Whether it’s the swelling pride that comes from reading the newly constructed, delightfully alliterative title of one’s own blog post, a pay raise in the workplace, or victory in the competitive arena, we love seeing the fruits of hard work and invested time. As guitarists, we love that stuff too, but we’re also constantly looking for the most efficient way to get from point A (not sounding the way we want to sound) to point B (sounding the way we want to sound), and have been known to employ everything from supposedly magical gear to snake-oil practice schemes in our efforts to get ahead.
In our frenzy, we may overlook a deceptively simplistic road to improvement that may yield surprising results: regular recording. In addition to the simple joy of listening to one’s own playing, here are a few benefits that we’ll reap by recording ourselves on a regular basis:
When we record ourselves, especially when we have control over the rest of the mix, we’re forced to break out of being simply a “guitar player,” starting to consider our parts for the way they interact with the musical context in which they exist. Regular recording allows us to fine-tune our ability to augment the mix with carefully composed parts, turning our playing into the special sauce in which every mix-nugget should want to be dipped.
After starting to record regularly, players like myself will find that they lack the robot-like rhythmic timing that they’ve been claiming to posses for so long. The harsh reality of hearing one’s own off-beat playing sometimes feels like enough reason to quit playing altogether, but if we allow our rhythmic inconsistencies to be an opportunity for growth, we’ll be that much closer to session player superstardom.
Sometimes we think we sound better than we sound. Due to monitoring with our amp at our ankles, playing in bedrooms more than on stages, or a myriad of other factors, we’re regularly in danger of seeing our own tone through aural beer goggles. Recording not only allows us to listen to our tone without being distracted by actually playing, but affords the opportunity for tonal interventions, where our real friends will tell us to “back down the gain, White. You sound like bees.”
Perhaps the greatest reward of regular recording is being able to compare the players we are now to the players we were then. It’s easy to feel like we aren’t progressing technically or tonally as much as we predicted we would, so being able to listen to recent recordings side-by side with tracks from when we “couldn’t even sweep yet, bruh,” can be just the encouragement we need.
The main take-away from any recording session should be humility. We aren’t really as awesome as we can tend to think we are, and knowing that is good. It’s good because knowing we aren’t the ultimate answer to the question that is guitar should (in an ideal scenario) mean that we treat our bandmates, other players, and our audience with respect, grace, and gratitude. Humility is like Chic-Fil-A sauce, in that it never hurts to have extra.
If you haven’t tried recoding yourself before, now’s the time. It’s never been cheaper or easier to do so, and the rewards are well worth it. After all, recording allows us to listen back, making sure our music always says what we mean.