Throughout high school and college, anytime I was working on a piece of solo literature, I was told two things:
1. "Listen to recordings and other performances of the piece."
Today, I'm sharing a way to do the second piece of advice freely, simply, and using technology you probably already have! If you can operate a CD player or VCR (I'm not talking about programming it, either!), you can run Audacity on all three of the major operating systems (Mac OSX, Windows, and Linux). Other equipment: a microphone, headphones (not required, but recommended for doing multitrack recording), and obviously, the computer.
I've actually used Audacity, a small lapel mic, and my iPod headphones to record small pieces I've composed for violin, cello, and voice on my laptop! "For a Reason" (hosted on my Tumblr account) is one example of what you can do, freely, easily, and with very practically no recording experience. Seriously, the big red circle, which is commonly recognized as a "record" button: press it and play!
I doesn't need to be said, but Audacity is great for podcasting as well. Light enough for recording simple speech, and powerful enough to get well-recorded musical thoughts digitally recorded. I've played with some of the advanced features like noise reduction, effects, and beat-matching, so professional-quality recording is possible. Of course, you'll get better results with higher quality microphones, processing, and recording environments, but for what I do...Audacity is a win.
Use Audacity, or other recording tools for practice and composing? Have tips you want to share? Leave 'em in the comments for me!