Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Recording Made Easy

Have you ever wanted to record a student’s performance prior to a recital, or a difficult passage that the student needs to work on, but lacked the equipment or knowledge to do so? I would like to share the ways in which I use recordings in my studio, and the very accessible and simple equipment that I use to produce recordings.

I use recording in my studio for many purposes, and have found that often very simple technology is sufficient. Some of the times that I use recording as a tool in my studio include:

  • Prior to a performance, recital or exam.
  • To expose the ‘gaps’ in the music, where a student hasn’t yet learnt to play a work fluently.
  • As part of the learning process for a difficult passage of music (eg.  Recording a difficult rhythm, or suggested phrasing).
  • To record a piece that the student has composed.

If you have a laptop or desktop computer with an inbuilt microphone, then you will find it very simple to record. Every Apple computer comes with ‘Garage Band’ software. Simply open the program, select the option to add a track of a ‘Real Instrument’ (as opposed to a ‘Software Instrument’) and hit record. If you are working on a PC you can easily download free audio editing software, such as Audacity. Obviously the quality of the recording will depend on the quality of your inbuilt microphone, however I find that this quick, easy recording process is perfect for recording a short passage of music as an example for a student.

If you don’t have an inbuilt microphone, or if you wish to record with better sound quality then you will need to invest in an external microphone. Like any technology (or instrument) there are varying prices ranging from $50 through to the thousands, and you usually get what you pay for. There are plenty of reviews online, so it is easy to do some research prior to purchasing a microphone. There are plenty of small, easily portable USB microphones on the market for teachers whose work is not confined to one studio.

Once I have recorded the music, I can convert the file to an MP3 and email it to the student, or upload it onto the ‘File Area’ of my Music Teachers Helper website.

One other item that deserves a mention when discussing simple and accessible recording is the mobile phone. Since I have started using recordings in my studio, I have found that my students often beat me to it. It is not uncommon for a student to pull out their mobile phone in the middle of a lesson and ask to record me demonstrating a particular passage.

While there are many experts who will be able to give advice on creating recordings of exceptional quality, I hope that this brief guide encourages you to start experimenting with the technology and resources that you have available to you in your studio now.

About the Author

Nicole Murphy
Nicole Murphy is a pianist and composer residing in Queensland, Australia. She has been teaching both piano and composition privately and in schools for over 8 years, with students currently ranging in age from four years to eighty-five years. She holds a Bachelor of Music (Honours Class I) from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and is currently working towards a Masters of Music. As a freela... [Read more]

3 Comments

  1. Lori

    A good microphone option is the Zoom H2 digital recorder(http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/products/h2/). While it’s more expensive than a mic for the computer, it is a self-contained recorder, so you don’t need a computer (though I believe you can hook it up to the computer like any other mic). It works really well for concerts. It can hold a 4GB SD card, which gives ~6 hrs of recording time. It records in both wav and MP3.

    I’ve been very happy with mine. The one drawback is that it doesn’t have internal speakers (just the mics), but it does have a headphone output that can be hooked up to external speakers.

  2. MichelleVivian

    great ideas!

  3. Robin Anderson

    There is also a great program available on mac computers called “Photo Booth” that takes pictures and video. This program is great to videotape individual pieces. Just make sure to set the input volume a little lower in system preferences beforehand, otherwise you’ll have a garbled mess of sound. It’s also super easy to drag the video into e-mails and send it to students and parents (or to upload online). Experiment with placement and sound a little before a lesson, taking into account acoustics. A laptop is obviously easier to move around.

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