by Chad Criswell
Recording an ensemble rehearsal or private lesson is just one of many ways that music educators use to help students recognize their deficiencies and improve as an overall musician. Modern portable recording technologies have really come of age of late, and recording quality that used to require large investments in time and money can now be recorded with a device that fits into the palm of your hand. These ultra-portable audio recording devices are becoming a staple part of every director's toolkit, but there are so many options and vendors that a director must do some research into which device best fits into the overall budget.
Popular and Time Tested Digital Audio Recording Devices
One of the first and most time tested portable audio recorders was the SuperScope. This shoe box sized CD recorder is still being sold today, and has been mimicked by various other manufacturers in products such as Roland's CD-2. These devices record audio via external microphones or built in stereo condenser mics and then burn the data out to a CD-R that can be played in most computers and CD players. The only drawback to this type of recorder is that while it is much smaller than the recording equipment of old, they are still not as portable as the hand held digital recorders examined below.
Hand held digital recorders such as the classic Edirol R-09 have become immensely popular in music classrooms due to their ultra portability and excellent recording quality. The Edirol R-09 is the size of a pack of playing cards and is easily carried around the neck using a provided strap. Other units by Zoom and M-Audio also have quite a following, and all sell for roughly the same price. The vast majority of these ultra portable units have built in microphones but some are able to use external mics when coupled with special adapter cables.
New Trends In Portable Audio Recording
Recording devices are continuously getting smaller while at the same time maintaining the quality of the overall recording. Roland has introduced a new version of the previously mentioned CD-2 named the CD-2e which incorporates removable flash memory as well as the traditional CD burning capabilities. They have also shrunk the size of the unit down to that of a hardcover novel. Yamaha has also released it's new PocketTrak 2G, a flash based digital audio recorder with stereo microphones that holds over three hours of audio but fits into a package the size of an iPod nano.
Always ask other directors for their personal recommendations when considering a new digital audio recorder purchase. There are very few bad products out there, but as always, the best possibly advice will come from those who use the technology on a daily basis.
Chad Criswell is the technology writer for MENC's Teaching Music Magazine and also produces his own music education web site located at MusicEdMagic.com