Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Benefits of Recording Students Lessons

Dear MTH blog readers,

First of all, Happy Holidays! I hope this post finds you well, and I hope you are all going to have a well deserved break! I sure am looking forward to mine!

I am pretty sure all of us have recorded our students in some form or another. I remember when I first started teaching (many years ago), recording was a big deal. Cassettes and CDs were the norm. Eventually I acquired an MD recorder. The audio quality was good, but no video. Then I got a camcorder, so I finally could get video, but the audio quality was not desirable. Then I got my first Apple laptop, then I got an iPad. Fast forward to today, I now record my students with my iPhone, on a daily basis. 

I am still no recording expert, and this post is not about how to make a top quality recording. This post is about the benefits of frequent, everyday recordings of students. 

Most of us record our studio recitals. These are always a big deal, and we know more or less that the students are going to perform their best. And that’s what I did before – only recording students when I knew they would be good. So we recorded recitals, festivals, and especially competitions.

But for some time now, I have been recording my students much more regularly, and often during their lessons. We also don’t wait until their pieces are “perfect”- we record while their pieces are still very much work in progress. Moreover, I have been using Facebook “LIVE,” so the recordings are live recordings of their actual lessons. 

I have found this to be tremendously useful:

  1. It gets them used to the idea of performing. They used to get nervous when the camera is on. Now it is not a big deal. This means they get used to dealing with their nerves, and they do better in recitals and other performances. 
  2. They get to watch the recordings later. This is the biggest benefit. They get an opportunity to review what we talk about in the lessons so they are more likely to remember what to fix.
  3. The recordings are online for all to see – parents, grandparents, uncles, friends, and the public. Of course this means the parents must give consent to the recording in the first place. So far my students’ parents are totally on board (I did have one parent question it, but they left now!) Usually, the parents are very proud to share the videos, and other family members get a glimpse of what happens in the lessons. It is also easy to make the videos private or only viewable for selected people, should that be a concern for some. 
  4. It increases your studio’s online presence. I have received many lesson inquiries, because someone stumbled across one of my lesson videos, they witnessed how I worked with a student, they like my approach, and they want to be my student. 

Of course, there are many other recording platforms these days, and YouTube is another indispensable social media tool. I prefer Facebook Live for everyday recordings, because it does not take up any memory space on my phone, which now has three years worth of videos and pictures of my daughter since she was born. I also find YouTube to be more clumsy to use, and Facebook LIVE is just one click away. I still use YouTube for more “serious” recordings, such as for competitions, where it is standard to include a YouTube link of the student’s performance. 

Another something I discovered, just today, is how interesting and beneficial it is, for students to record one another. I had three students come in to the studio today to record, because they are entering one of these video competitions, and today was the deadline. We had been recording at their individual private lessons, but as you all know it is so hard to get that “perfect” recording, so we weren’t satisfied that we had the best recording yet. They did not have any private lesson time left, so I suggested that they all come and take turns to record one another. I set up the phone, showed them what to do, and I closed the studio door and went upstairs to spend time with my daughter. I could hear them. It took them each several takes, but did they do so much better knowing their peers were in the audience and that everyone’s time is precious! I am sure all of our other lesson recordings helped, but it was so interesting to see how well they did. They gave one another support, encouragement, and the comradery between them was endearing and so heart-warming. I had told them to take turns, so if they messed up, they were to let someone else go next, so it was fair for everyone’s time. I could hear from upstairs, that they did not follow this rule, but encouraged their peers to just try again – “it’s ok, don’t worry about us” – when it was clear someone just got nervous and made silly mistakes near the beginning. I was so proud of them and after about an hour and half, all three managed to make the best recording of their piece that they will submit for competition for a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall. 

Whether they win the competition or not, it does not matter. That is not the point. The point is they worked so hard on their piece, they went above and beyond trying to get a perfect recording which, as we all know, is like chasing a unicorn. They had a glimpse of what it takes to be truly amazing at something. I have a feeling what they experienced this afternoon will remain in their memory for many years to come.

If anyone is interested, my live lesson recordings can be found here.

Have a great holiday season, everyone, and happy recording to all of your students!

About the Author

Yiyi Ku
Yiyi Ku is a pianist and teacher. Born in Taiwan, she grew up in New Zealand and obtained her Master of Music degree with Distinction in Composition and Piano Performance from the University of Canterbury. Yiyi also holds a Licentiate in Piano Performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano from Music Teachers National As... [Read more]

1 Comment

  1. Melody Z. Day

    When I was a choral director, I would record rehearsals of my high school choirs–what a difference it made! The instant feedback was what they needed–those were the best choirs when I did that on a weekly basis

    As a private instructor, I make an audio recording of each lesson–voice and piano–plus I use both my iPad and iPhone during lessons for instant feedback again. I agree–this is a great instructional tool, and I am quite thankful for this technology!

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