In her youth, Rosie was a state champion trumpet player. Rosie has a BA in Sociology, is a published author, researcher, programmer & policy advocate whose submissions have been referenced in Parliamentary Reports. After a very long absence from music Rosie returned to music during the pandemic & is now a composer & musician. Email: rosie@musicalescapism.com

40 Solo
26 Duet
14 Quartet
13 Jazz Band
12 Trio
10 Orchestra
8 Brass Band
5 Concert Band
5 Quintet
4 Sextet
2 Choir


Recording For Music Exams

Today I looked at sound quality issues in recording for performance exams.

Over night it occurred to me that I'd never tried recording with the backing track playing 'acoustically'. Normally I record the trumpet, keyboard or flute separately while listening to the backing track (ie 'the band') and then when I export the sound file I mix the backing track and acoustic track into one sound file.

This is done to get the best quality backing track with no outside sounds or interference rather than playing it acoustically and recording everything playing together with the backing track audible through speakers and impacted by the environment.

Hearing the backing tracks through headphones straight from the DAW (the app that records, mixes all the different tracks into one final soundfile) sounds quite different to hearing the same files through a speaker, not only because of outside sounds from the environment but because the speaker has its own limitations and settings different to earphones.

I'm using a Boom 3 as a speaker. Given my finances it was a bit of an investment but if I wanted to busk and try to raise whatever funds I could through that then I needed a way to play the backing tracks so the public could hear them. The built in lap-top speakers obviously won't suffice.

The Boom 3 isn't ideal but it's a convenient size for someone like me without my own transport, it sits on a flat surface and should stand up to the rigours of regular busking which is why I went with it. My goal for today was to hear what it sounds like when I play with the Boom 3 as recording practice for exam conditions.

If I submit video performances for exams (as opposed to recording to release onto streaming platforms), then both backing and trumpet needs to be heard by the examiner live rather than mixed together afterward.

That said, it's important to understand that what we hear in any recording or via any device is not necessarily what it sounds like if you're in the room. Microphones pick up certain parts of sound and not others, varying considerably depending on their quality. Regardless of the quality of the equipment, it's always going to be different from how our EARS hear sound in person. Ears are the best microphones there are and recording has given me a new appreciation of them.

Until I started learning how to record live sound, I had literally never considered this before. I'd heard bad recordings, we all have. But I'd never considered that even with good quality recordings, that is not necessarily what it sounds like if you're in the concert hall hearing it live.

This is why live performances can sound so different to studio recordings, because the 'mechanical ears' of our recording devices are only approximations of what we would hear in the room with the musician(s) and they can be changed in all kinds of ways to create the types of sounds, both familiar and completely new to the human experience.

With modern technology we can also alter sounds to make new sounds, apply different filters to sound like it's recorded in a cathedral or tunnel or distort sounds to create new sounds. This is the process of mixing, mastering and production.

I've been pondering the implications of these realities for recorded/online exams given my recent experiences recording my trumpet arrangements using very cheap equipment. Given that I'm fully aware that what my trumpet playing sounds like in reality can be quite different to the recorded sound, today I started learning how to record with the backing live (as required in exams).

I tried a mic (plugged straight into the DAW) bought for me by a friend but found that while it seemed to do a good job with the trumpet, it didn't pick up the Boom 3 (the orchestra backing track) well enough. So I moved on to trying to record with my phone, also given to me as a hand-me-down by a friend. It's an Android phone which I struggle with because I am used to iPhones but today I was in luck because it recorded both the orchestra (playing through the Boom 3) and my trumpet and I was able to upload it to Google Drive and then get it on my laptop, a step I've struggled with in the past.

The trumpet is a bit quiet but that's something I can fix as I was deliberately pointing it away from the phone, worried it would be too loud and sound distorted. It is far from my best take of the day. I didn't even get the first top B flat but I'd been through the piece several times after some hard triple tonging in warm up;

and it was more important to me today to sort out a workable approach to recording for exam situations that I can refine over time rather than expect to have all my ducks lined up and perfected in a single day.

I did film myself and even remembered to introduce the piece but decided to strip out the video as I hadn't really dressed for the occasion and the camera angle wasn't ideal. In practical terms, today I did all the recordings in one take rather than going over sections to edit out blips. My earliest takes were much better playing-wise but as the set-up impacted the result and doing multiple takes- something which obviously doesn't apply when performing live or in an exam- wore my lip out.

I feel like I made good progress today in understanding how to use the technology to record for exams so feel it was all time well spent. The triple tonguing was also quite an adventure given I've barely looked at any since I returned to trumpet playing but I'm feeling very wholesome for making the effort to do some practice. I did go over the difficult bar a few times after recording my first efforts so hopefully I'll have that nailed soon enough :-)

27th Mar 2023

Documenting Trumpet Exam Preparations

I'm inviting people into my preparations toward trumpet exams.

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