3 Steps to Making a Video You Can Be Proud Of

performance recording video May 25, 2020

With lockdown restrictions still in effect, you may be deciding to make your very first harp video. Perhaps you have tried before, but found the process too difficult. In this post, I show you how to streamline the process and like - possibly even love! - the result.

Any experienced musician will tell you that making a recording is far more difficult than playing in front of an audience. There will always be someone in the audience who will compliment you afterward on your performance. But the playback of a recording seems to show us only the flaws in our playing. It’s like looking into a mirror in bad lighting; you look much worse than you thought you did. 

In most circumstances, a recording is successful when it projects the energy and spontaneity of a “live” performance. It isn’t perfection that resonates with a listener; it is the performer’s personal expression of the music itself, the meaning that is only suggested by the printed page.

Naturally, you want your recording to be as seamless and mistake-free as possible, but perfection almost never happens without hours of editing. Those flawless recordings on CDs have undergone hours of editing and tweaking, the recording equivalent of airbrushing, to make them sound flawless.

In most cases, your recording won’t need to be perfect. In fact, letting go of perfection as a goal will free you to play more beautifully.  The three-step recording process I recommend to my students starts with that mindset shift.


The right positive mindset will prevent “perfection paralysis,” the condition of never completing a single take because it isn’t perfect. Create the right mindset by taking your mind off the mistakes and focusing more on two more important items: your listener and the music itself. The questions below may help guide you to a new perspective:

For whom are you playing? What do you want a listener to feel from your performance? What would be the most meaningful compliment a listener could give you? What about this music speaks to you? What do you love about the piece? Why are you choosing this piece to share?


Setting up your “recording studio” can be time-consuming and frustrating. This is why I recommend setting up your equipment at least one day before you plan to record. Then when you are ready to record, you won’t be fussing with the technical details. Even if someone else will be helping you record, getting set the day before will save a lot of time, energy and stress. Here is the simple way to achieve a good studio setup:

  • Choose technology that is comfortable for you to use. This is an instance when simplest is best. Today’s smartphones make great recordings. Playing is hard enough; don’t make the equipment a challenge too.  
  • Set everything up. Place your camera where a viewer will have a good view of your harp, hands and face. Yes, your face must be in the picture! The microphone (which might be part of the same device as the camera) should be fairly close to the harp and somewhat in front of it, if possible, or a little to the side. Room lighting is usually adequate. Do be sure you are not sitting in front of a light or window which would throw you into silhouette.
  • Do a test. Check your setup by doing a test recording. Do you need to change the camera angle or microphone placement? Is the audio loud enough? Are you too close to the bass wires so the sound booms and distorts? Is the lighting good on you and the harp?


I always try to record over several days. This way I don’t have to feel pressured if I’m having a bad day or the neighbors are mowing their lawn. I leave my “studio” set upm and when I’m feeling good and the neighborhood is quiet, everything is ready to go.

Here is my 5-day system that may make recording less stressful for you.

  • Do your video takes on different days, not all on the same day. I recommend 3-5 takes maximum on each of 3 different days. After 5 takes and sometimes sooner, you will reach a point of diminishing returns. 
  • Each day, when you are finished, review your takes - yes, I know it’s painful - and choose the best one. Save that take in a special folder. At the end of the 3 days, you will have 3 “best takes”. 
  • On the fourth day, rest. Don’t listen to anything you have recorded.. 
  • On the fifth day, when your ears and spirit are somewhat refreshed, evaluate all three takes that you saved and choose your favorite.

Remember not to be too harsh as you judge your recordings. You should be considering their overall musicality balanced by a reasonable degree of correctness. Try evaluating them the same way you would evaluate a friend’s recordings. In fact, you might enlist a trusted musical friend or family member to give you their vote as well and their reasons behind their choice. You may be surprised by what they are listening for and hearing that you are not. 

There is one more absolutely vital step. Once you’ve made your choice, don’t delay or dither. Post it proudly.


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