Rob Knopper: On Overcoming the Fear of Recording Yourself (and Making It Your New Favorite Practice Tool)

Once upon a time, my kids would practically beg me to videotape them in action. Whether it was slurping noodles in slow motion, jumping off the couch onto bubble wrap, or rocking out to AC/DC, they seemed to be endlessly captivated by the magic of seeing themselves on-screen.

Fast-forward a few years, and my videography game now needs to be at crazy ninja-like levels of stealth if I want to have any hope of capturing them on film.

I can’t blame them of course, as I wasn’t any different. Especially when it came to recording myself in the practice room or on stage.

Indeed, most of us have been told to record ourselves at some point or another. And on some level, I think we know and agree – at least in theory – that it would be a helpful thing to do.

But, um…why is it again that we should record?

Because…what exactly does it do anyway?

And what does it mean if all recording seems to be good for is making us feel like giving up and scraping the bottom of the barrel of our Netflix queue instead? Are we missing something, or doing it wrong?

Meet Rob Knopper

Rob Knopper is a percussionist in the Met Opera Orchestra, and has been writing about the audition process for several years now (at He wasn’t always a proponent of recording, but had an experience in college that totally changed how he felt about recording.

So if you’ve ever struggled to make recording work for you, and want to be able to incorporate this useful tool into your practicing toolbox, I hope you’ll feel differently about recording after listening to this week’s conversation!

In this 30-minute chat, we’ll talk about:

  • Why his first attempt at recording was a big fail in high school
  • What changed in college when he tried it again
  • The various methods and purposes of recording, and why it’s important to find one that fits you (for instance, is it best to listen back right away? Or wait a day so your ears are fresher?)
  • How to eliminate the overwhelm you feel after listening back to a recording
  • When to record audio only, and when video might be better
  • The biggest mistake we often make when recording for the first time
  • And more!

Additional resources

And for more details and tips on creating a recording workflow, including equipment recommendations, here’s Rob’s 3-part series on the nuts and bolts of self-recording:

Part 1: Overview of self-recording and key principles

Part 2: Every piece of gear you’ll need for self-recording

Part 3: The step-by-step method

Ack! After Countless Hours of Practice...
Why Are Performances Still So Hit or Miss?

For most of my life, I assumed that I wasn’t practicing enough. And that eventually, with time and performance experience, the nerves would just go away.

But in the same way that “practice, practice, practice” wasn’t the answer, “perform, perform, perform” wasn’t the answer either. In fact, simply performing more, without the tools to facilitate more positive performance experiences, just led to more negative performance experiences!

Eventually, I discovered that elite athletes are successful in shrinking this gap between practice and performance, because their training looks fundamentally different. In that it includes specialized mental and physical practice strategies that are oriented around the retrieval of skills under pressure.

It was a very different approach to practice, that not only made performing a more positive experience, but practicing a more enjoyable experience too (which I certainly didn’t expect!).

If you’ve been wanting to perform more consistently and get more out of your daily practice, I’d love to share these research-based skills and strategies that can help you beat nerves and play more like yourself when it counts.

Click below to learn more about Beyond Practicing, and start enjoying more satisfying practice days that also transfer to the stage.


One Response

  1. I record myself a lot: when I am practicing new material or not and especially when i am playing live gigs. I do this to figure out what I need to work on and, because I am my own worst critic, I always find a lot of things. However it’s not as bad as it used to be. I am pretty perceptive however when it comes to HOW I think I played on the gig and what it felt like in the moment and how it comes across after the fact. For me I know that I always play better when I am not reading a chart and have the material memorized. In jazz this is essential because once you really know a tune you can be as free as you want within or without the specific structure.

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