August 1

1 comments

Confronting Reality

Several years ago, I offered recording engineering services to musicians to make some extra money.

One day, a singer contacted me, wanting to record some audition material. I would come to discover she was a pain in the butt to work with. The kind of pain that no amount of compensation could cover.

Here's why.

We would record a take. She would listen to it. And then, insist that something was wrong with the equipment. That the tone of her voice wasn't right. This wasn't how she sounded.

She'd want me to change some settings and record another take.

This continued for hours. Every time, she insisted something was wrong with my equipment. This couldn't be right.

But there wasn't anything wrong with my equipment. And there wasn't anything wrong with my speakers.

The problem was, she was actually listening to herself.

Probably for the first time.

The microphone doesn't lie.

Some years prior during graduate school, a euphonium player wanted to record some pieces for an audition. He was a nice kid, but his sound was very airy. Not much core to it.

Like, hearing a euphonium and someone blowing at the same time.

So, guess what happened?

He listened back, and insisted there was something wrong with my recording equipment. His instrument sounded airy. This couldn't be right.

In this case, he insisted he was too close to the microphone. Yet, even when he walked to the other side of the room, he heard the same, airy sound.

Once again, it wasn't the recording equipment's fault. It was his. 

But he never quite accepted that.

Listening to yourself is one of the hardest things to do. Accepting that you have problems to fix is harder still. And, listening to other people's feedback and applying it, especially if you don't agree with it, is the hardest.

But, the alternative is living in denial. And denial sucks.

Not just for you, but for everyone around you.

  • Good point!! I’ve recently begun recording myself, initially to send it to friends & family who couldn’t come to recitals. It was interesting at first to hear where my mistakes or even just hesitations were when I played. It’s been a valuable part of my piano practice ever since. Once I got over how I sounded, I have been able to correct issues that I may never have recognized if I hadn’t recorded myself!!

    Thank for another great blog post!!

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    About Jonathan Roberts

    I am the founder and director of the South Shore Piano School, and I have been teaching the piano for nearly 20 years. My work centers around bringing music to the lives of kids, parents, and adults in an enriching, meaningful way. At the South Shore Piano School, my incredible colleagues and I accomplish this through skill-based teaching, community, and an innovative, people-first business model. You can read more about me here.


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  • Good point!! I’ve recently begun recording myself, initially to send it to friends & family who couldn’t come to recitals. It was interesting at first to hear where my mistakes or even just hesitations were when I played. It’s been a valuable part of my piano practice ever since. Once I got over how I sounded, I have been able to correct issues that I may never have recognized if I hadn’t recorded myself!!

    Thank for another great blog post!!

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