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#2020435 - 01/24/13 03:01 PM Professional Recording
smh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/06
Posts: 30
It seems as though our days of self-recording (Zoom Q3) are over and we have to learn all about professional recording for summer music camps and college prescreenings. Our son is a junior in high school and has gone to Interlochen the last three summers. This summer he is moving on to another level. His piano teacher (college professor) says that recording expectations have gone up dramatically, but he doesn't have any feedback on what that level is or where to have a professional recording done (except at the university using students and no special grand piano miking).

My question is whether anyone can give me a professional recording 101 overview. Live audition versus sending in a recording. Cost. Live recording of a concert versus a perfect (?) studio recording. Audio versus video. What are the editing requirements/limitations? How much can you piece/edit the recordings for different opportunities. Do all places spell it out exactly, or are some things supposed to be common knowledge?

Our son always does at least as well in concerts/competitions as he does at home, and he always does well at all of the auditions he has done. I like the idea of professional recording because it requires different skills (and more technical perfection) than live concerts. He has a great attitude about live performances, but doesn't have the knowledge/patience (?) to get a perfect recording. We don't even know what that level is for something like a top level summer music festival or a college/conservatory prescreening. In case it matters, he has just performed a Bach P&F, Beethoven sonata Op.10, No.3 (1st mvt), Chopin Ballade No. 2, and the Argentinian Dances by Ginastera. He is also in a group working on Brahms piano quintet.

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#2020458 - 01/24/13 03:16 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5246
Loc: Europe
Well... Things are difficult at a higher level!

In order to grab a GOOD recording you need access to a GOOD piano, which is also (btw) tuned)...

Then you need a pair of good mics, a good preamp, and a computer to hook everything up.

Then you need software in order to capture everything, mix everything, master everything, montage everything...

_____________________

My experience with professional recordings is that the best case scenario is to find a concert hall for hire, grab it for a few hours and get all the takes from there... Find your way into 2-3 cameras and videotape everything.

Then mix/match/montage/master/export...

_____________________

I'll give you an example.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cG1_I5QXNkE

Around the summer and until the end of 2012 I composed a series of duets.

At some point I found a pianist with whom we worked very well together, so we started rehearsing. The idea was to get in my studio and record everything digitally (using sampled piano).

Then I thought that the music is too good to be left only on a digital piano and not recorded as good as possible. So I found this place you see in the video, that was for rent, for cheaps and the price included the audio engineer and mics and equipment, etc. BUT NO treatment of the sound.

Then I thought that since I had a nice place, I could find a couple of cameras and make some decent videos out of it. I found three cameras, but sadly the third one produced some dodgy material, so I've not used it yet.

So, we booked, we went and grabbed everything. Around 28 GBs of data for 2 hours of audio and video.

Being a composer, producer, etc, with my own studio means that I edited the audio as best as I could (wish we had another 12 hours in the hall, but...), and then I did the mastering. I found the parts of the video that corresponded in the audio and started montaging. Given that I know nothing about video editing, I think that the result is decent, but the sound is very good (in my opinion of course)...

End of story...

Not sure if it helps, but I the one thing I'm sure of is that the pianist needs to deal with his/her performance while recording and NOTHING else. A person cannot deal with multiple issues (what the cameras are getting, the audio, the mics, etc). Other people need to take care of that...
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#2020473 - 01/24/13 03:25 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3507
That's a lot of questions. I will give a few hints, I guess one could write a book on each of these topics

>Live recording of a concert versus a perfect (?) studio recording.

* live concert gives more noise and disturbing noise from audience
* live concert usually is un-cut while studio recordings can cut out mistakes
* live concert usually one thinks of a larger room and that may give not the required acoustics
* live concert usually has restrictions on where lights and mics can be placed.
* live concert usually is 1 take only.
* with studio recording the wishes are all determined beforehand and everything is chosen for the best recording. As many takes as it takes.

>Audio versus video.

It's not 'versus'. It's audio only versus audio + video.
I think for audition they would really like to see video as well, to see how one presents oneself and to give more input on technique.

>What are the editing requirements/limitations?

What type of 'editing' are you talking about? Putting together multiple shots with a single audio? Stitching two takes after another? Fixing up small errors? Replacing entire parts of audio? Synchronising audio and video after an edit?

>He has a great attitude about live performances, but doesn't have the knowledge/patience (?) to get a perfect recording.

Life recordings hardly ever are perfect. If he wants a perfect recording I suggest you find a good studio that can do this. He should be prepared for multiple takes. That said, I doubt whether they really want a perfect, fixed up studio recording for an audition??
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#2020480 - 01/24/13 03:30 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17954
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: smh
It seems as though our days of self-recording (Zoom Q3) are over and we have to learn all about professional recording for summer music camps and college prescreenings. [...]piano teacher (college professor) says that recording expectations have gone up dramatically, but he doesn't have any feedback on what that level is or where to have a professional recording done (except at the university using students and no special grand piano miking).
[...]


I am not doubting your word or that of your son's teacher, but this seems like a highly questionable move. I would think that many very well-qualified students would not have access to "professional recordings" whatever that might mean in the context of college/conservatory admissions and that too many might be eliminated for not being able to provide professional recordings.

I don't understand that, as a screening process, "professional" recordings are to be the norm. The major questionable element that must surface in that context is that such recordings could be heavily edited - in spite of admonitions to the contrary - in the recording studio which, to my mind, would give a totally false impression of a candidate's abilities and skills.

Are college audition boards unable to judge the quality of a candidate's performance from the reasonably good digital video recordings that are now produced in the home?

Regards,

_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2020530 - 01/24/13 04:20 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13780
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I think recording quality matters much less than people think.

A couple years ago, a friend of mine had procrastinated a bit in making a recording for a high-profile national competition. The deadline approaching, we did the best we could - found a free 40 minutes between classes in the recital hall, ran in and recorded everything on a Zoom H1 (yes, the low-end model.)

Several other students from the school had already made professional level recordings for the competition. $10,000+ worth of microphones and recording equipment.

The Zoom H1 cost $99.

None of the students who had recorded professionally were invited to compete, but my friend was.

And he won.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#2020557 - 01/24/13 04:38 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: BruceD]
smh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/06
Posts: 30
I'll start with BruceD's comments. I surely don't want to make an unnecessary move. So, what is the norm for a conservatory or a top college prescreening? Do they care or not? I would think they would like to see an unedited live performance under pressure, but I'm hearing anecdotes that a professional recording is expected. I just talked with the mother of a violinist (Juilliard pre-college student) about how they had a professional recording done, but I don't know what it was for. She's already been going to Meadowmount for years. When we toured Oberlin last summer, the student guide gushed over their recording studio and how that's what all of the students used to make their summer festival recordings.

The problem is that we really don't have a "word". We're looking for it. Are professional recordings necessary, and how professional do they have to be? How perfect do they have to be. And of course, people are getting very good at hiding edits. It's hard to imaginge that you need anything professionally recorded for prescreenings when they are eventually going to judge you in a live audition. Summer festivals where there is no live audition seems to be a different animal. BUTI claims that it makes no difference whether you send in a recording (last year it was an audio-only requirement and this year they strongly urge a video one) or go to a live audition. Does this mean that the recording has to be pretty darn good? I'm not talking about the technical or musical ability of the musician, but how hard you have to work to get the best possible performance with no edits?

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#2020565 - 01/24/13 04:49 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: Kreisler]
smh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/06
Posts: 30
"None of the students who had recorded professionally were invited to compete, but my friend was."

I like to hear stories like this.

Was your friend able to pull off perfectly clean recordings with no issues, or did you just pick the best ones? We recorded a couple of my son's pieces at the church next door (good piano and acoustics ... and free), but we didn't fuss over trying to get a perfectly clean recording. It was more like a one-shot live performance, and the Ginastera has three movements. If they expect to see perfection based on a long effort, we didn't do that. He played the Beethoven three times and the Ginastera twice and picked the best ones.

I know that professional recording can't hide poor technical ability or musicality, but if you work hard enough, it will do something. Perhaps the goal is to be good enough so that the professional recording doesn't matter. However, I would like to hear more stories, even if they are anecdotal.

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#2020749 - 01/24/13 09:22 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
trigalg693 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/08
Posts: 623
"Professional"...
Not going to call out names but I've seen quite a bit of amateurs call themselves professional, and I've seen people calling themselves professional using rather low end hardware. In the consumer music market, I've heard a surprisingly bad sounding (to me) recording that got used in something really big.

This might be difficult to interpret, but I think the quality of the recording should be high enough that the untrained ear (recordingwise) listening to a CD quality recording doesn't have any objections. By untrained ear, I mean people who are not experienced with recording. This is not hard to achieve, you just need a respectable set of omnidirectional mics, and a proper sound interface with XLR input (no need for external preamps). I'm no audio expert, but I own such a setup and to my ears I am getting just as good fidelity as anyone else short of people using true professional studios with set up rooms.

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#2020852 - 01/25/13 01:27 AM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21433
Loc: Oakland
When you talk about editing, red flags go up for me. I would not want to judge someone's playing by an edited recording! So when you are recording for an audition or competition, a simple setup is probably best.

If you are really concerned about the sound, experiment with different placements. Make sure the piano is in good shape, well tuned and voiced. That will help with the playing, too.
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Semipro Tech

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#2020974 - 01/25/13 08:13 AM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
smh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/06
Posts: 30
Thanks for the comment about amateurs.

I remember seeing one place that required a video with a fixed camera angle and zoom level. I assume that it was to make editing in the middle of a movement harder.

I also assume that if you are submitting a recording, they expect it to be better than a live performance in terms of minor slips or missed notes. We don't have a lot of experience with that process, and it seems that a high priced recording studio with a short time limit will not help. I'm tempted to stick with our church next door where there is no cost or time limit so that our son can learn how best to produce a perfectly clean recording. He does well in live concerts, but recording seems to require a different mentality and process. With a live performance, you do your best and move on. With recording, nothing is ever good enough. Our son is treating the recording session like a live performance. It's good in that you can see that he goes for it, so to speak. He doesn't look cautious, but it's not the perfection one might expect from a typical recording studio session.

Underlying all of this seems to be a philosophical difference in teaching; whether you continually move on to new pieces or you try to perfect a smaller set for recording and competition. My son's teacher definitely falls into the former category. Our son rarely plays the same pieces for each concert or competition. His sight reading skills are quite developed. The downside is that one might not develop an appreciation for subtle details and nuances, and fall into the trap of just-in-time performance development.


However, can anyone offer advice on how they prepare for and run a recording session? How long do you go before you get to point of diminishing returns? How many pieces do you try to do in one session? How do you deal with perfection versus flair? Recording sessions might produce clean, but uninspiring recordings. Maybe once we figure these things out we can decide to hire a professional.

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#2021030 - 01/25/13 10:18 AM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5028
Originally Posted By: smh
Thanks for the comment about amateurs.

I remember seeing one place that required a video with a fixed camera angle and zoom level. I assume that it was to make editing in the middle of a movement harder.

I also assume that if you are submitting a recording, they expect it to be better than a live performance in terms of minor slips or missed notes. We don't have a lot of experience with that process, and it seems that a high priced recording studio with a short time limit will not help.


However, can anyone offer advice on how they prepare for and run a recording session? How long do you go before you get to point of diminishing returns? How many pieces do you try to do in one session? How do you deal with perfection versus flair? Recording sessions might produce clean, but uninspiring recordings. Maybe once we figure these things out we can decide to hire a professional.


As my first ever semi-professional recording session was quite recent - last weekend, in fact - maybe I can recount my experiences. I had 3 weeks' notice of it, so I decided to play two pieces that I'm very familiar with (and had been memorized for a couple of years at least) but have never worked up to proper performance standard, in terms of playing for an audience or recording (though I have played them for friends and colleagues, in somewhat casual manner...). I set to work polishing them up, ironing out the occasional fluffs that never bothered me before in the fast/jumpy passages and chords, by endlessly repeating them till I was satisfied. I could also make use of the recording facility on my piano, actually a high-end digital (Roland V-Piano), to make sure.

Then came the day - in an unfamiliar venue, a piano showroom I'd never been before, and an unfamiliar piano, a new Yamaha CF6 grand. We had one hour to do it and the (single) video camera and the microphones were already in place. I warmed up on an upright (with 'practice pedal' engaged, because someone else was recording), then it was straight down to business. The piano was much more powerful and loud than I expected, partly due to its bright voicing, partly due to the acoustics. After the first (and rather nervy) take, I decided I needed to use the una corda pedal for a few sections, not just to soften the sound, but to get the sotto voce tone that I wanted - even though I never used it for those pieces when practising them at home. A couple more takes, and the recording was finished, more or less to my satisfaction. Then on to the next piece - and the same happened: I added the soft pedal for a few sections. There was a bit of time left over, so I played both pieces again, one after the other - and they were the best takes of the day! Still a bit of time left, so I was invited to add another piece. I played something I hadn't practised....a few takes, and it went into the 'can' too (though I don't think it was very good).

What I discovered during the recording session was that I was playing each take as I would for an audience - there were three people there (the owners of the piano store, two of whom were involved in the recording) who I'd never met before till that day. My nerves settled somewhat as I played each subsequent take, but it always still felt like I was giving my all each time, not like a practice run at home on my own piano. And though I thought I couldn't play any better, my last re-run of both pieces (because time permitted) turned out to be the best of the afternoon - maybe because I felt the music was already 'in the can', so I had nothing to lose by doing it one more time.

I haven't yet seen or heard the finished results. No editing is possible, so it is a matter of using the best take....

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#2021063 - 01/25/13 11:12 AM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21433
Loc: Oakland
This reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me about Schnabel's recording passage. My friend heard it from Roger Sessions, who was at the recording session for the Hammerklavier Sonata. Apparently Schnabel played the sonata three times. On one of them, he nailed the fugue, but messed up other parts of the sonata worse than the one that was released. He just refused to release a recording made from the best parts of several performances.
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#2021113 - 01/25/13 01:16 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17954
Loc: Victoria, BC
Getting back to the original request: I think you just need to pay close attention to what is asked by the organization requesting the recording.

To me a truly "professional" recording invariably involves editing, and I have hard time believing that an admission jury wants to listen to edited recordings, never knowing what the editing has been able to cover up or gloss over. We can all play exquisitely well if we have unlimited editing in our recordings, but I seriously doubt that that is what an admissions jury is looking for.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2021114 - 01/25/13 01:16 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
Hakki Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2477
smh,

Just listen to the following recording, and tell me what you think about the recording quality.
Is it at an acceptable level for your expectations ?
If so, we can discuss on how it was made ?


https://www.box.com/s/0e3373160e10e4b27f8c
_________________________
Put in one of IMO, I think, to me, for me... or similar to all sentences I post

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#2021132 - 01/25/13 01:42 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: BruceD]
smh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/06
Posts: 30
"I think you just need to pay close attention to what is asked by the organization requesting the recording."

Here is what the web site says for the festival he applied to:

"Audition videos (AVI, Quicktime, MPEG, Windows Media, Flash Video): (Audio only formats cannot be accepted.) String, piano, double bass, and harp applicants, please submit two contrasting pieces of any length that best represent your current level of playing."

"best represent".


"We can all play exquisitely well if we have unlimited editing in our recordings, but I seriously doubt that that is what an admissions jury is looking for."

I agree, but one might assume that since it is a recording, then it is the absolute best that the musician can do. There is no place to say that it took two or twenty attempts to get the recording. That's the real basis for my original question.

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#2021136 - 01/25/13 01:46 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: Hakki]
smh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/06
Posts: 30
"... and tell me what you think about the recording quality.
Is it at an acceptable level for your expectations ?"

The recordings sound great, but I'm not the important one here. I'm interested in what a festival/college/conservatory expects.

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#2021144 - 01/25/13 02:10 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
trigalg693 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/08
Posts: 623
IMO Hakki's recording is at least as good as what I've heard coming out of recording sessions at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and students who've recorded there have won some pretty big stuff.

For Youngarts, I just played through over and over until I got a clean recording...I don't think it was any more "boring" than usual. I think I did 60 (the most) takes on Liszt Transcendental Etude no.10, and a minimum of 15-20 on any piece. Now, I didn't win anything so interpret that as you will laugh

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#2021151 - 01/25/13 02:23 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
smh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/06
Posts: 30
Here is what NEC has to say:

"All undergraduate (BM, DP) and graduate (MM, GD) applicants must submit the following prescreening repertoire:
1.first movement of a Classical Sonata (e.g., music by Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, or others)
2.substantial Romantic work (e.g., music by Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Mendelssohn, or others)."


"Prescreening recordings should be audio-only files..."
"Each piece must be performed in a single, unedited take..."
"It is not necessary to submit a professionally produced recording, but the sound quality should be very good."


The conclusion I come to is that I can use my Zoom Q3, but we have to work really hard on our recording skills to get the best recording, even if it takes 25 attempts. More importantly, it means that our son can't keep moving on to new pieces. He has to bring existing pieces to a more polished level. (We just don't know what that level is.) Since he has done many pieces that fit the requirements above, then it's more a matter of quality than quantity. I'll assume that the live audition will tell them the reality of the recording. From a teaching standpoint, that would indicate a preference for learning fewer pieces better, or at least for your college audition repertoire. Are there videos (audios) that give one an idea of the level and polish required for different colleges or conservatories?

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#2021157 - 01/25/13 02:32 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
Hakki Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2477
Originally Posted By: smh
"... and tell me what you think about the recording quality.
Is it at an acceptable level for your expectations ?"

The recordings sound great, but I'm not the important one here. I'm interested in what a festival/college/conservatory expects.


OK, let me analyze the situation for you.
What is this recording for ? For an audition, right.
Now, the alternative would be listening to your son live with your own ears.
So, do you find something unusual or weird about the above recording? Does it resemble something that you would hear live with your own ears ? Maybe.

To summarize, the judges are expecting something near to a performance that they would listen live.
That is, a video recorded from the usual concert seat position, and audio recorded with two omnidirectional microphones at a reasonable distance for capturing the room acoustics as well.
Which means, get a Zoom Q3HD or similar recorder and record from the front seat of a hall. IMO, that would suffice.
That said, was the audio portion of the above recording recorded with a Zoom device?
Well, no.
_________________________
Put in one of IMO, I think, to me, for me... or similar to all sentences I post

http://www.youtube.com/user/hakkithepianist

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#2021158 - 01/25/13 02:33 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
AldenH Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/11
Posts: 412
Loc: Texas
I think that there is some overthinking going on here. I really believe that the best way is the simplest, and moreover, it's what you've already tried: record with your Q3 (or buy a Q3HD or Zoom H4N if you don't need video) in the church with the nice acoustic and instrument, only record few takes and select the best. In my experience, the takes do not continue to get better after the 5th (at the very most).

You will be looked down upon by none, I'm almost certain. That method is far preferable to recording in a studio and correcting flaws: a number of places I have applied to expressly forbid it, and you would do well to treat them all that way.

If you're up for a $2,500 investment, buy yourself a pair of AKG-414 XLIIs and a Zoom H4N and go to town with them. They are truly excellent in a resonant acoustic and could last well through your son's college days. I can send you links to audio examples if you are interested in hearing how refined they are.

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#2021159 - 01/25/13 02:35 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: trigalg693]
smh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/06
Posts: 30
"For Youngarts, I just played through over and over until I got a clean recording..."

Our son was interested in the YoungArts application this year (junior) but we knew little about recording expectations and when he was invited, there was little time left and he was in the middle of working on new pieces. This has happened for concerto competition deadlines. If I had to start over, I would have pushed for recording at least a few pieces each year to have on hand. We have mostly live recordings. Some of them are very good, but perhaps not for submission purposes.

BTW, did you go to a YoungArts Week, and if so, was it worth it?

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#2021164 - 01/25/13 02:52 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
AldenH Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/11
Posts: 412
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: smh
"For Youngarts, I just played through over and over until I got a clean recording..."

Our son was interested in the YoungArts application this year (junior) but we knew little about recording expectations and when he was invited, there was little time left and he was in the middle of working on new pieces. This has happened for concerto competition deadlines. If I had to start over, I would have pushed for recording at least a few pieces each year to have on hand. We have mostly live recordings. Some of them are very good, but perhaps not for submission purposes.

BTW, did you go to a YoungArts Week, and if so, was it worth it?


You can watch a performance of YoungArts participants here (starting at just before the 35 minute mark) to get a feel for the quality of music making there. Technically, the level appears extremely high, particularly if they only had that week to work on this chamber music (seems unlikely but it is possible). I know one of the faculty, and she is excellent.

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#2021165 - 01/25/13 02:53 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
Hakki Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2477
Originally Posted By: smh
"Each piece must be performed in a single, unedited take..."
"It is not necessary to submit a professionally produced recording, but the sound quality should be very good."


Yes, record in one take with NO edits.

Originally Posted By: smh
He has to bring existing pieces to a more polished level. (We just don't know what that level is.)


The level is, at least, with NO wrong or missing notes, proper tempo, dynamics and interpretation.

Originally Posted By: smh


The conclusion I come to is that I can use my Zoom Q3,


Yes. And please make sure that the piano is tuned and voiced very well.
If possible record on a concert size instrument. (Steinway D
Yamaha CF III, Kawai EX, or similar)
_________________________
Put in one of IMO, I think, to me, for me... or similar to all sentences I post

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#2021166 - 01/25/13 02:55 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: AldenH]
smh Offline
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Registered: 03/21/06
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I'll agree with the overthinking in the sense that the better you are, the less important the recording is. The goal would be to play well enough to make the recording mean less.

"AKG-414 XLIIs" If I need video, can they be used with my Q3HD?

"...a number of places I have applied to expressly forbid it, and you would do well to treat them all that way."

I assume that there are technical ways to detect edits, but in the end, you will have to pass through a live audition.

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#2021169 - 01/25/13 03:06 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
BruceD Online   content
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Originally Posted By: smh
[...] but one might assume that since it is a recording, then it is the absolute best that the musician can do. There is no place to say that it took two or twenty attempts to get the recording. That's the real basis for my original question.


I can be sure that many would argue that this is a grey area, but I would counter your observation by saying that "the best that the musician can do" surely doesn't involve "... in multiple takes." I would assume that the best a musician can do implies a single, played-through, unedited recording as in a live performance.

Regards,
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#2021171 - 01/25/13 03:10 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: AldenH]
smh Offline
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They were finalists, so how and when did they get put together?

Thanks for the link. My son will like it. He has been playing in chamber groups for about 5 years.

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#2021177 - 01/25/13 03:17 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
Hakki Offline
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Originally Posted By: smh

"AKG-414 XLIIs" If I need video, can they be used with my Q3HD?




Yes, but if it is a Q3HD. Because it has a line in port. To which you can connect a mixer's or preamps's line out.(you must connect the AKG's to a mixer or preamp with phantom power capability)
Then, it will record the audio from the line in (in sync with the video) and cancel the onboard mics.

OTOH, if you have a Q3, to my knowledge the Q3 does not have the line in port and the MIC IN is not the same thing. You can't connect a line level signal to a mic port.
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#2021179 - 01/25/13 03:20 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: Hakki]
smh Offline
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"one take?"

Does anyone record with one take and send it in? I can see the requirement for no edits, but one take?

"And please make sure that the piano is tuned and voiced very well. If possible record on a concert size instrument. (Steinway D Yamaha CF III, Kawai EX, or similar)"

"tuned and voiced?"

And if you don't or can't, what will their reaction be?

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#2021182 - 01/25/13 03:32 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
Hakki Offline
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Originally Posted By: smh
"one take?"

Does anyone record with one take and send it in? I can see the requirement for no edits, but one take?



One take means, a piece recorded from start to finish as a whole without ANY breaks. Just as it would be in a live audition. Of course you can record several "one takes" and choose one of them.



Originally Posted By: smh

"And please make sure that the piano is tuned and voiced very well. If possible record on a concert size instrument. (Steinway D Yamaha CF III, Kawai EX, or similar)"

"tuned and voiced?"

And if you don't or can't, what will their reaction be?



Here is OUR reaction to a PW member's recording.

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/2015336

You guess the judges reaction. Usually they will quit listening after 30 seconds.
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#2021186 - 01/25/13 03:39 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: Hakki]
AldenH Offline
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Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: smh
[...] but one might assume that since it is a recording, then it is the absolute best that the musician can do. There is no place to say that it took two or twenty attempts to get the recording. That's the real basis for my original question.


I can be sure that many would argue that this is a grey area, but I would counter that observation by saying that "the best that the musician can do" surely doesn't involve "... in multiple takes." I would assume that the best a musician can do implies a single, played-through unedited recording as in a live performance.

Regards,


+1, although would you agree that selecting the best of a few takes would be acceptable? Particularly for young pianists, as they often don't have a full recital program to record, and the first selection might have a 'still warming-up' quality to it. Multiple takes would make sure that one is settled into the process, just like a few minutes into a recital.

Originally Posted By: Hakki
Originally Posted By: smh
"Each piece must be performed in a single, unedited take..."
"It is not necessary to submit a professionally produced recording, but the sound quality should be very good."


Yes, record in one take with NO edits.

Originally Posted By: smh
He has to bring existing pieces to a more polished level. (We just don't know what that level is.)


The level is, at least, with NO wrong or missing notes, proper tempo, dynamics and interpretation.

Originally Posted By: smh


The conclusion I come to is that I can use my Zoom Q3,


Yes. And please make sure that the piano is tuned and voiced very well.
If possible record on a concert size instrument. (Steinway D
Yamaha CF III, Kawai EX, or similar)


+100, although a couple of split notes won't put you out of the running by any means. Make it perfect in practice of course, but we come back to the idea of treating recording sessions like live performances with a retry button. Sweep and flow with some splits over cautious and no wrong notes. It amazing how the 'permission to fail' of a recording session (as opposed to the single shot of a performance) can give a recording the color and inspiration (for lack of a better word) of a live performance with a physical freedom that really makes wrong notes less likely (if you're not worrying about getting it perfect the very first time with no second try - like in performance - you body relaxes and allows the work do be done unimpeded). Definitely make sure that the recording has warmth:

• experiment with different mike distances
• big, tuned, voiced, generally evened out piano
• acoustic slightly more resonant than would be desirable for solo performance - this is why home recordings often have an 'acoustic coffin' feel.

Churches, conveniently, often provide a good solution to the latter two.

Originally Posted By: smh
I'll agree with the overthinking in the sense that the better you are, the less important the recording is. The goal would be to play well enough to make the recording mean less.

"AKG-414 XLIIs" If I need video, can they be used with my Q3HD?

"...a number of places I have applied to expressly forbid it, and you would do well to treat them all that way."

I assume that there are technical ways to detect edits, but in the end, you will have to pass through a live audition.




My overthinking comment was not as thoughtful as it could be, and I think you are spot on.

They cannot be plugged into the Q3HD (XLR cables), but if you bought a Zoom H4N (the least expensive usable recording device with XLR inputs) for $300 (kind of a pittance compared to the mikes themselves), you could use both Zoom devices simultaneously and sync them up in an editing program without too much fuss.

It's the principle of the thing, in my opinion. Selecting from different takes isn't falsifying your ability to perform something; it's like presenting your face with makeup, but not with surgical alteration (not the best analogy, but I think it works).

Originally Posted By: Hakki
Originally Posted By: smh

"AKG-414 XLIIs" If I need video, can they be used with my Q3HD?




Yes, but if it is a Q3HD. Because it has a line in port. To which you can connect a mixer's or preamps's line out.(you must connect the AKG's to a mixer or preamp with phantom power capability)
Then, it will record the audio from the line in (in sync with the video) and cancel the onboard mics.

OTOH, if you have a Q3, to my knowledge the Q3 does not have the line in port and the MIC IN is not the same thing. You can't connect a line level signal to a mic port.


That would be great, but good preamps aren't cheap. The syncing may or may not be easier and cheaper, depending on your editing skills and software.

Originally Posted By: smh
"one take?"

Does anyone record with one take and send it in? I can see the requirement for no edits, but one take?

"And please make sure that the piano is tuned and voiced very well. If possible record on a concert size instrument. (Steinway D Yamaha CF III, Kawai EX, or similar)"

"tuned and voiced?"

And if you don't or can't, what will their reaction be?



See my comments on takes earlier in this post. Just my opinion, but I believe it is a widely held standard that multiple takes are fine in 90% of cases. There are a few exceptions (certain competitions are more stringent), but festivals and colleges are generally less strict in this regard.

I would do the utmost to make sure that the piano is very well regulated. That matters more than the recording setup. If we take my makeup analogy, if the tuning is at all off or the voicing is subpar, it's like heading to a job interview without showering after a late night out on the town. Definitely a faux pas.

Originally Posted By: Hakki
Originally Posted By: smh
"one take?"

Does anyone record with one take and send it in? I can see the requirement for no edits, but one take?



One take means, a piece recorded from start to finish as a whole without ANY breaks. Just as it would be in a live audition. Of course you can record several "one takes" and choose one of them.



Originally Posted By: smh

"And please make sure that the piano is tuned and voiced very well. If possible record on a concert size instrument. (Steinway D Yamaha CF III, Kawai EX, or similar)"

"tuned and voiced?"

And if you don't or can't, what will their reaction be?



Here is OUR reaction to a PW member's recording.

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/2015336

You guess the judges reaction. Usually they will quit listening after 30 seconds.


+1 on the "one take" opinion. I beg to differ with regard to the Mozart recording: there is a good deal of work for the pianist to do (despite great musical ideas), but I found the piano and recording to be near the bottom of the level I expect good recordings to be, but certainly within the limits of a "good" recording setup.

Just my $0.02, or rather $200, as I appear to have written quite a lot!

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#2021212 - 01/25/13 04:13 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: Hakki]
smh Offline
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Are you saying that they would stop listening after 30 seconds because of this piano's voicing? I would say that there are more obvious reasons. It also depends on what this video was submitted for.

There are also other types of mistakes, like those normal (?) slips during a live performance or competition. Those are unlike what you see in your video link. From what I can tell, the general expectation is that you have to do enough "one takes" to find one recording without those performance-type mistakes. I think that's what my son needs to learn how to do. He is used to one-shot performances. In some ways, recordings force you to focus on a higher level of consistency and perfection. Then again, recording might get you to become more conservative and safe.

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#2021239 - 01/25/13 04:46 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
Hakki Offline
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Originally Posted By: smh
Are you saying that they would stop listening after 30 seconds because of this piano's voicing? I would say that there are more obvious reasons. It also depends on what this video was submitted for.



You must make sure that the piano is well tuned and voiced, so that it won't hinder your son's performance, AND distract the judges' attention from the music. This is a prerequisite for a "professional recording". Usually a tuner is hired during a professional recording session to keep the piano in tune (if necessary) during the whole session.
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#2021244 - 01/25/13 04:51 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: AldenH]
smh Offline
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I apologize for setting this thread up to go in multiple directions. Blame it on my need to figure out what the important issues are with my son and recording. The pieces he is currently playing (that I listed in the original post) should indicate his general level, and he is not playing over his head. But there is his teacher's philosophy of always moving on to new pieces. For example, he is in the process of making a pass through all of Chopin's etudes rather than picking one or two to really master. They are doing the same thing with many Bach Prelude & Fugues. It seems that you can get away with this for performances, but not for recording. I'm trying to get him to settle on a repertoire for college auditions next year, but it keeps changing. New pieces are more interesting.


"It amazing how the 'permission to fail' of a recording session (as opposed to the single shot of a performance) can give a recording the color and inspiration (for lack of a better word) of a live performance with a physical freedom that really makes wrong notes less likely (if you're not worrying about getting it perfect the very first time with no second try - like in performance - you body relaxes and allows the work do be done unimpeded)."

My son has no nerves problems with performances or competitions. Mistakes (not fundamental issues of technique, tempo, or interpretation) don't bother him. The problem is that maybe these mistakes should bother him some more. It seems as though recording sessions could get him to focus more on perfection and consistency. Even when we do record, it's all about freedom and not worrying about what might be minor issues for live performances. Looking at the recordings we just created, there are long stretches where he is gazing off at the ceiling. His teacher tells him to focus on musicality and interpretation and to not worry about slips of the fingers. This gives him a good philosophy for performances, but it doesn't seem to be the right idea for recording.

It seems like you have to be a perfectionist for practice (or recording), but somehow lose that for performance. (I've seen some kids look miserable after performances I thought were pretty good.) My son has a good performance attitude, but can't seem to switch over to perfectionist for recording.

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#2021258 - 01/25/13 05:06 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
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Tuned piano, definitely. Regulated and voiced will probably help playing, both technically and interpretively. Concert grand, well, I would not recommend any school where that would make a difference. I am sure that every music school has admitted piano students who have hardly ever played on a grand piano, let alone a concert grand.
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#2021264 - 01/25/13 05:14 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
Hakki Offline
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Originally Posted By: smh
It seems like you have to be a perfectionist for practice (or recording), but somehow lose that for performance. (I've seen some kids look miserable after performances I thought were pretty good.) My son has a good performance attitude, but can't seem to switch over to perfectionist for recording.


Let me remind you that in "professional" environment a no mistake performance is the norm. It has nothing to do with being a perfectionist. It is just normal and expected. Nothing special.
So, there is no such thing as "switching over to perfectionist mode" for recording.
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#2021304 - 01/25/13 06:13 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
ronde des sylphes Offline
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Hi, smh. There have been some good points of view expressed; I'd like to add my thoughts. Firstly, so you know where I'm coming from, I'm an amateur pianist, but I do take professional lessons and advice: last year I made what I hope to all intents and purposes is a professional CD, using a professional engineer, equipment, a good piano and hall. So I have some experience of what the process involves.

Re audio editing versus an "honest" one-take recording: that is, I think, up to your moral stance. I would bet that some of the other submissions will be tweaked just that little bit.

You can get a perfectly serviceable sound comparatively cheaply: I've used a Rode NT5 pair and an Edirol R-09HR. In total that shouldn't cost more than £500. If you want to go for the fully professional recording, then the sound engineer should be able to bring his own equipment; however make sure they are mics suitable for piano recording. During my recording session (2 days for 65 mins final result, approx 7 hrs of takes) I played a Steinway Model D and the mics were Rode NT5 pair (close), Rode NT4 stereo and U87 pair.

A church is a good place to record, as previously suggested; of course try to find one with a decent piano. And do have it tuned and regulated properly in advance. The hire for a church will usually be a lot cheaper than a dedicated concert hall.

If you go the fully professional route, you're of course going to have to pay the engineer for his recording time, and for studio editing time, should you feel inclined.

Nikolas's comment: "..the pianist needs to deal with his/her performance while recording and NOTHING else. A person cannot deal with multiple issues (what the cameras are getting, the audio, the mics, etc). Other people need to take care of that..." Take that on board: that is very good advice indeed.

Spend a reasonable amount of time on setup, making sure the piano sounds decent. Don't put mics too close to the piano, as I did. You're likely to find pedal noise, even extraneous string noises, being generated. My recording(s) would have been blighted by them but for my engineer's skill with noise reduction techniques - and heaven alone knows how much time was spent cleaning everything up. (In passing Hakki, your recording is really rather nice, but there's certainly some pedal (or whatever) noise apparent).

People who are talking about "perfect" recordings: they don't exist. If you listen, and I mean really listen, closely to even the greatest pianists, you will hear the odd hints that it is a fallible human playing. That's even before you start to debate interpretation. However, that's not an excuse to avoid aspiring to a polished rendition.

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#2021313 - 01/25/13 06:31 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: BruceD]
BruceD Online   content
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Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: smh
[...] but one might assume that since it is a recording, then it is the absolute best that the musician can do. There is no place to say that it took two or twenty attempts to get the recording. That's the real basis for my original question.


I can be sure that many would argue that this is a grey area, but I would counter your observation by saying that "the best that the musician can do" surely doesn't involve "... in multiple takes." I would assume that the best a musician can do implies a single, played-through, unedited recording as in a live performance.

Regards,


A word of clarification : I should have written "multiple edits" not "multiple takes" in the above statement.

It shouldn't matter how many times you record the work(s) in question in trying to get a "good copy", but the final version for submission to an admissions jury I think should be one that is played through in one (final) take, with no editing from start to finish if you really are setting out to show "what the musician can do."

Regards,
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#2021315 - 01/25/13 06:38 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: BruceD]
Nikolas Offline
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Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: smh
[...] but one might assume that since it is a recording, then it is the absolute best that the musician can do. There is no place to say that it took two or twenty attempts to get the recording. That's the real basis for my original question.


I can be sure that many would argue that this is a grey area, but I would counter your observation by saying that "the best that the musician can do" surely doesn't involve "... in multiple takes." I would assume that the best a musician can do implies a single, played-through, unedited recording as in a live performance.

Regards,


A word of clarification : I should have written "multiple edits" not "multiple takes" in the above statement.

It shouldn't matter how many times you record the work(s) in question in trying to get a "good copy", but the final version for submission to an admissions jury I think should be one that is played through in one (final) take, with no editing from start to finish if you really are setting out to show "what the musician can do."

Regards,
It's cheating, but how will they know? I mean 99% of studio records go into editing mode immediately after the first day and I'm not ashamed to say that 3 out of 7 works in the duets I recently released had a couple of minor edits in...

And of course a recording is either way too bad a way to judge: Can you imagine someone working for 2 years on a work, and recording it continuously for a week to get things perfect? That would certainly be cheating as well I think...
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#2021320 - 01/25/13 06:50 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: Nikolas]
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Originally Posted By: Nikolas
[...]It's cheating, but how will they know? I mean 99% of studio records go into editing mode immediately after the first day and I'm not ashamed to say that 3 out of 7 works in the duets I recently released had a couple of minor edits in...

And of course a recording is either way too bad a way to judge: Can you imagine someone working for 2 years on a work, and recording it continuously for a week to get things perfect? That would certainly be cheating as well I think...


Aren't we writing about two different issues here? One is a recording for (possibly) commercial distribution where one has edited out mistakes for the ultimate and continued enjoyment of the listeners. That seems to be the norm - should be the norm - for commercially distributed recordings.

The other is a recording for submission to a jury which needs to decide if a potential student plays well enough to be admitted to a program of study. Most of us amateurs don't have the skills or the equipment to edit so well that edits wouldn't be apparent. As a judge, I don't think I'd want to pass judgment on a pianist whose submission was obviously full of edits. How would I know what the edits covered up and how, as a result, would I be able to judge the real potential of the candidate?

As for the more skilled editors asking "How would the jury know?" (if slick edits were so well done they were not revealed) that is a question of the integrity of the candidate, I would think. That decision rests on his shoulders, doesn't it?

Regards,

How is "recording it continuously for a week" any different from adding extra practice until the result is satisfactory?

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#2021325 - 01/25/13 06:59 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
Nikolas Offline
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Indeed we are talking about two different things...

But I should note that despite my knowledge around music, etc, I've only heard 1 single edit in all the CDs I have. It's in the skythian suite by Prokofiev, in a Deutsche Gramophone recording... Nothing else, ever...

So while I consider myself skilled I have no idea how many edits take place in a recording... Others recordings at least! laugh

But the point remains: someone here is asking about advice. I know that it wouldn't be ethical, but if he handed me a few thousand dollars, I'd help him edit to 'perfection' the recordings (<-ok... not really... but anyhow). and the point is still there: A recording is a bad way to cut someone from auditioning... I think... (remember that I have some grudges against recordings and I deal with those in my PhD: A recording is a fake artefact (stream of numbers actually, since we're talking about digital recordings here) of something that happened in a given time. It's a photo of a specific point in time.

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Personally I'd accept a final exam with a final work, unknown to the pianists, that they have to learn in a certain period of time. I think that queen elisabeth competition does that with their performers: One year is for composers to work on a concerto (violin or piano) and the next year it's the performers time, who play that concerto (unknown to them).

Talk about fairness I think...
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#2021339 - 01/25/13 07:38 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: smh]
ABC Vermonter Offline
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I do not know about college audition pre-screening; I am not there yet. I do see more and more summer camp auditions changed from CD to DVD (or online video) submission. I suppose this makes editing less likely.

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#2021351 - 01/25/13 08:10 PM Re: Professional Recording [Re: Nikolas]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13780
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
It's cheating, but how will they know? I mean 99% of studio records go into editing mode immediately after the first day and I'm not ashamed to say that 3 out of 7 works in the duets I recently released had a couple of minor edits in...

And of course a recording is either way too bad a way to judge: Can you imagine someone working for 2 years on a work, and recording it continuously for a week to get things perfect? That would certainly be cheating as well I think...


The truth is...they don't know. The technology is good and easy enough that anyone can edit a recording and hide the splices. That's why live auditions are always strongly preferred.

But here's the trick - if you edit a recording so much that it makes you sound better than you truly are, then you will be found out and you can forget having a career in music and the respect of your peers and superiors.

There are basically two kinds of recordings in the world - recordings of performances that did exist and recordings of performances that never existed. Commercial recordings are almost always of the second kind. Audition and "live" recordings should be of the first kind.

That being said, there is some grey area. Volodos released a "live" recording of Rachmaninoff 3rd concerto that was actually built from 2 or 3 separate performances of the work. (Same orchestra, same hall, different nights.) Every note on the recording actually occurred live in front of an audience, just not the same audience!

My audition recording advice is rather simple:

Good Piano.
Good Room.
Good microphones.
4-5 takes.
Pick your favorite.
Mail it in.

Zoom 3HD cameras are good, but if you're going to buy one just for an audition recording, the $300 would be better spent on having a recording engineer come do it for you. They can also offer a lot of assistance, as many of them know the best halls, the best pianos, and the best microphone placements. They can also offer a great pair of ears and give good advice during a session.
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#2021552 - 01/26/13 09:54 AM Re: Professional Recording [Re: Nikolas]
smh Offline
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"Can you imagine someone working for 2 years on a work, and recording it continuously for a week to get things perfect? That would certainly be cheating as well I think..."

I see two different issues. One is working on a smaller set of pieces over the years to perfect them for competitions and recordings. Another is to spend a lot of time just to get a perfect recording. For the latter, you will be found out at the competition or follow-on live audition, although you get the recognition and opportunity to move on to that stage. In some cases, like summer festivals, selection is based only on the recording.

I think the first issue raises more questions. If you work a long time on just a few higher level pieces, you will be able to record them without much effort AND you will be able to show that ability at an audition or competition. Being involved with a regional piano competition that has elementary, middle, and high school categories, it's interesting to see the level of pieces played by very young pianists coming from big name studios or conservatories. In some cases, they pull it off. Is it because they are so good or because they are focusing only on a few competition pieces?

What are the trade-offs? It's hard to say. Our son's teacher has never focused on perfecting a competition repertoire although our son has been in competitions since he was 7. He rarely performs anything twice. I support that philosophy. He has a wide knowledge of music and superior sight-reading skills. But now that he is a junior in high school, the opportunities seem to be based on doing fewer pieces better. Recordings matter. These are different skills and they require a different mentality.

Our son played Debussy's Toccata from "Pour le piano" at a ninth grade state honors recital. He hasn't looked at it since. For his summer music festival application this year, he had a huge list of pieces he performed in the last year, including solo pieces, chamber music pieces, piano 4 hands, playing as part of an orchestra ensemble, playing a concerto movement, accompanying the high school choirs, playing in the pit for a musical, and playing on stage for a theater production. Last night, his chamber group played a movement of Brahms piano quintet in recital. It appears that we now have to refocus some of that breadth into bringing solo pieces to a higher level of perfection along with learning better recording skills. It would be nice to get feedback about what that level needs to be for a typical conservatory. Does anyone have links to performances that show that level?

We knew this would have to happen now that it's time to select and focus on a college audition repertoire. I only wish that we had picked one or two pieces a year to perfect and record years ago using some sort of formal recording process.

Thanks for all of the feedback on recording. I think we can use the church next door and our Zoom Q3HD for now, but I'm still unsure when it would be best to go to a more professional level. It might just depend on what the competition is doing. So, what are people doing for creating college/conservatory prescreening recordings?

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