Recording yourself playing the piano can be a very important learning tool. Often times there can be a large discrepancy between what a musician thinks they sound like and what they actually sound like. When you're performing, your brain is focused on such a wide variety of tasks that it can often be difficult to truly hear the results or your playing. Listening to a recording of yourself allows your brain to focus entirely on what you’re hearing so you can thoughtfully critique your own playing.
When listening back to a recording of yourself, run through this checklist of items:
1. Dynamics: Are all the intended dynamics of the piece being heard? Often times when performing, what may seem like a forte, piano, crescendo, or decrescendo is not extreme or exaggerated enough to be understood by a listener.
2. Tempo: Is the starting tempo of the piece what you intended it to be? Is the tempo consistent throughout or are there places where you rush or slow down? It is so easy, especially when playing faster music, to rush during a difficult passage. Your brain can often focus so much on the mechanics of a difficult run that you end up unintentionally distorting the tempo.
3. Articulations: Are your staccatos, legatos, accents, and other articulations being expressed clearly? Just like with dynamics, you might sometimes think that you are conveying the articulation audibly, but upon playback you hear that the musical intention is not coming across. You may need to exaggerate the articulations so that they can be discernible to a listener.
4. Phrasing: Listening to a recording of yourself playing is the best way to improve your musical phrasing. To truly understand how you have shaped a musical line you need to be able to listen to it as a third party listener and hear it within the context of the complete piece. Do you give enough subtle dynamic shadings? Does the phrase need a larger breath before or after it starts? Are there moments in the phrase that need more or less space to help show the musical line? All of these questions can be answered by listening to a recording of yourself.
5. Video: If you’re doing a video recording, you can also look and analyze your physical habits and mannerisms while playing. This is a great way to reveal to yourself if there are places on your body where you are holding tension. Pay special attention to sections of your piece that are difficult because this is where tension is most likely to occur.
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