Hello To Moderators and Fellow Piano Society Members,
At this time of writing, there exist a few threads by fellow members about how they record, and their philosophical discussions of perfection in a recorded performance. I would like to expound on the rather lengthy process I go through, in order to bring you a performance that sounds relatively effortless -- the process is not as easy as you think, but I believe that the means justify the end product. By the way, I subject myself to this process over the LOVE of the music, and the desire to push myself to levels of competency I previously felt were unattainable.
When I set out to make a personal recording, I go into the project understanding the first one to ten takes are NOT going to make the final cut. For me, the first session is EXPLORATORY. I listen to all of them, over and over ... and then over and over again, usually whilst lying down on a comfortable sofa, always with high-quality headphones, and keep playing them repeatedly over several nights until I literally fall asleep with them. On more than one occasion, my wife has found me asleep on the sofa at 4AM with the headphones playing looped takes of my performances!
Aside: I do not let myself become bothered with missed notes during the first session -- but I DO critically listen for those areas of the piece in which I make the same mistakes on more than one take!!! This is where I take note, and go back to the piano and practice -- hands separately and hands together, at all manner of tempi. I go back and practice the phrases that lead up to the critical spot in the music, and make sure that the subsequent music has a smooth transition.
Back to the discussion at hand -- Here is what I am REALLY listening for: I am listening for those phrases and nuances that I "fall in love with", and take mental notes where these sweet spots might well take place in other parts of the same piece.
In addition, I keep listening even more -- more repeated listening of takes from the first session. I am listening for those aspects of the performance, dynamics, sound, acoustics, etc. -- for those details that DRIVE ME CRAZY upon repeated listening. Restated, even though a performance sounds decent after perhaps 10 listens, how do they sound after FIFTY to ONE HUNDRED listens??? "What aspects of the sound CAN I NOT STAND?" I don't even have to ask myself the latter question, because the pain will be horribly obvious to me!
Sometimes it is a note that is struck too hard -- it sounds harsh as compared with what comes before or after it. Sometimes a chord needs to be rolled; sometimes a rolled chord needs to be played with notes all together.
Sometimes it is the way a trill is performed -- too slow or too fast, too mechanical sounding, or too -- whatever! Sometimes, the microphones are too close; or perhaps they are too far away; sometimes they are spaced too closely together; sometimes, I hate how the piano sounds as though it is artificially six meters long!
Likewise, I go back and practice those parts, and discover what can be done to remedy the situation.
More listening. Finally, after figuring out what should be added to the performance -- and more importantly, what should be OMITTED from the performance, I record another set of takes.
The listening process begins all over again -- this can take a period of months to accomplish.
The recording sessions commence again, if needed (and often they are needed), and the extended listening process goes through yet another iteration. I am happy with my recordings only when I feel there is nothing more I can add to them, but also when there is nothing more I can take away from them.
Of course, I imagine hearing you say to yourself, "Why is he going to all of that trouble?"
The answer, my friends, is because the end product is something I can be proud of, as witnessed by your kind remarks of my performances.