5 Tips For Making A Quick & Easy Guitar Video
Ok, first a disclaimer; this isn’t going to be an all singing, all dancing guide to camera types, pro recording and high end ‘techy’ stuff; consider this more of a guide to kicking out a good looking video when you have a moment of inspiration.
1. Why should I make videos of my playing?
Good question! There is actually a huge benefit to recording and filming your playing, even if you don’t let anybody else see it. When we play, we are generally so wrapped up in the mechanics of what we’re doing - accuracy, timing, putting our fingers in the right places etc - that it’s often hard to truly ‘hear’ what we are playing. By retrospectively watching footage of ourselves, we can learn so much; perhaps we’re not quite as in time as we thought, maybe that vibrato could do with being less shaky? Or the opposite can be true, we are always our own biggest critics, the chances are you will be pleasantly surprised with what you see & hear when you aren’t distracted by the act of playing.
The second reason is the performance aspect; if you aren’t a regular performer, publishing videos to social media is a great outlet and prime training for the real thing!
By putting your guitar efforts out for the masses, you do invite criticism. This can, however, be an extremely positive experience; with many more experienced players happy to give constructive criticisms and free wisdom. Welcome this, take it in the spirit it is intended and ignore any negative jibes.
2. Can I use my phone?
The good news is yes you can! The minimum recommended resolution for YouTube and Facebook video content is 1080p (don’t worry about the numbers). In short - your smartphone will do the job just nicely.
The audio quality of your guitar sound recorded by your smartphone is OK, but expect to loose much of that bass which you hear in the room whilst you are playing. Remember, we aren’t talking full on pro production values here so, unless you want to explore recording your guitar audio independently and syncing it with the video after, then this is fine for quick video purposes.
On the above - perform at a moderate practise volume; too loud and you’ll hear lots of buzzing when you listen back, too quiet and all you’ll hear is the steely plinking of your strings.
This is key! Even the greatest camera can deliver grainy looking footage if the light isn’t right. Relax, you don’t have to run out and buy a whole load of expensive gigantic lamps, there are plenty of inexpensive, purpose made photography lights available. It may not look obvious when watching them, but the majority of good looking videos online will have a healthy amount of fit for purpose lighting just out of shot.
If splashing out on additional lighting is too ambitious an investment just yet, here are some basic dos and don’ts:
- Avoid too much natural light. This is a killer for clarity and details such as your fretboard, fingers (not to mention your best guitar faces) can be too dark to make out by contrast. Try not to place yourself between your camera and a window to avoid the worst of this.
- Ambient light - such as your ceiling lighting or room lights - all look great for creating mood but don’t generally provide enough light to give clarity to those finer details and you wanna see those fast fingers of yours doing their magic!
- Place any lighting you have behind the camera to avoid putting yourself in shadow.
If you are planning on using your phone to film your rise to internet guitar stardom, then make sure to position it somewhere secure - there’s nothing worse than a toppling camera when you are mid solo.
Be sure to also affix your phone at a relative height to yourself and your guitar - straight on is the way to go - those shots from underneath will make you look like a looming giant and footage taken from an elevated position will obscure the detail of your fingers and playing.
Deftly resting your phone on a convenient piece of furniture is all good but this is where a tripod comes in handy; giving you more control over where you place or angle your phone. Again, these are surprisingly affordable and much less frustrating than performing balancing acts on your various flat surfaces around the room.
On the same subject; there are two shots which are favoured in most guitar videos:
- The full frame shot - this features a cropped view, taking in the bottom of your guitar body to the top of your head and full guitar neck. If your camera is too far away you again run the risk of not capturing the details of your playing.
- The guitar close up - this is, as it sounds, a closer shot in which only your guitar is the prominent feature. This looks best if the full guitar is in the middle of the shot - showing both hands and an unimpeded view of your fretboard. Squeezing the full guitar into shot and keeping things looking good is sometimes easier said than done. One shot that is favoured by many players is achieved by filming at a slight angle, with the camera pointing slightly down from the headstock towards the body.
5. Beat the ‘Red Light Fever’
Now, filming yourself the first few times can be daunting; even without the thought of sharing the finished video. A strange phenomena takes place in which your playing goes wobbly as soon as you hit the record button. Never fear, this is perfectly normal and you are not alone.
A good way to beat those on-camera jitters is to simply hit record while you are warming up rather than at the start of any planned performance. Leave things recording and noodle, make mistakes and take your time. This will take the pressure off and the chances are you may capture some guitar magic purely by chance.
Dropping that first guitar video onto Facebook, or other platform, can seem like a big first step, especially if your guitar playing is largely a private thing. A final tip is to view this as part of the learning process and enjoy it; don’t strive for perfection or compare your efforts to any other guitar videos. Gaining praise from your friends or fellow players, in addition to support and tips, is a great motivator. Take the leap, who knows where it may take you!