Increase the effectiveness of your rehearsals
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I was speaking to Martin just a couple of days ago and he told me that his own personal high school composition were recorded on ghetto blaster (there’s a retro throwback!). He still has the recordings but is disappointed with their quality and thinks they sound like they were recorded in a trash can (!). Martin wanted his own students to be able to leave school with good quality recordings of the compositions they have spent so many hours working on.
Below are Martin’s three options for using simple technology resources to record band rehearsals.
– Katie Wardrobe
Introduction: how to increase the effectiveness of your rehearsals
I started recording rehearsals so that the students could hear themselves since it’s one of the best ways for them to improve. It also helped me to archive their work, keep track of what we did, and how they have improved – I’d listen to the recordings a day or two later whilst doing other work.
There was a benefit straight away. The students worked harder to balance themselves – particularly with electric guitars and drums balancing with front-line horns. The students have embraced the recording process and it’s a great way to show them how far they have come within a year or two.
Option 1: iPad + app = simple high quality recording
In 2012 I purchased an iPad for my classroom and began using it to record band rehearsals via the free Soundcloud recording app. The Soundcloud recording app has now been discontinued for iOS devices (they have a separate app available for streaming music) and is currently only for Android devices. The students and I were able to review rehearsals and remember what we had worked on – for example dynamic changes or endings and so on.
For the last 2 years I’ve been using the Rode Rec app which has more advanced features such as the option to change the gain (the sensitivity of the microphone). We can boost the level for quiet guitar/singer combos or decrease it for metal bands.
The biggest improvement came however when I invested in a Rode iXY microphone which plugs directly into the lightning port on the iPad. WOW – what a change in quality. This is a very sensitive microphone that records everything from the quietest solo singer to a full orchestra. In the past the final recording was sometimes distorted when the whole band was playing, and the bass guitar was very hard to hear.
For many teachers, the iPad with Rode iXY microphone and app will revolutionise your classroom. The set up is also very student-friendly so it’s easy for them to operate themselves.
Setup time for this option? About 2 mins.
Option 2: iPad + USB audio interface + 2 mic/instrument inputs = easy guitar/vocal recording
When I want to make a higher quality recording and plug in a guitar I use an audio/MIDI interface from Presonus called the AudioBox iTwo (which you can purchase as part of their Studio package). The interface has two inputs which can be used for microphones, guitars or a keyboard. Focusrite have a similar product called the iTrack Solo.
At our school, the interface is mainly used to plug in a vocal microphone and an acoustic guitar. There is a simple recording app included in the Presonus package – Capture for iPad – which enables students to record themselves on to the iPad. The app includes a useful inbuilt metronome to help students play in time.
Once the recording is done, it is then uploaded to our music department Dropbox account where students and I can access it. From Dropbox, you could import the recording into Garageband or any other music software application to add drums and other tracks if needed.
Setup time for this option? About 5 mins with a couple of student helpers.
Option 3: Laptop + USB audio interface + 4 channels of audio = next-level recording
The next level of recording is to use a larger audio interface with more inputs. I use a Presonus 44SL which has four inputs. This means I can record four different things at once – like two vocalists, two guitars and an electric bass.
There are individual volume controls for each of these channels, and the software records them on separate tracks. This is good because if one guitar is too loud, I can change it in the software afterwards and won’t have to re-record it all again.
I use the Studio One Artist software which is included with the audio interface to record and edit. Again, I export this recording to our department Dropbox so it is accessible by students.
The drama department has also used these audio interfaces to record four actors rehearsing a play. When it is complete, they then export the recording but omit one part at a time so that each student ends up with a rehearsal track (like a “karaoke” track for actors!).
Setup time for this option? About 10 mins with a couple of student helpers.
I see the three options above as a progression to work through, as your confidence in recording increases, as illustrated in the 4 Stages Of Teacher Confidence In Using Technology (see image below and source here).
For some teachers, this will take 3 weeks and for others it might take 3 months. The important step is to start small, try it yourself, then train students to do it.
About the author
Martin Emo is currently HOD of Performing Arts at Waimea College, in Nelson, New Zealand. For the last 10 years he have taught in primary and high schools, mentored and trained teachers to improve implementation of curriculum and increase student outcomes. ICT and eLearning are particular areas of interest to him in. As the Musicnet Facilitator for New Zealand and a MusicEdNet Mentor Martin presents around New Zealand and Australia on music technology and ICT tools for Heads of Departments. He has performed in a wide variety of music genres with three of his current projects being a New Orleans Style Brass Band who perform Rage Against the Maschine, an eclectic Busking Quintet and a Live Electronic Duo making Jazz infused beats with a trumpet, electric guitar and samplers.
Connect with Martin
Follow on Twitter: @martinthomasemo
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