Saturday, July 5, 2008

A thanks, a question, and advice on recording

First, I'd like to give a big thanks to Joel over at for his kind words and response to my entry on my last post with his brief philosophy on teaching beginning band.

I really admire his three points because they cover just about everything. The first, behavior skills, sets the students up for a good relationship with the teacher because it lays that groundwork for a healthy teacher-student interaction where the teachers aren't angry and the students aren't frustrated. The second, encouraging "band weenie" (or, as I've heard it, "band nerd") attitudes, sets them up for good peer relationships because that feeling of comradeship can go a long way in many ways. The third, having a characteristic sound, sets them up for having a good relationship with themselves; fewer things are more frustrating than that sense of "I can't get it," and a base of musical knowledge and ability will at least carry them through the summer until they can start lessons again.

Second, I'd like the poll the wisdom of those who read this and ask kind of a noob question : is it okay to advertise yourself as a private lesson teacher to your students? I used to take private lessons from one of my teachers, but he never advertised the fact that he taught privately, at least to my knowledge, and come to think of it, I've never heard any of my teachers offer private-lesson-style help at all. So, I don't know if it's just the precedent I've seen or something a little distasteful about saying "you can pay me later for what you're getting now once this ends." I mean, is there a tactful way to do this, or is it simply bad style in the first place?

Third, I've been meaning for a while to write something on recording. We used to have some recording gear at my High School, but it was really pretty inferior; the mics were little dynamic mics probably no better than an SM-57, and each track started with a huge "CLICK," which sounded like you were punching the internal mic, which doesn't make sense because there wasn't an internal mic.

Up at school, I've been doing a lot of recording and am becoming the lead recording engineer for Concordia's Beat next year. (more on this later, maybe; the site also badly needs updating) Being around the caliber of equipment you'd find in a recording studio, I've found that it's often true that you get what you pay for. So why, in a school setting, should you splurge and get a lot of expensive recording equipment?

  1. Most important, it's fun. I defer you here, to the Digital Music Educator, for a perfect illustration.

  2. Also importantly, audition tapes can be expensive for an individual to record professionally, and yet be the easiest for which to assemble gear. Plus, this is maybe one of your best reasons for your administration to hear - audition tapes lead to local, state, and national recognition for your students, which reflects well on the school, eh? Read on for more about this...
  3. It lets your students hear something on the other side of their instrument's bell. I still do this in my own practicing (just like the camera adds ten pounds, the microphone takes your tone back ten years), but are tons of ways to use a mic as a teaching system.

  4. Posterity - we made a recording back in ninth grade and got a copy at the end of 12th; it was cool of course to hear how far we had come, but also to reminisce over some old pieces I had forgotten about. I'm sure my grandkids will look at it some day, too, and have some kind of reaction or another to it. :)

Now, about this whole audition tape recording process - depending on your gear, a really good setup can cost as little as maybe $300 and would fit very nicely inside any wishlist you drafted up. This depends on you having a computer, but would get you an interface with phantom power (haven't used one before but it looks like it would do the job) and a condenser microphone (we have a couple of these in our studio and they're fine for recording close alone and far if you're backing them up with something else), plus a mic stand and XLR cable (you may already have a few of these lying around).

That's about all you'd need, if I'm not overlooking anything. Most audition tapes can be done well with one mic; for recording a group, you'd best have at least two mics, but then we're getting into more complicated territory. You plug the mic into the interface, the interface into the computer, and start running a free audio capture program. From there, burning the CD should be just like any other CD you burn.

There's a lot more on this topic, and I'll cover it later; this post has gotten long enough for one Saturday.

On the flip side of using high-quality equipment, by the way, the wise Dr. Carter suggested using the worst-quality recorder you can get to listen back to rehearsals you record and analyze; it makes it that much harder to take the pressure off and rest on your laurels. :)

Hope all's well with everyone, and enjoy any leftover 4th of July burgers.
Grill on,


stengel99 said...

Thanks for the link. Nice post. If I can interject my 2 cents worth of experience, I've had success with using a Zoom H2 digital recorder for doing simple recordings of rehearsals and live performances.

derbacher said...

RE: private lesson teaching.

I've never taken private lessons from my teachers, and never given private lessons to my students. Common practice in my 24 years of teaching has been to offer private lessons to the students of my colleagues. I've found it a great way to get expertise from other views into my programs, and to offer some of my own to their students. I've never thought of it as a way to enhance income (as it never generated much money), but as a way to share advice and expertise. It has worked well me!