Sound Recorder Can Improve Your Playing!

I’m not a big fan of using sound files to make judgements on how a whistle plays for a prospective customer. I find many sound files have been corrected with filters in the recording process and are no longer true to how the whistle really sounds if you picked it up and played it. Correcting sound for a commercial album is accepted policy, but a sound file made for a buyer should be as factual to the instrument as possible. No reverb, no filters, just the way it comes out of the whistle.

Playing a tune for a prospective buyer on the cell phone can be limited, especially if you are unprepared to play on a moments notice. However, there are some interesting uses for Windows Sound Recorder that will improve your whistle playing technique, timing and intonation.

Sound Recorder is the standard little program that comes with Window operating system. You may have to search through you hard drive to find where it is located. Usually it is located at Programs/Communications/Sound Recorder. Easy enough to find and simple to use. Sound Recorder makes Wave files that are a minute long and you can save them into a file on your hard drive to play and study over and over again.

When recording you can play over the same file again and again until you have an acceptable version of the tune you are playing. Save a version of your session after a try or two. You can listen to this early version later to compare how you have changed your playing or the sound of a composition you are working on.

It helps if you have someone to run the recorder program and keep everything under control, but you can do it yourself once you are accustomed to playing and recording at the same time.

You will want a good microphone plugged into your computer and set about four or five feet from the computer to eliminate computer fan noise and feedback . I recommend you use a separate microphone and not the built in microphone that now comes on most computers. You need about ten feet or twelve feet of distance from the computer microphone to your playing position to get the best sound from your setup. If the recording sounds faint or too loud, move your distance from the microphone accordingly. If you have
a laptop, you can set up your sound recording studio where acoustics are best and it makes recording in a variety of indoor and outdoor locations a snap.

On your first attempts to record, you will be nervous. Stay cool and get used to coordinating your playing with the person doing the recording. My wife Nadiene, counts to four and then hits the Sound Recorder button. That’s because I seem to need more time to get the big first note going and be on track with the music we are trying to get down. If she is too fast I get left at the gate. Don’t worry about playing correctly or getting it perfect while you are getting familiar with the whole process. I guarantee
you will not get anything right at first and it may take a couple of evenings before you don’t feel strained and relax and have fun with the process of recording. You probably will also develop a new found respect for people who record music for a living. It isn’t as easy as you expect.

One of the first things you will gain from your new setup will be all the unexpected sounds you make when you play. Incorrect breathing (huge sound of air being inhaled), throat grunts (Erol Garner Syndrome), and badly damaged notes with lots of air (chiff) from incorrectly timing your tonguing and fingering coordination and the absolute worst sound of all…running out of air on the last note and hearing your lovely note flounder and die. Sound recorder is the ultimate critic who cannot be refuted. Remember
if it doesn’t kill you, it will cure you.

You may want to take a break and have a cool glass of water after a few tries. A minute of recording will seem like an hour and you may not be able to fill up a complete minute for your first few tries. Don’t try to improvise an ending to your recording minute during this point of your development or you may really disappoint yourself. Just let each trial minute stand on it’s own and let your playing stop where it will.

At this point, make sure you and your recording partner agree on what is to be kept and those recordings that you want to do over. Name your wave files by number (Trial Wave Number 1,2,3 etc.)and save them in a folder named Wave Files that you have made on your C drive.

Check to see if your recording partner is still having fun (you don’t need the sound of static in your files!) and proceed to record a few more tunes. When you have a goodly amount of Wave files , replay them and pick out the mistakes and oddities you have collected and make note of what you want to do when you record your next session. Take a break for the rest of the evening and have a go at recording again the next day.

One of the aspects of Sound Recorder you may not expect is how well you play. Even your first attempts may startle you with how much virtuosity you have already developed. After several sessions of recording and listening to your results you will be amazed at how you have improved your technique, fingering, ornamentation and breath control.

You will also note some things about playing the whistle that you thought were fact and have now turned out to be fiction.

Your whistle doesn’t make as much chiff and air when you play it as you originally thought. You have improved your air control and your fingering is now more coordinated to each note. You hear more air from the whistle when you play because the mouthpiece is directly in front of both your ears and only inches away. The microphone is ten feet away and simply doesn’t pick up this additional sound at all!

You play the music exactly the same every time. Hey! not so fast! Better check those sound files again. Repetition is the hardest element of playing music and no one is perfect.

Some of your best loved fingering techniques are out of sync with the way the music is written and sound like… well, not so wonderful. Sound Recorder can really change your memory of what the music sounds like to how it is supposed to sound when played correctly.

Remember to have a good time and have fun using all this technology. If things start getting serious, take a deep breath and a break. Then play your rendition of the tune the way you originally learned it before you gained all this playing perfection.