Over and over again, at harp lessons, in harp workshops, on music practice websites, I’ve heard the same thing: If you want to truly evaluate how you are doing and track your progress, you have to record your practice sessions.
Great idea, but the little pocket dictaphone that was quite adequate for recording rhythms during my African drumming days was totally not up to the job of recording a harp. Or any other musical instrument. So I had to decide on buying some sort of new recording equipment – a task much more daunting than actually hearing myself play.
I’ve spent months reading about digital recorder choices on various music practice websites, as well as reading a small encyclopedia’s worth of on-line reviews and recommendations. I’ve accosted people in public using digital recorders and asked them to tell me the pros and cons of their particular recorder models. I’ve asked every harper and harpist I’ve met what they use to record themselves. After nine months of indecision, cleverly disguised as “research,” I purchased a Zoom H-2.
The first feature I love, which will definitely prove what an old fart I really am, is that the Zoom H-2 comes with a manual – a real, hold-it-in-your-hand, printed-on-paper manual, written in English with sentences that contain nouns, verbs, objects, correct punctuation, and real English words, not made-up techno-babble. When a technical word or concept is introduced, there is an accompanying side-bar that explains it!!!! I did not have to spend hours delving deeper and deeper into a manufacturer’s website, toggling from one screen to another, to find out how to use this thing – I was up and running in under 20 minutes. The navigation through the menus takes a bit of getting used to, but anyone who can navigate through a word processing program can learn the menu and file layout without major brain-strain.
The most amazing thing about this little silver box the size of a 1960’s transistor radio (remember those?) is the sound quality. Absolutely stunning. The high’s, mid-range and lows are equally clear and resonant, both with recording solo harp and recording a multi-instrument ensemble. Several on-line reviews discussed being able to use the Zoom H-2 to record CD’s. I can believe it, given the sound quality I captured in the very unaccommodating acoustic situations where I did my recording.
The price also surprised me. With some savvy on-line shopping I got the whole package for under $150.00, including an extra, larger SD memory card.
So that’s my new digital gadget in a nutshell. Next blog post, I’ll write about what I’ve learned so far, having recorded and listened to some practice sessions.