Why Record Your Music?

Imagine key moments or relationships in your life with no photos or videos: high school graduation, a soccer tournament, a trip to London, making cookies, or laughing with someone you love. Trying to recall those things from memory can feel ephemeral — or you may have forgotten them altogether.

Music is the same, only more so. If you don’t have a recording of yourself or your band, those times you’ve enjoyed playing music can feel like a whisper in the wind. You might recall the feeling you had, but little else.

Yet it’s easy to take an audio snapshot so you can hold onto those sounds. And capturing them for yourself is just one reason to make the effort — you can record for many purposes.

Make this moment vivid: What does it feel like when you or your ensemble are playing “Bury Me Beneath the Willow” or “Friend of the Devil,” “Autumn Leaves” or “Italian Serenade in G major”? It’s an important part of your life, right? Record that moment with audio or video — whether a casual recording in your living room or a professional one in a studio. If you don’t have a band but jam with a group and have developed a good sound together, you can do the same at the public space where you meet, then share it on social media.

Give to the family: If you have a special song you sing to the kids at bedtime or play with relatives at the holidays, make sure that someone hits the record button. That recording may become a cherished family keepsake one day. Gabrielle Maes, a vocal coach who has sung with her children since they were infants, began recording and posting on YouTube casual “car ditties” as the family drove around. Now those kids are young women who perform with her, and they have recordings that span years.

Get gigs: In order to perform publicly, you’ll find it easier to promote yourself with music. You can play in a few venues without a CD or SoundCloud, but unless you’re in a niche community (such as a church), you’ll soon run into trouble booking. “You need a recording to show people, to promote yourself, to sell yourself,” says booking agent Chris Munson.

Record original material: Your music is your creation, and it may be one of the best expressions of who you are. “You’re leaving a mark with your story that no one else can tell,” says songwriter Louisa Branscomb. “No one else can write your song.” If you’re a songwriter waiting for the day when you can record your work, consider what might be lost if you delay.

Improve your musicianship: You can use home recording to identify and fix problems. “Set up a tape recorder, record several different songs. You can’t really listen while you’re playing,” says multi-instrumentalist Kent Ippolito. “When you’re listening by yourself, then you can be more objective.” Preparing for studio recording will motivate you to practice harder and focus more attention on detail. Hearing your tracks through high-fidelity speakers in the studio will also help you pinpoint what you need to work on and motivate you to improve.

Reach a wider audience: If you have a tight group and are landing gigs, you might want the satisfaction of getting your music on air or online. “I feel like I need to make these CDs. I send them out as promotions, sell them at gigs, give them out to people,” says guitarist and songwriter Karen Collins. “People aren’t going to hear my songs or know about me if I don’t have music out there.” It’s gratifying to turn on your radioand hear a song you’ve recorded, or to fire up your computer and hear yourself streaming.

Maybe you want to record but just haven’t gotten around to it. You might be thinking that you’ll have more time, money, or skill in the future. You might be waiting until you’re in a better group.

But life is short. Why wait? Record your music now, whether it’s a casual clip on your phone or a polished studio version you can share or sell. It’s something you can always hold onto, like a photo that captures a feeling and a moment forever.

Gayla M. Mills plays bass and performs on weekends with her husband Gene Mills on guitar. Two of their CDs received international airplay and were on the top ten folk charts. Her book Making Music for Life: Rediscover Your Musical Passion, published by Dover, provides amateur and aspiring musicians with hundreds of ideas for how to get more from music. www.gaylamills.com.

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