Revamp Your Recording Skills

Is that what I look like? Is that what I sound like?” Perhaps you have endured the momentary startle of seeing and hearing yourself on video after months of practicing something in the practice room and in the mirror. After you recover from the shock, there is a lot you can learn from observing video—and you may also find that you want to use DIY recordings for promotional purposes. In our technological era, there are so many ways to record your work.

 

The Camera in Your Pocket

You probably have a recording device in your pocket or your purse: your cell phone. Cell phone recording can provide solid, if unrefined, audio. Apps like Voice Memos and the Video Camera come standard on many smartphones. Both Android and Apple have a smattering of free voice recorder apps available with optional paid upgrades. Less tech savvy? Ask a friend to help you track down an option and show you where the big red recording button is in the app.

Cell phone recording is excellent if you want to record lessons or coachings for personal review. If you’re recording video, a small but helpful investment is a cell phone tripod, which you can find in table-top or full-sized versions. The added stability and flexibility of camera angles may improve the video so that you feel comfortable sharing quick takes on social media or your website.

You may have seen these casual practice room snippets on friends’ social media accounts. If you feel good about your singing, you can get away with a grittier recording on your personal social media accounts. Some singers like to post rehearsal videos to promote upcoming gigs—just make sure you have the permission of your singing colleagues and the production team first.

 

Equipment for Next-Level Recording

Beyond social media posts and personal review, if you plan to use recordings for promotional purposes, you may want to explore adding an external mic. You can use one with your cell phone if you are happy with the video quality the phone produces, or you can add an external mic to another camera.

Let’s talk about camera options first and get one thing out of the way: this is an investment! If you are going to purchase equipment, be sure to do research into what will be easiest for you to use and transport and what will give you video and audio quality that are worth the price.

Camcorder-style recorders are now so small they can fit in the palm of your hand. They are easy to transport and can record long segments of video that you can edit later. DSLR cameras can also be used for video recording and are a great option if you want a device that can also capture excellent still photos. While these take high-quality video, video may not be their primary feature, and you pay more for their advanced photo capability—which you may not need or want.

 

A Case Study: My Own Experience

A few years ago, I wanted to improve my recording capabilities. I also wanted to be able to take still photography and record spoken video messages, so I decided on a DSLR camera. After my initial research, I visited the local photo and video store and benefited from the expertise of their staff while selecting a model. I borrowed my parents’ tripod from the 80s and started recording. I either use the associated app to adjust the photos and video on my phone or I pop the data card into my computer.

After using it for a few months, I bought two external microphones (again, with the advice of the local photo store): one clip-on lapel mic for recording my speaking voice and a shotgun mic which is better suited for recording music. A bonus for both mics? They also work with cell phones when I want an easily portable option and am less worried about video quality.

With either cell phone or camera, I record at least one rehearsal before a solo performance to see if there are places where I’m moving too much or making inadvertent gestures. When possible, I set up my camera to record performances; sometimes this results in video I can use on my website, sometimes it’s just for my benefit. And when I need a recording, I can book an hour with a pianist in a space with a plain background and make a quick video.

 

Perfecting Your Video

So, once you have the footage, what do you do with it? If you need a quick crop or enhancement, you often can make those edits in the palm of your hand. Adjusting the start and stop times can probably be done on your phone, and your phone’s video app might also be able to brighten up a dark setting or slightly adjust the video.

Software today is intuitive—don’t be intimidated! With programs like iMovie or comparable Windows software, you can add titles, zoom in, remove background noise, and add transitions. There are lots of other edits you can make, but be careful not to obscure your work with too many bells and whistles! No matter how you edit your work, you can upload it to YouTube and make the clip public, private, or unlisted, depending on how you want to share your work.

A few words of warning: in our digital era, sometimes we get so obsessed with capturing the moments that we forget to experience them. Don’t let your desire to get video distract you from the experience of singing and performing! New technology makes it so easy to add to our video library and review our work, but our priority should be making great art. Now, head to the practice room and hit Record!

Margaret Felice

Margaret Felice is a singer, educator, and writer living in Boston. She is executive director of Boston Singers’ Resource. Read more at www.margaretfelice.com or find her on social media.