Having a reliable and easy-to-use portable recording device can help to maximize the efficiency of your music study. It’s unreasonable to expect students to just remember everything they hear in lesson, and a written assignment sheet is but the most basic skeleton of an effective practice routine. You are welcome to record all or part of your lesson(s).


1. As an aural memo to the student: Brief passages can be played into the recorder in lesson for the student to review at home. This makes it easier for the student to practice efficiently by limiting the possibility that the referenced passage will be practiced incorrectly all week. 2. To show progress: The student can record a piece (or portion) either at home or in lesson and refer back to it a few days later to hear their progress. 3. As an aid in hearing: Record your piece and then listen to it, most likely while reading the score (to maintain your focus). When you’re busy with the act of playing, your ability to actually hear what you’re doing is limited. Even elite-level performers find that what they hear on recording is not always the same as what they hear when they are playing. The more advanced and more thoughtful you are, the more useful it is to listen critically to the recording you’ve made.


SMART PHONES AND TABLETS iPhones, iPads, and most other similar devices can make acceptable recordings simply using the voice memo app. If you care about sound quality and/or you find yourself using the device frequently, you may consider an audio recording app (free to $10) paired with external lightening or USB microphone such as the Zoom iQ7 ($99). PORTABLE DIGITAL MUSIC RECORDER If you have a quality smart phone and are comfortable using it for recording, there isn’t much reason for the typical student to buy a separate device any longer. However, there are still quite a few devices on the market that are easy to use and make excellent-sounding recordings. Among the least expensive of these are the Zoom H1 and the Tascam DR-05 ($99). Portable recorders and smartphone mic accessories are distributed through the “pro-audio” market. I recommend the retailer Sweetwater Sound, though at last check many models were also available on Amazon. Check to make sure the device has a built-in microphone and manual level-setting before you buy it. LEGACY OPTIONS Older digital voice recorders are probably acceptable if you already have one. If you don’t already have one, buy a digital music recorder instead. Cassette and micro-cassette recorders are no longer acceptable for student use now that there are so many affordable options offering better recording quality and easy-of-use. BOTTOM LINE Whatever you use, your device (and/or recording app) needs to be easy to use and easy to access or it won’t be used. And if you’re using your phone…put it in airplane mode!


You need to use headphones because the built-in speaker in all mobile devices provides insufficient sound quality to listen critically. The earbuds that came with your iPod or phone are just fine.


If you plan to be a serious music student for the long term, you need a portable digital music recorder. And equally important, you need to use it! Parents are encouraged to step in and help their students learn, and remember, to use the recording device.

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