Recording Guidelines (to be strictly followed):
- Recordings must be submitted in the specified format, i.e. video for Quartet, Marsteller, and Johnson, and audio only for all other competitions.
- There is to be absolutely no editing of any audio or video submitted to the competitions. Editing is defined as any alteration to the recorded performance from the first to the last note. (It is permitted to trim the beginning or end of each file, i.e. before the music begins or after it concludes.)
- Recording must be recorded from a single position (i.e., no separate microphones for soloist and pianist). Adjust piano peg as necessary to find best balance with performer. Video should also be recorded from a single, uninterrupted camera angle (no zooming, panning, or cuts.)
- The preferred method of audio recording is two cardioid pattern condenser microphones in a stereo (X-Y) configuration. Typical microphone placement is 6–12 feet (1.8-3.6 meters) from soloist/pianist 2–4 feet (.6-1.2 meters) above the trombone bell.
- Be sure to carefully set gain levels during recording and normalize the audio (if necessary) before submitting. This allows judges to more easily hear all recordings equally. Adjustment to the overall recorded volume of the track does not constitute editing.
- Auto gain features should be disabled on your recording device to allow for an accurate dynamic representation of the performance
- It is suggested that the recording be made at the highest possible quality and then converted to a suitable format for file upload. Accepted audio file formats include: MP3, OGG, M4A, WMA, WAV, AAC, FLAC, AIFF, AIF. Accepted video file formats (Marsteller, Quartet, and Johnson categories only) include: MP4, MPEG, MPG, MOV, AVI, WMV, M4V, FLV, WEBM, M2V
- Do not embed any metadata in the submitted audio or video file. You may test for this by importing your file into a program such as iTunes; if the program can automatically determine identifying information such as the name of performer(s), location, etc., you have metadata imbedded in the file.
- Carefully follow the directions on naming the audio or video file, found in the rules for each competition.
- No speaking of any kind is allowed, including any verbal count-offs (except where specifically allowed in competition rules). Audible dialogue of any kind will result in disqualification. Caution all performers to avoid talking until the take has been completed. A good rule of thumb would be to hold silence for 5 seconds after any take, allowing for a clean submission.
- For video entries, dress in a conservative/professional manner, as visual impact is part of the overall presentation.
- For video entries, all performers should be continuously visible throughout the entire performance.
- No written signs, nametags or other written material visible in video entries.
When submitting for a competition, your recorded sound is the only representation of your playing to the judges, so you should strive to record at the highest quality possible. However, whether recording for an audio or video entry, current technology now allows very affordable options for recording yourself using your own device. The following suggestions are conceived as help for those applicants wishing to record themselves on a budget.
Suggestions for recording your own audio:
- A portable digital audio recorder with a built-in stereo microphone. There are many great options in this category, including brands such as Olympus, Roland, Sony, Tascam, Yamaha, and Zoom
- Smartphones or tablets can serve well as digital recorders, provided an external stereo microphone is used. (The built-in microphone on most smartphones will provide poor audio quality.) Companies such as Tascam and Zoom sell stereo microphones which attach directly to your device
- Laptop computers also work well as digital audio recorders with an external microphone. (The built-in microphone on most laptops will provide poor audio quality.) For the highest possible quality, professional microphones with a XLR connection may be used with a computer if run through an audio interface. The Scarlett Focusrite or other similar interface is recommended. Alternatively, look for a high quality USB condenser microphone or a stereo condenser microphone with a 1/8” mini plug (only for laptops with a line-in/microphone input.) Many computers come with recording software already installed, such as GarageBand; there are also good quality free software programs available, such as Audacity.
Suggestions for recording your own video:
- Look for a portable video recorder with a built in stereo microphone designed for recording live music (good examples would be the Zoom Q4n or Q8.)
- Shoot digital video with a camcorder or DSLR camera, with an external stereo condenser microphone attached. (The camera’s built-in microphone will likely provide inferior audio quality.) Note: camera or camcorder must have an input for an external microphone.
- Smartphones or tablets can serve well as digital video recorders, using the built-in camera, provided an external stereo microphone is used. (The built-in microphone on most smartphones will provide poor audio quality.) Companies such as Tascam and Zoom sell stereo microphones which attach directly to your device. (Make sure that the microphones will point the same direction as the camera!)
- Laptop computers also work well as digital video recorders using the built-in webcam with an external microphone. (The built-in microphone on most laptops will provide poor audio quality.) For the highest possible quality, professional microphones with a XLR connection may be used with a computer if run through an audio interface. The Scarlett Focusrite or other similar interface is recommended. Alternatively, look for a high quality USB condenser microphone or a stereo condenser microphone with a 1/8” mini plug (only for laptops with a line-in/microphone input.) This process of recording directly to a computer can be easily undertaken using video recording software such as Quicktime Pro or iMovie.
Helpful Hints from Past Judges:
- Allow yourself plenty of time to record, well in advance of the due date. Plan for more than one take, with time to rest in between, so that you will sound your best each time.
- If recording yourself, experiment with your recording setup well in advance of your recording sessions to find the best microphone placement and setup.
- Record in a room with the best acoustic available to you. Avoid rooms that are either excessively dry or too reverberant. Judges are looking for a beautiful, clear, and natural sound, rather than a distant sound or one obscured by excessive reverberation.
- When recording with piano, seek out a good pianist and a good sounding in-tune piano. Plan for a page-turner if necessary.