very helpful. I have been doing that since I started playing a year and a half ago. I hear sooo much improvement. At first I was very slow and very scratchy. My pitch wasn’t very good either. I still hear things I need to improve, so know where to focus my attention. I am learning to play without the aid of an in-person teacher, so am using all the tools I can find.

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