Remember Carl? He played that fabulous Sonata for Viola and Piano by Dimitri Shostakovich a while back. It turns out he had a cool technology trick for preparing. Using a video camera to record oneself for later playback and examination is an old (c. 1980) tool. Carl has adapted the system to give himself live and immediate feedback.
In his practice studio is a live digital movie camera plugged into a flat-screen monitor. With this, he can watch himself as he practices. Many do this with a mirror, which gives a single viewpoint and magnification. A camera on the tripod can placed to view the subject from (almost) any angle and enlargement.
When Carl wants to see what an audience member might, he places the camera in front of himself. When he wants to examine what his neck and shoulders are doing, he places the camera behind and above himself. If he is interested in the subtleties of his fingering, he zooms in on his left hand. And so forth. In this way, he can examine the quality of his body while playing, and make changes as desired.
When preparing a complicated piece (such as Shostakovich’s) for which he has precise ideas about musical conveyance, Carl can work on a specific phrase by making using the immediate playback feature, making and examining a series of varied “takes” until he finds the exact performance he wants.
If you try this method of feedback, remember to turn down the sound while recording. There will be a micro-second delay that you don’t want to have muddling your sound. Also, the image is not reflected 180-degrees like a mirror, so take time to adapt to the orientation in which left is right and right is left. Otherwise, give it a try and see how it might help your practice.
Article originally published on Violinist.com