If you are like many teachers who have had students audition for the All-Illinois Junior Band, you will find the recording process with young musicians both inspiring and daunting. Inspiring, because your students will work extremely hard to improve their playing and perfect their recordings. Daunting because perfectionism can be debilitating to young musicians, and the demands on your time never cease. We hope this information will help you stay organized and avoid some last minute “crises” recording.
Overview of process
Once you have created your free director account on the AIJB website you may begin to upload student recordings. Once uploaded recordings can be “swapped” for newer, better ones by using the edit buttons on the website. Given the relatively short length of most recordings (10-60 seconds), a recorded file will upload in a matter of seconds provided you have a moderately fast internet connection. Only directors, through their free director account, can upload files.
Three file formats are supported on the AIJB website: Mp3, m4a, and WAV. Converting files to one of these formats can be done for free on-line using the tools described in the section Converting Files.
Where to record
Our informal survey of directors over the past few years have found equal number of successful students being recorded at school and at home. The qualities of a successful audition are (1) they are well performed, and (2) have a good, representative quality of recording. Wherever the recording is made be sure it is free from distractions, interruptions, and external noise
Establishing a timeline
With the unyielding demands made on your limited time we suggest that you establish a timeline for students early in the process. An example of such a timeline might be:
|Summer – September 30th
|Student practice material on their own
|September 18th – October 6th
|Teacher meets periodically with student to suggest improvements and practice suggestions
|October 6th – mid-October
|Teacher establishes recording dates and times for each student. Student should also try recording at home and sending electronic files to teacher.
|mid-October – deadline
|Teacher meets with student to decide on final version of each recording to upload. Files are converted to proper format (if necessary), and uploaded to AIJB.
Of course it is up to each instructor to be date specific and make equal time for the number of students involved in the process. We encourage teachers to include students in the process of selecting their best recordings as it (1) models the critical listening process we hope all students will continue to refine, and (2) gives you a chance to address the notion that while musical perfection is a wonderful aspiration, it is all an impossibility.
There should be no talking or audible reference to a student or school on the final, uploaded recordings. Aside from clipping the beginning and end of a recorded file, we ask that all files be unedited. This means that the performance is a complete take without any splice or intercut. We also ask that you be conservative in your use of digital enhancement (i.e. reverb, compression) when finalizing recordings as they can distort the recording making it difficult for the adjudicator to determine tone quality and pitch. The final recording should be an accurate representation of all aspects of a student’s musicianship.
If you need to clip the beginning or end of the recording a program like Audacity works well. There are several YouTube videos about using this free program that take just a few minutes to learn the clipping process.
The final, uploaded recording must be a digital format, so it makes sense to start with digital recording. Here are some suggested devices/methods, but at the end of the day be sure that any recording submitted is free of distortion in loud dynamics, has clear and present sound in soft dynamics, and best represents student musicianship.
Handheld “Flash” recorders (i.e. the Tascam DR-40, Zoom H4N, or Roland R-26) are very convenient devise that make high quality recordings. There are dozens of handheld devices on the market with a huge range in price.
Smartphone apps. Can also do a decent job and have been used by students to make convenient recordings at home. The Tonal Energy App. used by many band directors and students has a recording function that is good quality, can be stored on the device, and can be outputted in a number of formats. There are dozens of recording apps. that can be downloaded to phones with parent permission.
Of course you are welcome to set-up microphones and run cables to a high quality, digital recorder if you own one and are comfortable using it.
The rough recordings made be made in any file format convenient to the student or director, but final, uploaded recordings may only be in (1) Mp3, (2) m4a, or (3) WAV formats.
Converting files is a relatively simple process which does not cost money. On-line media converters allow you to upload a file from your computer to a website, select the output quality and format, convert the file, and download it to your computer in the new format. None of these steps should involve you identifying yourself or giving personal information. The following free on-line media converters are recommended:
Please feel free to contact Wayne Gordon at Gordon.w@NB27.org. We’re happy to help!