In a few weeks time, school pupils all over the country will find themselves facing exams. These might be end of year exams, GCSE’s or A Levels. A recent poll carried out by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers showed that 89% of parents felt that testing was the main source of stress.
Exams are certainly not easy and far be it from me to trivialise the pressure that pupils are put under by the process. Nevertheless, the majority of teachers will agree that preparation is the key not only to exam success but also to combatting some of the stresses and pressures associated with doing an exam. Having taught Theory of Music for a number of years I have found that one of the best ways to prepare pupils is to practise exams technique and familiarise them with practice papers so that they know what they are going to be faced with and will not panic when the real examinations are put in front of them.
Ultimately if you had to sum up the purpose of a school in one word, I think it would be Preparation. Schools are not just about preparing for exams but they are entrusted with preparing pupils for the life which lays ahead of them. Whether that be one in business, the arts or sport. No matter what your chosen path in life may be, preparation for the future is always something which will stand everyone in good stead. And what an interesting future lies ahead.
Regardless of your views on the European Union, the American President or any other controversial situation, most people will agree there are some challenging times ahead. The important thing is to try and be prepared for circumstances which may arise as a result of previous actions. None of us can change the past or accurately predict the future. But what we can do is take control of the present and prepare ourselves for what might happen based on reasonable assumption. After all this is to an extent what exam preparation is about. No one being entered for an exam can know exactly what will be on the paper until they open it in the exam room. So the best preparation is one which encompasses all the most likely options and takes into account previous experience.
Now you may be wondering what on earth any of this has to do with recording a CD in your school. The key word is preparation. Recording a CD is certainly not like doing an exam but there are some similarities. A recording session is a time limited activity, a bit like an examination. Whilst a recording session is not a test of memory it is a test of musicianship and there will be certain pressures to give your best performance within a relatively short space of time. Yes, modern recording techniques allow for cuts and edits but again this all takes time. The majority of our school recording sessions are just one day and not only that the recordings are timetabled around the rest of the regular school activity.
Consequently, the most efficient way to record is to sing or perform the song 2 or 3 times and to select the best performance. And the only way to do this is effectively is to be well prepared. Over the last decade we have worked with some outstanding music teachers and recorded some stunning performances by pupils of all ages.
A recording session is a unique experience for pupils and in the majority of cases it is not something they have experienced before, and may never do again! As well as their musical performance it brings with it challenges of its own. A recording needs often more preparation than a concert. This because a live performance, once done, is gone forever. Even if there were a few minor imperfections, most people probably didn’t notice and still enjoyed the overall performance. With a recording, however, it is different. The recorded sound is captured forever and suddenly listened to in a far more critical manner.
Does this mean your school recording has to be perfect? No not necessarily – the aim is the capture the spirit of the performance and give pupils, and their parents, a record of their time at school and to show something which has been achieved. Nevertheless, everyone will always want to do their best and with the added pressure of singing or playing into a microphone, the more confident you are with your performance the better the final CD will be.