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Monday, May 16, 2011

Critical listening, recording, and practice

There is a level of critical listening that many musicians only “turn on” when they are in the studio control room listening to a playback. They take note of the areas that need improvement, go back in the studio and try again. This is much easier if you’re laying down one track at a time—there isn’t the pressure of making other musicians play their parts again while you get it right.

If you’re recording live off the floor like we’re doing, the ideal is for all players to peak at around the same time, which is more likely if everyone is well rehearsed and can get to that point fairly quickly. For me, that means applying the studio level of critical listening to my personal rehearsals.

I take each song and follow the same pattern: warm up vocally; sing and play to the preproduction track a few times; stop and take note of certain areas that need work; replay the song again with that in mind; record my vocal and guitar on an empty track; listen and assess; replay; repeat.

Today I spent about four to five hours doing this. Recording myself raw was an objective reality check that had a synergistic benefit. I would hear the weaknesses transform, and feel satisfaction that intrinsically moved me to better performance. It was an upward spiral that came from compassionately applying high-level critical listening in advance of the recording. I have the sense that this will allow me to be even more relaxed and open when we roll on Friday.

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