You might be surprised how important this really is. I began home recording back in 1965 with a little 3” reel-to-reel recorder. Soon I graduated to a 10” 15ips recorder that would do ‘sound with sound’ and ‘sound on sound’, which meant I could overdub multiple parts. So I’ve been recording myself for over 50 years! I’ve made many discoveries along the way that were made possible specifically by the recording process. Here’s what recording has done for me:
Hearing what I really sound like: We always think we sound pretty darned good – until we hear a recording of the performance! It’s a shock to hear all the mistakes and problems with pitch, timing, tempo, technique, extraneous squeaks, buzzes and thumps, overall smoothness of playing, etc. The reason you don’t notice all of this while you’re performing is that your mind is on all the mechanical stuff – along with remembering the lyrics and the sequence of the arrangement. You don’t really hear yourself until you play back a recording with nothing on your mind other than critical listening.
Cleaning up rough spots: Now, once you’ve detected the problems, you can go back, note where they all are and start fixing them. Even then, you want to record yourself again to see if you really got the problems resolved.
Recordings are your audio notebooks, a scrapbook of what you are learning and a file that you can return to for ideas on future adventures.
Developing and remembering melodies, licks, techniques, songs, and lyrics: When I am doodling around, either with a new tune or arrangement, I’m always surprised at the new little ideas that pop up – a new chord, an odd twist of the melody, a cool lick – whatever. If you are anything like me, by the time the next day rolls around you’ll forget half of what you gained today. Recording these little gems as you mine them will allow you to go back at any time and refresh your memory. Recordings are your audio notebooks, a scrapbook of what you are learning and a file that you can return to for ideas on future adventures.
Overdubbing to hone the ability to play rhythm, bass, percussion parts, and singing: Most of us play either lead, rhythm, bass, or solo guitar. It’s nearly impossible to play lead well without first playing rhythm guitar, learning the chords, phrasing and feel. Recording the accompaniment part then gives you a backdrop to lay your melodic single-note soloing over. Overdubbing all the parts to produce a one-man band gives you a deeper understanding and appreciation of how all the parts go together.
Making demos: If you are trying to get gigs or a record deal, one thing you need right away is a good demo recording of what you do and who you are.
Making CDs – The final rehearsal tool for playing concerts: When I go in to record a new CD, I always think I am well rehearsed and prepared for the studio. When I get there though, I find out that I wasn’t quite as polished as I thought. When I find myself having to rethink an arrangement or punch in several times to fix a playing error, or to get rid of a noise I’m making, or to just get more feeling into it, I realize that the final stage of my performance process is actually the recording of it. The studio experience is like a magnifying glass that helps you see the minutia more clearly and really smooth out your performance so that you are then as ready as you’ll ever be for the stage.
Your Legacy: If you are serious about your music, you spend countless hours perfecting it. It is so gratifying to be able to record and preserve who you are as a musician – to have that little bit of immortality that will allow your family and friends and fans to remember you – even after you’re gone. After all the work you put into your music, you need a little something physical to show for it. Recording at least one CD (or mp-3 or whatever) is your chance to leave a marker behind that says you were here. Pretty worthwhile, don’t you think?