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5 tips on how to record your tape for music festivals and competitions

"Forget about getting a “perfect” recording. There’s no such thing."

Jim Nova, second / utility trombone of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Area Coordinator of Brass; Adjunct Professor of Trombone at the
Mary Pappert School of Music at Douquesne University shares his thoughts about how to make recordings for competitions and music festivals. He does not only have a tremendous knowledge about sound engineering, but as a trombone professor he has also listened to thousands of student recordings already. Follow his 5 advises to make successful recordings for you next competition or summer festival!

What is the most important element of this topic that teachers want students to set in stone when preparing a recording for festivals or competitions?

Make statements, don’t ask questions with your playing.

Should students pay for a professional or simply record with their zoom recorder?

With the high quality and relatively inexpensive microphones out there, you can do a lot of great work with home equipment. Paying a professional I think is overkill unless you’re making a commercial recording and don’t have the knowledge and/or budget for serious home gear.

Does the quality of the recording have an impact on the final result? Or is it enough to simply play well? 

You need to make sure that the basic level of recording fidelity is at least decent. Not an excess amount of noise, etc… As long as that’s taken care of, then the playing will really need to catch the ear of the judges. I’ve heard plenty of great recorded performances with a little background noise and perfect captures with crystal clear fidelity that doesn’t really say anything.

Jim Nova trombone
Jim Nova – Overdub Masterclass at the Hartt School of Music (2016)
Things to avoid during a recording sessions? 

Forget about getting a “perfect” recording. There’s no such thing. Try to get the most musically exciting and interesting takes, that just happen to be technically solid. 

Should there be a person to monitor the process, quasi a ‘music producer’? 

Not at this level. This is not to be confused with playing for others in preparation. I mean when you’re actually doing the recordings. You need to get good and comfortable with listening back to yourself and evaluating. A simple thing that most people overlook is

TAKE NOTES when listening back.

You think you’ll remember…you won’t… Also, the act of taking notes, commits it to a different part of your memory. When I was really deep on the audition circuit, once I started to really be diligent about taking notes, my progress jumped.

Find out more about Jim Nova or read his thoughts about “The secrets of switching between tenor and bass trombones”

Visit Jim’s website: and listen to his recordings:

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