If you haven’t checked out Audacity lately, the newest version has some very cool new features. The one I was most excited about was the ability to record multiple tracks in the same window and work with them simultaneously. Below is a screen shot from my computer showing how I used it in today’s rehearsal of “Scenes from the Louvre”.
The lesson was on the fugue in the third movement- my students are not understanding that each voice that enters must be heard clearly and all of the lines must be balanced and blended so that there is good clarity in the ensemble. The way I approached the problem was to have a reference recording of the section we were working on (edited in Quicktime Pro so that I had just the section isolated that I wanted) where I could just click on it when needed (without having to start at the beginning or rewind, etc) I then recorded the band using my Zoom H4 recorder in it’s audio interface mode (this is why I still think that Zoom’s H4 is the best value in handheld recorders) allowing me to record directly into Audacity using it’s excellent built in microphones.
After I recorded the band, I normalized the audio (within 5 seconds it was done) and was able to play back what the band had performed in high quality with optimized volume thanks to the normalize feature (I do this so that the volume of our recording isn’t too loud or soft, which invariably complicates things when I ask the students to give feedback- their first response is always about how the reference recording is louder than ours)
We listened to the first take- ouch! not very good. Students gave feedback and I made some adjustments- we recorded again and did the same procedure. We did this a total of five times, and the last one was a little better. The greatest thing about doing this particular lesson is that I can do a direct comparison A/B with the first recording and the final recording right in the same window- this is the key to making the lesson magic when students can see a big improvement after they have worked intensely. In the past when I did this lesson with other technologies, the problem was the lag time cuing up the recordings- students cannot really grasp the amount of progress they make over the course of a rehearsal because the improvement is so minute between repetitions. Capturing the first “raw” take without any improvements, playing that for them, and then immediately playing the last recording after all of the cleaning has been done is really very powerful.