If I could give just one piece of advice to all piano students, it would be this: Record yourself, always… and listen to the playback, immediately. Then absolutely honest about what you hear and feel… and do something constructive with what you just discovered.
When you listen to the playback, here are some things to consider in your self-assessment:
- Does the recording sound and feel like you intended the music to sound and feel?
- It the result did not match your intentions, what were the differences?
- What did you notice that you were not aware of during your performance?
- Are any notes missed, smeared, or tentative?
- Are some notes held too long or too short?
- Are there any inappropriate changes of tempo, misplaced accents?
- Do the phrasing and dynamics and articulations communicate unified, coherent musical ideas or are they inconsistent?
- Are you hitting your target notes at the right time and with the intended articulation?
- Are your left and right hands well-coordinated?
- Is the rhythmic feeling well-defined and delivered appropriately?
- Finally, never end on a negative note. There will always be some positive aspects to your playing. Always. Celebrate those and be prepared to add others to the list!
What to Expect. Before recording and listening to yourself for the first time, you need to have the appropriate expectations. First, be prepared for an extremely humbling experience. While you may be pleasantly surprised by some parts of your playing, you will also discover that some aspects of your playing are not quite what you thought. In fact, you just might be astonished how many things eluded your attention while you were playing. But don’t despair. You are not alone. Every great player must go through this trial of self-awareness and self-doubt. This is a watershed moment where excellence is either embraced or rejected. This is a time to celebrate, because it is a golden opportunity to expose and change habits of perception, conception, and behavior that we were once unaware of… a critical and necessary step on our road to mastery!