It’s like having a lesson in your pocket

It’s like having a lesson in your pocket

Early in my undergraduate career, much to my chagrin, I began recording my voice lessons upon request of my teacher. Back then, I had a rather “dumb” phone, so I purchased a Zoom recorder and an SD card. I would walk into the lesson room, pop on the recorder, leave it on the desk, and turn it off at the conclusion of the lesson. I didn’t listen to many of the early recordings because I thought I sounded… strange. I was uncomfortable listening to myself sing, let alone talk!

Let’s pause for a moment… There is one HUGE caveat to this blog and my recommendations. Dysphoria is real and can be triggered by listening to recordings of yourself. Dear reader, please know that I’m not about to advocate for kicking yourself in the butt if you are experiencing dysphoria. Talk with your teacher and come up with a plan. A plan might be to record just a few of the exercises. A plan might be for your teacher to listen to and assess your recordings and then give you their assessments. A plan might be to listen to the recordings together, listening specifically for the technical aspects you are working on. Ok, unpause.

Like most things I begrudge, I needed a kick in the butt, which I gave to myself. I started listening to the recordings, all of the recordings. It’s still awkward to listen to myself speak, but it’s much less so now than it was in the beginning. As with any sound (or song, or voice, or idea), it becomes familiar with time, and we become more comfortable with it.

The more complex journey than the mere-exposure effect is one of acceptance. It’s taken years… YEARS… for me to be able to listen to myself sing or speak and think “yeah, that’s pretty good.” Our slogan at The Voice Lab is “love your voice.” That’s a complex invitation because our whole identities are wrapped up in our voice – our literal voice and our figurative voice. Through our work in music, we hope that you can come to a place of self-acceptance.

But, we’re here to talk about recording your lessons… so let’s keep going!

Here’s a New York Times article about why we hear our voices differently than everyone else. (In other words: You hear the sound vibrations through your muscles and skull, which gives it different qualities!)

Once I got over the hurdle of “awkward”, I understood a few reasons why recording lessons (and this goes for any kind of rehearsal, too) is a MUST.

  1. It’s like having a lesson in your pocket
    Most of us only see our voice teachers once a week. Few of us have the luxury of having a lesson every day, or even a few times a week. When you record your lessons, you can revisit all of the exercises, comments, repertoire, and details during the days in between lessons. This keeps the ideas fresh in your mind so that more progress can be made.
  2. Hear comments you might have missed
    I don’t know about you, but when my voice teacher (sorry, Annie!) says comments to me while I’m singing, I rarely can hear or process them. Here is another benefit from having a recording—you have the opportunity to go back and hear all of the mid-singing comments.
  3. Hear the product as the rest of the word does
    Remember just a few paragraphs ago when I acknowledged that we hear our voices differently than others do? Well, yeah. Here’s how you can hear your voice as they do! With time it will become less awkward. I promise.
  4. It’s a GREAT way to mark progress
    Over time, you will collect a large number of recordings—that’s assuming you are not deleting them each week. I encourage you to keep some of the recordings to use as reference. Every so often, maybe once a month, every three months, once a year, etc, revisit the earlier recordings and you can hear the progress that has been made! I’ve needed this often, especially during grad school, when my technical progress seemed to hit a HUGE wall. I went back to recordings from the recent past (earlier that year) and the distant past (early undergrad). That gave me clear, undeniable proof that I had made progress. It’s like a self-pat on the back for all the hard work.

Now to the logistics of recording…As I write this, on April 13, 2021, all of our lessons are still online, most using Zoom (the video conferencing platform). Did you know that you can record the meeting?! Just ask your teacher for the permission to record locally, and then you’ll have a fresh video and audio recording on your computer at the conclusion of the lesson (computers only right now – I don’t think this is available on mobile devices).

Alternatively, and/or when we return to in-person lessons, you can record right on your cell phone! It’s hard to find a non-smart phone these days, and because of this, I’m willing to bet that your cell phone has a “voice recorder” or “voice memo” app pre-installed. If you still prefer to separate the recorder from your phone, then there are a number of accessible recorders ranging from $20 – $100 and beyond. I mentioned Zoom (different company, same name) earlier–I’m a big fan of their recording devices. You can find an entry-level recorder of theirs around $100.

Whichever recording tool you prefer, start recording your lessons and reap the benefits.

This blog was originally published on The Voice Lab’s website

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