The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
Todays little tidbit of "advice" is about how I've begun to use recording as a learning tool and how it's helping me.
First off I'm no recording expert - duh - so all I can do on that front is tell you what I have but that doesn't mean I think it's ideal, I can tell you that it works. There is a lot more to add to this list (hopefully soon a mike and a few other things but for now this is a very very basic starter). Maybe over time I'll learn more from others or experience but for now this will do.
So the equipment I use:
Focusrite Scarlett 6.0 (I recommend getting one with more than 2 inputs if you're recording multiple instruments but you don't have to, it just makes life a LOT easier.)
Surface Pro Tablet (not needed but I find it easier to bring from place to place than my PC and I can run Staff Pad which is a very cool music composition tool.)
Studio One DAW (Many other will do the job, this one was recommended by my teacher and is very intuitive).
In my music room I have all the instruments connected up and ready to play so I can bounce from one to another which I tend to do all day. It's easier to practice if things are just ready to be picked up on a whim and with recording this is even more true.
Ways to use recording to learn
The first is to learn whatever song etc you've been given. The best way is for your teacher to record them playing it as a guide. You then record yourself and compare the two recordings, look for volume, note length, timing visually then listen for dynamics. It's very very useful especially if you combine it with video footage so you can see what they are doing at any point that is confusing you
Use it to show progress
Keep your recordings in an organised folder and name them sensibly. At times we all go back and relearn old songs, or perhaps you have some you never forgot. Record again and see the progress you've made, it's a great diary of your progress and it can help boost your confidence. We all deserve that now and again, learning anything is hard work!
Learning to transcribe is one of the hardest things I'm doing right now, I find it very hard to hear a note then as soon as they add a slur I'm in big trouble. I've found that by adding the track/song to the daw program (easy if you own the song, harder if not but there are naughty ways to get it on there) then loop the section you're trying to learn, you can slow it down, adjust the volume & the best bit you can record yourself when you think you have it see if it matches up, play the two simultaneously and look for anything inconsistent.
To improve timing
Pretty much in the same way as learning & transcribing load a song, play over the top and try to match the timing as perfectly as you can. It will throw up any sections you're struggling with so you can practice them specifically. The best bit is you can analyse the timing and see exactly where the beat is and where the note falls in relation to it, which subbeat is it on.
To analyse songs
Using the loop function in the DAW allows you to listen to a song over and over to understand the structure of it in pieces and listen to the intricacies so you can learn to mimic them. This could be single instrument pieces where you want to understand the dynamics a bit better or a band where you want to know where they've added in a little more flavour or texture into the mix.
It's been a godsend to me in two ways here, the first is that I can now log my ideas down and they don't dissappear into the abyss of my phone memos. I'm FAR more likely to continue working and developing the concept if it's recrorded "I'll just lay down some really crappy drums and see where that leads the idea, then ok but what about some block piano chords, ah ok I'm getting a vibe now...!". You get the idea! The second is that I may have an idea but I can't play it - yet - so I can either spend days/weeks learning how to play it to see if it will work OR I can just fake it. Lay it down in layers adding in bits in seperate tracks, then later if it works I can go learn it and re-record. Ideas don't have to be perfect from the start, I think that's one of the most important things I've learnt is how to take a sniff of any idea and follow the trail, sometimes leaving it and coming back later. You're more likely to come back to it if you have a recording to inspire you. On Studio One you can also use layers so you have multiple versions of the same track and you can choose bits from one and bits from another to create one good attempt.
To demonstrate your progress
Different to above this isn't for you it's for your teacher. If like me you spend every week going I can do it better but I'm nervous, I can hit that note on time just not now, I've been getting it right every time until now...! Well then recording - especially mulitple recordings on different layers shows them what you can - and can't - do. It's not a replacement for trying to play it but it's a good way to show your true progress and knowing you have that backup plan will help you play with more confidence anyway.
It can be frustrating. As soon as I click record on anything I suddenly become 50% less able to play it for some reason (so I guess in that sense it's good for practicing as it will help overcome "performance anxiety" at least a little). But I don't want to be wasting my time recording and re recording over and over so I use the loop function there to give me a couple of run throughs before the real deal then I click stop and see what's what. I now don't use Sibelius to write up my scores as often which means when I forget them they're gone unless in the future I transcribe every part and I will most likely not be doing that. My songs are not good so it doesn't really matter but I think it's a little sad because it feels more special if, even in theory, it's in the wold for someone else to learn.
So these are the few things I've found so far. I'll add more as I find them of course in new posts but I've only been recording for a couple of months now so it's all still very new to me. As I add more equipment it will open up new benefits and opportunities I'm sure. It's an investment but there are cheaper alternatives to what I have. Most people can just use their existing PC, add a very cheap interface but I would recommend going with a DAW that offers things like layers because of how much it will help you. If you're invested in yourself as a musician then this will help you progress much faster - obviously as always in my opinion but it certainly has helped me a lot.
Learning Time Log
How long I've been learning as at at the end of Feb 2021.
What's This About?
One fateful day I decided to get guitar lessons. 6 years later I'm learning four instruments and trying to become a musician and songwriter. I set a five year goal (Aug 2021) to create a very special song for my 25th wedding anniversary and this is a record of my crazy journey, weird thoughts, strange doodles and unapologetic music obsession! Enjoy!