It is sometimes difficult to judge how well you are playing when practicing. You may think a piece is going well but at the next lesson your teacher finds many problems. It is easy to hear a missed note, but the balance between right and left hands is harder to measure. You may not be aware of speeding up or slowing down in certain spots or whether the dynamics sound right. One way to discover how you sound is to tape a practice session. This is not worth doing every day, but when you have worked on a piece for a while turn on the tape recorder. You should be able to play the notes easily at the right tempo before you try taping.
Play through the piece once before taping it for practice. Once you begin taping, donít stop for mistakes; just keep on going. Do not expect a perfect tape. Even professionals in recording studios record each piece many times and splice together the best sections of several tapes. Your goal is not to play perfectly, only to discover what problems need some more work.
After you finish, play back the recording. Try to hear how smooth it sounds or whether you hesitate at some hard spots. Find the places where something does not sound good. You may also be surprised that some errors are not very noticeable. Missed notes usually sound worse as you play than on a tape. Remember this the next time you play at a recital. If you keep going, the audience will not notice small mistakes.
After listening to the whole recording, go back and listen to the tape again while looking at the music. Circle each rough spot in pencil and mark any dynamics that you forgot or places that just do not sound right. Then go back and practice these spots to correct the problem. If you stumble on an awkward fingering, your teacher may suggest another way that will be easier. Work through the measure many times slowly and gradually speed up to the correct tempo.
You can also play the tape with a metronome to check if the tempo is steady. It is natural to slow down at hard spots and speed up on fast notes, and you may not realize it. Notice whether you held the long notes for their full counts. Donít get discouraged if you find many things to fix. Think of the tape as a tool to help you improve. It helps to hear places that need more work. Once you have practiced the bad sections for a few days, tape yourself again and hear how much you have improved.
Another benefit to taping is that you practice playing the music as you would for a lesson or a recital, as perfectly and carefully as possible. It can also help you feel less nervous. The tape is a way to practice performing before an audience Ė with you as the listener (or your parents if you play the tape for them). The more often you perform a piece, the less likely you are to be nervous. In the process of taping, you will learn the music better and probably be more comfortable playing it at the next lesson. Save these practice tapes and when you need a lift go back and listen to them to hear how much you have improved.
"Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song." Psalms 95:2
"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music." Psalms 98:4