Posted by dougbutchy on 16th November 2010
As we go through our daily rehearsal routines with our groups, it is easy to become complacent with our critical listening skills. I think that both directors and the students in the ensemble become used to our daily sounds, and sometimes we don’t always listen with the most critical ear, especially when we are “in the moment” of cueing the right section, or playing the correct notes.
I have been recording my rehearsals off and on for a few years now, and have found that it is extremely helpful not only to me but to my students as well. I used cassette tape recorders in past years, but now with digital audio recorders, the process has gotten even better. The quality of the recording is quite good, even with a small hand held device. I personally use a Zoom H2. There are a lot of memory-card based recorders like this one available, and we could discuss all of their merits in an entirely different post. Here are my observations of one of our most recent recording sessions.
1. Recording should be done on a regular basis. I think it’s important for students to have this regular feedback about what they really sound like. I don’t do this often enough, and I think for it to really be effective, you should constantly evaluate what you are doing.
2. Record and listen right away. During class, we listen to our recordings immediately, while the students’ performance is still fresh in their minds. Usually, I find that they students think they sound better than they actually do.
3. Focus the students’ listening. When listening to the recording, have the students make a list (either physically or mentally) about what the group is doing well, and what they are not doing so well. I also remind them that we are interested in things that we are doing as a group, so that no one is “attacking” any one person’s abilities (or lack thereof). As I tell the students, they should address their individual weaknesses at home on their own time…the purpose of our rehearsal is to take what they’ve worked on individually and to see how they fit together as a group.
4. Think about keeping past recordings. Sometimes, near the upcoming performance, I will play a recording of an early rehearsal of a piece. It gives the students great perspective, because they can hear how far they have come during the rehearsal process. This has definitely been a positive technique, as the students are able to see the fruits of their labors. This is especially helpful if we might be having a rough rehearsal, when we just can’t get seem to get something right.
Another observation – The recorder does not lie! It’s brutally honest, and sometimes students need to hear that! It also can really drive home some of the concepts that I have been repeatedly telling the students. Often, once the students can actually hear what I have been hearing and telling them, they finally understand what they need to do.
Finally, I have found that while listening to our rehearsal recordings, it makes me more aware of what I am doing in the classroom. Sometimes I think, “Wow, we wasted a lot of time on that!” Many times, I will even hear things on the recording that I never heard in the rehearsal room! Recording our rehearsals has not only improved the students’ awareness of their performance, but has also helped me to be a better and more effective teacher!
I encourage you to give it a try and share your experiences!
Posted in Concert Band, listening, Marching Band, Music Technology, Musicality, Performance, practicing, recordings, Reflection, Repertoire, Senior High, teaching techniques, Technology | 2 Comments »