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Beginner First Attempt at Recording Myself

nigeld

Too many mouthpieces
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I've been thinking for a while that I ought to record myself, even though I didn't want to. So I studied the threads on this forum and bought a Zoom H2n. That was the easy part! When it arrived, I hid it under some papers, so I could ignore it for a bit longer, but finally last weekend I summoned up courage and decided to make a recording of "Alfie" - just myself, no backing track.

I found I that I was mesmerised by the recorder - my normal logic functions were temporarily suspended. I pushed the record button and the recorder fell over, so I hurriedly picked it up and felt I had to start playing immediately. I grabbed the sax, putting my fingers on the wrong keys; honk, honk honk; and wondered why the first notes were coming out wrong. Realised what had gone wrong. Switched off the recorder in embarrassment. Spent 10 minutes fumbling with the recorder trying to delete the recording. Started again, and did exactly the same thing - recorder falls over, put it back, grab sax, fingers in wrong place, honk, honk, honk.

By now I was seriously rattled, but I took a deep breath, started again, and managed to play the first half of the ballad before deciding that it sounded too awful to continue. I didn't need a recorder to tell me it was rubbish, but I listened to it anyway, and it was even worse than I thought - bad tone, awful timing, wrong notes . . . . Put down sax and decided to learn the Peruvian nose flute instead. All in all, a horrible experience.

I'm sure I didn't make every mistake possible, but I managed quite a few. In hindsight, it was probably not wise to attempt my first ballad recording on a bari sax in the high register using the reed and mouthpiece I use for banging out low notes in the band. And it's quite a good idea to learn the piece properly before trying to record it. And why not just play something simple and easy first time around? And it's only common sense to place the recorder in a stable place so that it doesn't fall on the floor after you push the record button.

I wasted two days in a crisis of confidence, faffing about with reeds and mouthpieces, before I dared try again. I had practiced the melody in the meantime. I told myself that the recorder and the memory card are my private property, so I'm allowed to waste a few seconds of recording at the beginning getting myself comfortable before I play. This time it went better. It was still poor, but useful.

I was still nervous and made lots of mistakes. The tone on the recording was pretty much how it sounded to me as I played - weedy and thin at the top. I realised that I have been playing with too soft a reed, in order to make it easy to play low notes. Going up in strength improved the tone. So listening to the recording told me something that I could have worked out for myself, but hadn't. I also accepted that the player, not the mouthpiece was the problem, and decided to stick with one mouthpiece for now, instead of getting distracted by swapping them about.

When I listened to the recording, I was surprised by some poor intonation - I thought I was OK at that. But I know from my bassoon practice that if I am concentrating on notes then tone or intonation suffers. (In this case, both.) So it's something to watch.

I feel I have got over the first hurdle and am more confident using the recorder to help me improve.
Band practice last night was a joyful experience, so that has helped to restore my confidence.

More long notes!
 

jbtsax

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It is amazing what one hears in a recording of one's self that is not apparent while playing. For me at least my listening skills are better when part of my brain isn't involved in playing the saxophone. It was the same when I was a band director. When I stopped conducting and just listened to the music, I was much more aware of the detail. Time is also a factor. Often times when I have recorded a piece over and over and get it sounding good to my ears, I will come back and listen a few days later and hear lots of flaws that I was not aware of initially.
 

Lady Biggles

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I'm far too scared to listen to a recording of myself after Tuesday night. My concert band had a sort of workshop with a professional army band and the local TA (also pro) band. One of the pieces was John Miles' 'Music' ( you know, 'Music was my first love, and it will be my last ...'). Scored with an alto solo at the start. I have played the solo at band, people liked it. I've played it at home. The pro sax lady played it on Tues, it was lovely as you may expect. Now, my kids also play in the band and hubby was there too as spectators were allowed. I mentioned the loveliness of the solo and he said

"Yes, it was nice. What instrument was she playing?"

Now, I know I'm not in her league, but a different instrument??

I wish I hadn't asked whether I sounded anything like her - silence from my whole family and a sympathetic look from one daughter :(

Guess I have a lot of practising to do ... or maybe it was the acoustic in the room ( clutches frantically at straws ...)
 

kevgermany

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Don't worry, people spend a lifetime working on their sound. But in reality it'll take more time. Try and get the sound you want in your mind and spend some of your practice time on long tones working on this. Record yourself every now and again. You'll notice big improvements, especially once you learn to hear what you really sound like as you play. And you'll also notice that your goal sound evolves as well.
 

nigeld

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Definitely the acoustics and maybe the reed, you need different reeds :)
Or the ligature. Hers was undoubtably made from some exotic military alloy.

I have played the solo at band, people liked it.
So you sound good. The pro was better, but that doesn't mean that you are bad. Most of us amateurs are never going to sound as good as a pro, because we haven't put in the thousands of hours of practice.
 

Veggie Dave

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Recording yourself opens a number of worm-filled cans that are all guaranteed to batter your confidence.

First off, recording yourself always makes you tense and being tense while playing is never going to improve your playing, timing, your tone or intonation.

Then you have the problem that your recorded sax sounds nothing like any of the records you own. In fact, you couldn't sound less like your sax heroes if your were playing a glockenspiel.

But, while I'm very much a believer that you should record yourself often, you have to listen to the results critically - not just in regards to your playing but also in regards to the quality and limitations of the recording itself. Unless you know your way around recording software, musical effects and have access to reasonably high quality microphones then no matter how well you play, your recordings aren't going to sound like the pro recordings you're comparing yourself to.

As with anything, recording is something you have to practise doing. And as you become more relaxed while recording, those recordings will become increasingly useful as a learning tool as they'll become increasingly representative of how you play, even if they don't reflect your real tone.
 

jbtsax

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Something that is really useful is "directed listening". This is where you listen and focus on only one aspect of the performance at a time, for example playing in time. Another might be just the intonation or style of articulation. In teaching there is a process called "monitor and adjust". This also works very well when trying to take ones playing skill to a higher level.
 

Alc.

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At what level of expertise on the saxophone is hubby? He doesn't play? Targa is right. Go for the best, and give him your old horn to begin playing on.
 

Lady Biggles

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My 'old' horn is an 8 month old Yanagisawa AWO10, he's not having that! Sadly it means I don't have a hardware excuse but a vast new collection of reeds, mouthpieces, ligs and neck straps could definitely help; maybe one of those neckstraps with the little crystals in would add some kind of mystical magic?

You're also correctly guessing that hubby is completely unmusical; perhaps he's confused between the concepts of 'similar' and 'different'?

Anyway, I don't really want to sound 'like' someone else, just 'as good as' but in my own way I guess!
 

Colin the Bear

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Playing outdoors will help improve your tone as will confidence. When you practice play so the people in the next town can hear you and then learn to play loud. ;)
 

Chilli

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Also, when you're listening to yourself playing, you will notice way more flaws than if you listen to anybody else (and way more flaws than anybody else listening). Pretty much like listening to your own voice. It sounds awkward to you, but to the rest of the world, it's pretty normal.
At least that's what I feel. Whenever I hear a recording of myself, I hear all my flaws, mistakes and bloops. Even when listening to our big band recordings, I can't help but listen to my part and notice all the (hopefully) small mistakes I've made.
That said, once you've overcome this (if you ever do) or once you get used to it, it's a great way of monitoring your progress.
 

Vintage77

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Southampton
I felt motivated by this thread to have a go today. I spent far too long swearing at the recorder (just my iPod) on a shelf every time I went wrong playing something I know off by heart just because it as thinking about it too much. I eventually got all the way through it with only minor bum notes etc. Playing it back, I am reasonably happy with the sound which is different to how I hear it when playing but what I did notice is how I attack notes differently event time. No consistency with each phrase in the piece. A useful experience anyway. Timing and attack not just intonation and playing the right notes!
 
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