Advice on recording yourself
Dave Schall’s advice on making a good audition recording.
by Dave Schall

1. This is the big one….and it should be in place as a regular practice for all of your playing. Record yourself daily. I recommend recording whatever you are working on (including scales, long tones, and etudes) at the end of you r practice each day. Then stop and save. Do not listen. The next day, do your warm up, then listen to the previous day’s recordings. Then practice. You will notice a marked improvement in about two weeks. It changes your perspective on your sound and execution to a third-person objective view, as opposed to what you hear while you are playing. Eventually, the goal is to close the gap and be able to listen to yourself objectively all the time.

2. Don’t practice all day before you record. No more than an hour of warm up and maybe another hour of shedding.

3. Don’t take a million takes. Statistically, your best take is going to be in the first three or five attempts. If you need more takes, you’re either trying to make a record for release, or you need to practice more. Addendum to this is to try to memorize your excerpts and pieces. I find that not using the music helps a lot of people get much better and more thoughtful performances out under the mics.

4. Do not rely on editing. Most applications require video now to prove that you are not editing (using one camera, no cuts). You can’t cut within one camera’s continuous shot without seeing a position shift, so plan to play all of your pieces through. Also, you will eventually have to perform live for someone, so editing is only cheating yourself. Saving time in a crunch by using half of one take and half of another is not a big deal, but don’t plan to drop notes in. Make sure your playing is not only a good representation of yourself, but an ACCURATE representation of your abilities.

5. Use the best equipment you can get access to. Panels and teachers have to hear a lot of recordings for auditions, so send them something they will want to listen to. If you can, hire a professional. If you have to use a handheld, all in one device, learn how to set levels and place the device in a good location to show clarity and accuracy of your sound. This does not mean the middle of the hall…..try in the first two rows. I record all of Amy’s student with the same equipment I record her and her students with

Neumann U87s,

AKG 414s,

Telefunken ELAM260s.

DPA and Schoeps microphones are excellent choices too. Rode and Audio Technica also make decent microphones, though they tend to not have the detailed sonic characteristics I look for in a classical or acoustic setting.

6. Record all of your material as .wav or .aiff files. Do not record to mp3. If you have to convert to mp3 for web uploading, do it “in post” as we say. You can always go back to your .wav files, but mp3s are low resolution, missing sonic information that will affect your sound and cannot be expanded to a higher quality.

7. If you don’t know the difference between .wav, .aif, .mp3, mp4, .avi, AAC, DVD, CD, and Blu-Ray, go do some research. The information and tools to work with audio files are all over the internet, and often free. All serious musicians should be versed in digital media to some degree at this point in time. Also, if you claim to be computer-illiterate, go spend some time learning about your computer. I will start you off with one word: Preferences or settings menus!

8. Leave at least a week for completion of your media. Equipment failures and accidents can happen, so you want to have wiggle room. Video does not happen over night (well, it CAN, but you will pay an arm and a leg for it and make your engineer very stressed and tired).

9. I said it before and I will say it again….if your recording really matters, hire a trusted professional with good gear.

10. Good luck!

Dave Schall is a recording engineer and live sound engineer, as well as a bassoonist and contrabassoonist. He holds degrees in performance from the Eastman School of Music and the UMSMTD. Dave has mixed and recorded some of the most prominent musicians in the classical and non-classical world and specializes in the capture of acoustic instruments in live and studio settings.

You may contact him with questions through his website, Preface emails with “Amy Porter sound queries,” and he will be happy to give advice and guidance.

He asks that you just not email him in mid-November during pre-screening audition time. : )
Posted: December 3rd, 2018