• Phil McDonald

One thing that will guarantee you improve

I was listening to a Podcast by the drummer Emily Dolan-Davies about how you can do one thing that will make you improve as a performer. Apart from practice. You need to do that obviously but there's something you can do whilst rehearsing

which will be an eye-opener (and ear opener)and it's so simple. Record yourself. It sounds so obvious but I doubt many people actually do this.

Going back a few years I was playing guitar in a band and I noticed at rehearsals, the bassist had an old Tascam tape machine on the floor in front oh him with a little dynamic microphone on a small stand. Every time we started playing a song he would start the machine recording with his foot and record the whole song. After the session, he would go away and listen to it all week and work out what was wrong with his playing and also the band as a whole. I didn't think much of it at the time but it was clearly a useful exercise as his playing improved greatly (he was good anyway) and from the tapes, he was able to point out things that didn't sound right or things we were simply playing wrong.

Fast forward (pun intended) a few years and I was in another band rehearsing for some upcoming gigs. I'd acquired a tape recorder/ghetto blaster type of thing and the good thing about this machine was that the speakers were detachable. So before leaving home for the session I would take the speakers off, unplug the speaker wires and just take the tape unit to the practice. The beauty of this was that I could record the session and there was no temptation to keep playing back what we'd just recorded to listen and therefore wasting precious time. I did this a lot, so much so I found an unlabelled cassette tape a few weeks back and as I don't have a tape deck at home anymore, I played it in my car. Yes, amazingly my car does have a tape deck. Even more amazingly, it works and the quality is pretty good. The tape in question happened to be from an old band rehearsal. It must have been an early one as it wasn't great. That's what I'm telling myself anyway...

So I thoroughly recommend you try this. Record yourself at home practicing your songs. You don't even need to buy a recorder for this, most smartphones have a built-in sound recorder, if not there are plenty of apps out there. I have a Tascam DR-05 which I use for recording gigs and for getting down song ideas. They're very affordable at under £100 and there are lots of different ones out there. I find the Tascam is great, easy to use and the quality is superb. Recording yourself will enable you to really hear how you sound from the listener's point of view, whilst you're singing and playing you can only hear yourself from the performer's perspective, try being on the other side and working out where you need to improve. I think you'll be surprised at the results.

Where do you think you need to improve? Feel free to leave a comment.

Thanks for reading.

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