Did recording yourself make you a better player, and how?

yammyfan

Senior Member
Self explanatory question, I suppose.

I bought a 7-piece mic kit recently and began recording my practice sessions. The results were unsettling and eye-opening, to say the least.

I'm surprised at how un-sharp my playing sounds when recorded and played back. I sound much tighter when jamming to the stereo or off the floor with live musicians. My timing isn't terrible but it's not as sharp as I thought it was.

I attribute some of this to the fact that I am comparing my live drum sound to compressed and processed studio drum kits. I might add compression and EQ to the mix to see if that tightens up my playing, perceptually.

Regardless, I definitely hear room for improvement which pretty much affirms what I "feel" during practice. On the subject of feel, perhaps that's what I'm getting at. My playing sounds a bit ordinary and uninspired to me during these practice sessions.

For those of you who have done it, what did recording yourself teach you, and how did you apply those lessons?

Thanks for reading!
 
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PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
It made me a better player, that's for sure.

Here's the thing when it comes to recording yourself: You HAVE to leave some room in your thoughts to compliment yourself on the things you did well. It's very, very easy to be hypercritical of your own playing.

There are always things to work on, so work on them. If there are things you feel are doing well, keep doing those things.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Yes, recording myself made me a better player, but only by becoming a better listener first.

By listening to my imbalance on the kit (e.g., snare too loud, hi-hat too loud, kick not articulate, etc.) I was able to make corrections.

As my recording gear grew and I began to integrate tunes into the mix, I my listening skills matured, and so did my playing.

And, geez, I was shocked at how bad I sounded on that first playback. oof.
 

gdmoore28

Gold Member
Depends on the recording situation. In a studio or live band recording, most of the time I come away thinking how much better I sound than I had thought. Even though people have always praised my band work, I've always felt quite insecure about my playing. After hearing myself for the first few times, it was quite a confidence booster. I didn't suck after all. (Except for one live recording where I was feeling very good that night - and I rushed every song. That performance will always be an embarrassment to me, and probably taught me much more than all the good recordings combined.)

On the other hand, recording myself while practicing or learning new material is always an unpleasant ordeal. In those situations, I always suck. And I can't play a good solo to save my life.

GeeDeeEmm
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
I haven't been able to produce anything worth sharing, mainly because I keep stumbling over technical issues. Most of the stuff I record, I can't stand listening to. It's not that I blew it, though I do plenty of that. That doesn't bother me as much as the limitation in HW, software I have and have no control over how loud something is.

For me, it's been mostly to catch my technique errors, see if what I'm hearing in my head actually translates well mixed in. In most cases, I've just discovered it does not. Too busy, sloppy, where I thought I was tight etc. So I guess, yes, it's helped expose things. I think it'd do even more, if I could just hit record and lay down a track without having to fight alignment, distortion, etc.

The other issue I have with my setup, is there's a slight delay between what I play and what I hear, so to record, I can't monitor at the same time, or I'm pushing and pulling like crazy. If I don't monitor, than finesse is out the door. I'll never really know how good or bad I play unless I get something resembling real gear. For now, it's just to discover technique shortfalls or spot checking what I think I hear vs. actual. So I guess the answer is still yes.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Yes.

Though back when I was a 20thing, recording yourself was difficult.

But when I was at PIT, there were cameras on the main stage, and playing on the main stage and getting to go back and look at the video of myself was HUGE!

Because what I thought I sounded like and looked like vs what I really sounded like and looked like were two very different things.

And if I hadn't had the ability to see that and work on it, and get them to line up with each other, I would have never gotten into the bands I was in later.
 

Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
My drums are close mic'ed 24/7. It will tighten up your playing for sure.

Sometimes a groove or fill that you think is working isn't, and sometimes it's the other way around. With out hearing it played back you'll never really know how it sounds. So the ability to hear yourself play is a invaluable tool.

How your drums sound is a big one too. I've spent an untold amount of time messing with heads and different tuning. Toms seem to sound lower in pitch during playback than they do behind the kit, Snare and kick not so much.

Mic placement. EQ, compression, gain levels, are all part of the learning process too. Good sound in good sound out. If your drums don't sound good by them selves they won't sound good on playback no matter what you do. They might sound a little better but that's about it.

Probably one of the best investments you can make is to buy some recording gear. You might hate hearing yourself at first but it will pay off in the long run.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
I hear things differently when I'm sitting and listening to recordings compared to when I'm playing drums.
 

Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
One more thing, The stand alone recorders work great, Zoom, Tascam, QSC. Presonus and others make recorders and or mixers that record, You don't need to use a computer, interface, software, and related gizmos to record. Get a multi track recorder, a few mic's and you're good to go. It's portable and you you can take it with you to gigs. For large venues you can send your drum mix to FOH or to a PA system,
 
D

drumming sort of person

Guest
When you hear yourself on playback you can judge what is working and what isn't working. It allows you to fine tune and sharpen your playing as well as your musical ideas. It can also reveal ideas that you can further develop.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
It's worth noting that in today's music scene, the recorded music we hear is usually one of three things: (1) someone with hideously perfect timing and execution who's been recording for decades in studios; (2) someone who gave a performance similar to yours in several takes, and then had a studio engineer go over their performance, link good takes together, and smooth out timing issues; or (3) programmed drums.

Compared to them, it's understandable we can be very harsh critics of our own work. Be the very best you can be, keep working on it, and strive for perfection.
 

ncc

Silver Member
Also, when you record, you will also learn that if or when you may be overplaying.
 

philrudd

Senior Member
Oh, good god yes.

I never really recorded myself much until the past several years, but now I always have an iPod voice recorder running at each and every practice (and some gigs). Previously, I'd only recorded my drumming before for studio sessions: some were good, some great, some not-so-great. But it was only when I started really documenting my day-to-day playing that I was able to get a well-rounded understanding of where I was as a drummer.

It's been a painful learning process - having an impartial observer feed your performance back to you is definitely a warts-and-all experience. I uncovered timing issues, dynamic issues, compositional issues...it was truly humbling.

But I have to say it's been the single-most beneficial tool I've utilized in becoming a better player. Being able to hear where you rush or drag - when, during the performance, you were CERTAIN you were rock-solid - is the first step in correcting the problem. Being able to listen to a fill as an observer, rather than a participant, is the quickest way to determine whether it works or not.

Conversely, there were places where I felt my playing was sub-par, but the playback would prove otherwise. That's also some very valuable (and placating!) feedback; it works both ways.

And I don't think you need high-end equipment to engage in this practice. The iPod recordings I use are not good; they're over-compressed and distorted and uneven. But I can hear my playing, I can hear my timekeeping, and I can tell if I'm locking in with the other players. Doesn't cost me a cent, and it's improved my playing by leaps and bounds. Do it!
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Yes it does! And the earlier in your career you can do it, you should.

I was lucky back in the dark ages, a friend recorded me on my first gig with a punk bank in 1980. I no longer have the cassette tape but I remember hearing a lot of notes from the drums (I wasn't tuned in to wavering time when I was 14 though). And since then I was aware of "too many notes" at least.

Of course, when I got to college under the jazz-fusion influence, I thought it was ok to overplay because that's college ;). But as I continued to video myself, it helped with posture as well hearing how silly I was being.

I still record myself today too. You can always learn from the mistakes you let fly-by.
 

pgm554

Platinum Member
One of the epiphanies of my life was listening to myself on a small cassette recorder playing Tornado.

It dawned on me that after listening to other super snare drumming on recordings from DCI corps like the Troopers and Cavaliers,that I was just as good.

At first listening to those folks intimidated me,but after I realized I had the chops,it encouraged me to go for it.

More of a mental boost than anything else.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Recording yourself is like aversion therapy-you start listening thinking "yeah that's ok" then the twitching, squirming, and the horror, the horror (in my best Apocalypse Now -Brando voice) hits you smack in the face. It's great though-you see a weakness and can work on it-the rub is you'll fix that and meanwhile you slacked off something else-dammit. So it's constant assessment, evaluation, and how it freakin' sounds. Like you can have the moves down but miss the feel or energy so it just doesn't sound right. Like playing a nice swing on a ride isn't rocket science but that rocket can fly off course easy enough so it doesn't sound right. Nice and clean articulate playing-whether fast or slow is now my goal. And I suck at it still, but I've gotten years of winging it, down and dirty, murky playing habits to break.
 

trickg

Silver Member
I won't be offering anything new in my comments - I'll only agree with everyone else that recording helped my playing immensely.

I started off as a "sub until we can find a 'real' drummer" for a church praise team, so I was doing weekly performances right from the start. With that church it was like pulling teeth to get recordings of the services, but when I did get them, they were very eye opening. I had a lot of the same bad habits many novice drummers have, such as hitting too hard, not playing with nuance, pushing through fills, etc.

The next church I played at recorded their services every week and sold CDs for $1 apiece as a CD ministry for anyone who wanted to listen to the service/sermon again. I'd get those CDs, rip and strip the songs into MP3s, and critically listen to those.

As others have said, not only was I looking for areas of improvement, but I was also looking for the things I was doing well so that I could reinforce the good while trying to eradicate the bad.

There's nothing like recording yourself to expose just exactly what you are doing as a musician, and I find it to be an invaluable tool in my music endeavors, whether I'm drumming, singing, or playing trumpet.
 

Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
Another option would be the Yamaha EA10. It records audio and video using your i phone and allows you to post directly to You tube. Retails around $500.
 

fess

Senior Member
Using recording, I learned very quickly that what I hear myself doing while playing is often not what's coming out of the kit. Your brain sometimes hears what you think you are doing and it sounds fine to you at the time , but the recording shows all was not roses
 

Ruok

Silver Member
I won't be offering anything new in my comments - I'll only agree with everyone else that recording helped my playing immensely.

I started off as a "sub until we can find a 'real' drummer" for a church praise team, so I was doing weekly performances right from the start. With that church it was like pulling teeth to get recordings of the services, but when I did get them, they were very eye opening. I had a lot of the same bad habits many novice drummers have, such as hitting too hard, not playing with nuance, pushing through fills, etc.

The next church I played at recorded their services every week and sold CDs for $1 apiece as a CD ministry for anyone who wanted to listen to the service/sermon again. I'd get those CDs, rip and strip the songs into MP3s, and critically listen to those.

As others have said, not only was I looking for areas of improvement, but I was also looking for the things I was doing well so that I could reinforce the good while trying to eradicate the bad.

There's nothing like recording yourself to expose just exactly what you are doing as a musician, and I find it to be an invaluable tool in my music endeavors, whether I'm drumming, singing, or playing trumpet.
Getting the church CD for me was also a great help to me. It showed just how much my own mind lied to me when playing. I now have several years of hearing myself and adjusting so that I don't cringe as much as I used to when hearing the recording.

One thing I did in the beginning when I knew I didn't play well after hearing the CD was to tell myself that "it's ok" because I'm not a professional drummer nor am I getting paid. I had to stop thinking this way because I realized that that attitude won't help my playing. I then began to ask myself if Ringo or Blaine would be happy with that recording if that was them playing on it and the world heard it. I improved a lot when I think that way than giving myself excuses for playing like crap. (I'm not saying I'm now as good as they are, far from it! But I strive for it!)
 
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