Using Recordings as a Practice Tool: Set Up For Success

Have you ever stopped listening to your own recording, shocked it was YOU? Transform this moment by planning: evaluate your equipment, goals, and language to celebrate progress and inform your practice choices.

(4-minute read time)

Photo by  AltumCode  on  Unsplash



Getting used to your own voice from a speaker takes time and repetition. Here are some helpful insights and activities.

Try these fun activities to prepare for hearing variations of yourself in recordings.

  1. Find a place in your house where there is a hard, reflective surface. Tiled walls and mirrors are great examples.
  2. Stand as close as you can to that surface, facing it, so that your mouth is around a handspan away.
  3. Sing and notice the changes to your sound.
  4. Sing again – but this time cup your hands behind your ears. This will increase the immediacy of how you hear the sound waves return to your ears.


Top Tip

Enhancing your acceptance and familiarity of how you sound to yourself through a speaker will be a game changer as you try compassionate critiquing.


Before we go any further, please take a moment to acknowledge the impact that the recording and playback equipment will have on what you are about to hear. I am not proposing that you purchase expensive equipment or learn heaps about sound engineering to complete this activity. These activities are designed for a beginner-intermediate singer who does not necessarily own performing or recording microphones. However, I am proposing that you learn to recognise where equipment or acoustics are changing your sound and giving you altered feedback.



Test this out for yourself by following these steps:

  1. Choose a verse and chorus of a song you know well and sing easily.
  2. Record it on your phone (use a generic voice memo app) in 3 different rooms in your house.
  3. Now listen back to all 3 recordings through the speaker on your phone. What changed from room to room?
  4. Repeat step 3 but plug in headphones. Now what has changed?
  5. Try repeating this process with a laptop or a dedicated music recording app like GarageBand. What difference did that make?

Remember…the purpose of this is just to observe how big a difference equipment and location can make so that you can allow for that when you listen to yourself.

To be more precise…



You will only sound as good as the microphone you are using to capture your voice. Sometimes this is outside your control, so allowances must be made for the result.


Top Tip

Take every opportunity to sing and record through as many different microphones as you can.


Similarly, you will only sound as good as the speakers or headphones you are listening back through.


The number of reflective surfaces in a room will alter the way your voice sounds in a recording. Again, simply be aware of this and try not to over-correct your technique to compensate for it.


Top Tip

Build a strong kinaesthetic awareness of how your vocal instrument feels when you are singing well. That awareness is never changed by your acoustic environment and can be relied on.


Before you move on to compassionate critiquing of your recording, choose the language you will use to describe yourself to yourself.

Don’t allow yourself to use vague descriptions like “I’m amazing” or “Yeah, that will do” or “I hate my sound” or “That was off” find specific language that you can be honest about and either positively reinforce or constructively modify. BE SPECIFIC.

Take nothing for granted – everything is worth celebrating and enhancing. Even skills you have had in your toolkit for years! Here are just a few:

For example, a balanced critique might be: “In that recording, I noticed my intonation and breathing were exactly what I hoped for and had been practicing. I was surprised to notice that I was using some jazz styling that didn’t belong in the rock genre of this song, so I will practice adjusting that. I was happy with the emotional colouring in my tone in the chorus, but not in the bridge. Perhaps I don’t understand those lyrics as well as I thought. Bonus points to me for nailing the intervals in the opening phrase where there are no solid cues from the instrumental track.”



Before you make any recording of yourself, take time to prioritise what you hope to ripen or test.

Write out your goal so you can review it later. These questions might help:

  1. Am I recording this to see how well I have learned the song or how well I am performing the song?
  2. What do I hope to gain from recording this song today?
  3. Am I prepared to evaluate it fairly, balancing self-congratulations with direction for what to practice next?
  4. Which of my larger or long-term goals does this connect to?

The more specific you can be in this planning moment, the more constructive and compassionate your self- critique will be later.

Example of a useful goal: “I am recording this song to listen objectively to the accuracy of the melody – especially the intervals.”

Example of an unhelpful goal: “I am recording this song to see if I sound good enough.”



When you have used these ideas as a springboard to set yourself up for a successful recording practice session, it’s time to experience the art of the Compassionate Critique.

If you enjoyed these tips and ideas, why not sign up for the Glengrove Studio newsletter.

To subscribe, click here or click on the NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP button at the top of this webpage.


Brim, Rodney (2019). Brain Hacking for Speeding Up your Jazz Improv Success on the The Musicality Podcast. Episode 159: 18 March 2019

Goodhart, Gregg (2019). How to Learn Like a Genius on The Musicality Podcast. Episode 213: 27 November 2019

Harnum, J. (2014). The Practice of Practice. Sol Ut Press.

Westney, W. (2006). The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self. Amadeus Press, New Jersey

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email to a Friend

Join our mailing list and stay up to date with the latest news, updates and resources.