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Record if you dare!

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Needless to say, I'm an enormous fan of Hauptwerk, and one of the many things I like about it is how easy it is to make a recording of yourself playing the organ. No additional equipment is required, not even a microphone, everything takes place inside the computer. Recording can literally be done at the touch of a button, or - if you're a bit cleverer about it - at the touch of a piston. 

But what if you've never recorded yourself playing before? If, like me, you're a totally unqualified amateur organist, then maybe you should think carefully before proceeding. The sad truth is that we're inclined to con ourselves into believing we're a lot more competent than we really are. The first time we hear ourselves recorded it can come as a very unpleasant shock - and I'm speaking from personal experience here! I suppose the root of the problem is that we don't really hear what we're playing, our mind is too pre-occupied with hitting all the rights notes in the right order. Maybe that's one of the qualities which distinguishes a professional musician - an ability to play and truly listen at the same time.

In spite of the danger to our self-esteem, I'm convinced recording is actually very worthwhile. Once we've bitten the bullet and made a more realistic assessment of our abilities, recording can be a very useful tool in improving them. It gives us the chance to analyse the sound we are producing and do what is necessary to improve it. This is particularly valuable for anyone who is learning to play the organ on their own, without the aid of a teacher.

Of course, a tendency to self-delusion isn't limited to amateur organists. I'm sure it applies equally to other instrumentalists, as well as to singers. Listening to the early rounds of the X-Factor provides ample evidence of that! (And there's a great deal more that could be said on that particular subject, but I'll save it for another day.) But to return to the organ world, a friend once related an incident he witnessed while attending a workshop event organised by the makers of his home electronic organ. The organisers employed a professional organist to offer help and advice to the attendees, and to help solve any problems they were experiencing. One of the attendees complained that he couldn't use the built-in metronome on his home organ - instead of providing a regular beat it varied erratically. The professional invited him to play with the metronome on his instrument. My friend listened while the metronome produced its unwavering beat. The hapless amateur hadn't got the foggiest notion of rhythm, and his playing went all over the place. When he'd finished, he turned to the professional. "You see what I mean?" he said. "Yours is doing it too!"  

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