Thursday, October 08, 2015

Recording Duets Easily on a Zoom H4n

Recording Duets on Zoom
I have several adult students who play at the grade 9+ level who are just about to start using a Zoom H4n recorder to play duets at home. It's a blast! It's the best! There are tons of free duets of high quality to play (scroll down to print them for free)! And even if you don't have a Zoom you can still do all this and more: see below for ZoomLess".

As a help to my students, I found all the links to a large number of high quality duets that are free at the imslp music library and I drew up the world's easiest instructions for recording just two tracks on the Zoom.

Here are the easiest possible duet recording instructions: (800kb pdf):

There are also basic instructions for multi-tracking on a Zoom H4n in an earlier blog post. The basic functions are all written out in plain language due to the Zoom booklet being so opaque to moi :>)
 The free printable pdf that I wrote in 2012 covers duets, trios and quartets plus saving the mp3s to your computer. If you own a Zoom, do print out this earlier  pdf : How to Record Multiple Tracks on H4n.

Why? When you go to record duets, you do need to set the Zoom to MTR which stands for Multi-Tracking. To set the Zoom to "MTR" you use the menu (press and hold the menu button) then use the scrolling jog-wheel to choose MODE, and then MTR.
Once you are set on MTR, you can leave it there and proceed with the Easy Recording of Duet instructions above.

Steps in recording a simple duet with only one flutist:

1. Choose a duet you can play easily and well. (there are easier grades linked below too.)

2. Practice the parts up, and choose a recording metronome speed that allows you to be relaxed.
Have a good look at the difficult parts, and use etudes and easy exercises to make the hard parts easy.

3. Turn the Recording machine on. Announce the name of the piece (pg. number etc.). Set the metronome going, warm up your flute,  and count yourself in.  (You can also play along with a CD playing the drone of the tonic note from the Tuning CD.  It's very satisfying to input the recording with good tuning from the start.)

4. Play Flute 1 and record it. If you stop, just count yourself back in again.

5. Play back Flute1, and play Flute 2 overtop of Flute 1. Ta-Da!

Note how fun this is; you're playing with good rhythm, good style and good tuning, and you're listening carefully. Again: Ta-Da! There is nothing more fun to do during practice time.

And you can re-record either part to improve it, if you like.

 It's super nice to re-record flute 1 without the metronome, but with the count-in re-announced when recording Flute 2. Extremely satisfying work.

You're simultaneously improving your rhythm, your sense of style and your intonation. Amazing and inspiring and will get you racing back to practice next time too. I'm not kidding. :>D Try it!
ZoomLess? No problemo!
You don't need a multi-tracking Zoom to play duets like this. You only need some type of recording machine: seriously. A tape recorder (!), mini-disc recorder, a good-ish microphone, one that plugs into in your computer, for example, and then add Audacity free software for editing the recordings if you're going to save them (and you don't have to save them).

 Just use any kind of recording machine that doesn't distort your flute sound quality when you hear it play back.

The actual key component is the metronome.
As it turns out, yes, it's almost completely and utterly (and I don't use those words lightly, ha ha.) impossible to play the second flute part over top of the first flute part if there is any unevenness to the rhythm or any wonkiness in the counting.

You choose the speed after learning the Flute 1 part. You set the metronome to be playable (not too fast) and you count yourself in and play and record it.

But wait, you say: What if I get lost? What if I make a mistake? What if I run out of breath? What if I play out of tune? Do I have to start all over again?!

Answer: No thank heaven. Not at all.
What you do is you just pretend you're at a rehearsal: you just talk to yourself.
You say aloud something like:
"Okay, that fell apart. I'm going to restart 68, which is five before, click, click (goes the metronome), two, three, four, one two three_________"

Then, it's so simple. You just finish recording Flute 1 with the metronome and with all the gaps you just created by talking to yourself (you'll have a nice resting spot when you go to play Flute 2 overtop too.)
Yes.... It's okay if you start and stop, and count yourself back in a dozen times, it's still totally fun.
It still sounds great.
When you rewind to the beginning again, you play back Flute 1 over the speakers, and play Flute 2 over top, live if you only have a simple recording machine. Either part can be recorded first.

You don't need to multi-track, you just play one part live. (!)

Fantastic Free Duets
And now to the fahhbulous flute duets that would suit Grade 8+ and up for gigs, for teaching, and for preparing at home with your recording machine. These are some of the best! And they are FREE!

Best flute duets for recording yourself on both parts - Advanced Intermediate
These are all printable and readable; I checked.

1. Blavet Sonatas 1-6 (I like no. 4-5 best myself.)
2. Telemann Opus 2 (flute urtext edition is the third one when you scroll down):
3. Mozart Duets K. 156 and K. 157
4. Kuhlau Op. 81
5. Kuhlau Op. 10
6. Kuhlau Op. 80
7. Kuhlau Op. 102
8. Galli Op. 68 Rigoletto Duo
9. Galli Op. 95 La Traviata Duo
10. Mozart K 279; 1st Piano Sonata in C Major (excellent scales and arpeggios)
1st mvmt: Fl1 - Fl2 - Score
2nd mvmt: Fl1 - Fl2 - Score
3rd mvmt: Fl1 - Fl2 - Score
The above duets are too difficult at first?

More free online flute duets for grade 2-6 students:

And grade 5-8 students:

Gariboldi Op. 145
Berbiguier Op. 59
Boismortier Op. 8
I haven't tried zooming those last three yet, but let me know if they are winners! They look good. :>)

For more ideas:
List of graded duets

Hope this helps everyone enjoy keeping their chops up through Zooming!

Best, Jen