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Recording vs. Live Performance

During the recording session for Musical Portraits this past week, someone asked the musicians if we preferred recording or live performance more?

While it may seem like a subtle difference, these two performance experiences are worlds apart.

With live performance there is always an element of unknown- What will the space sound like? Can you warm up? How responsive will the audience? Surprisingly, I take comfort in being forced to let go of control. I find that it creates a certain mental freedom where I can accept the moment and just enjoy.

Physically, I don’t love how my body reacts to adrenaline…but I do love the excitement it gives me. I tend to take more risks, having higher highs and lower lows. My mistakes bother me less, as live performance is all about the experience. It’s about giving and being present with you audience and with the music.

Recording sessions are much different. Unfortunately, I feel in control and therefore put extra pressure on myself. This produces mental barriers. I find my mind stuck in a state of critical listening and self preservation instead of singing or giving. I hold onto a myth that it must be perfect, and often feel disappointed as I’m playing. I know that the standards for recordings are much higher so I tend to take less risks.

In all honesty, I realize that recording should not feel this way. Thankfully, the pandemic has provided plenty of opportunity for growth. All the one-take recordings for online ‘live’ events really forces you to come to terms with recordings. ;)

I think I'll always prefer playing live...but I can happily say that recording is slowly getting easier! Here’s a few tricks I’m finding helpful--

  • Play for those who are in the room, for the sound engineer or the venue host (OR if there is no one with you, think about someone who will be watching the online event and play for them ;)

  • Before recording, decide to accept the aftermath of whatever happens as ‘live'

  • Focus on your personal musical experience

  • Assess your performance experience after, do not dismiss your mental blocks as ‘part of the process.’

How about? Do you prefer recordings or performing live? Do you have tricks? :)


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