I have stumbled on a way of painlessly and easily recording short (or long) sections of music that I am practicing. Recording (and listening) to practice is an excellent way to improve. All too often, I hear what I want to hear while practicing, or what I imagine I am playing, and not what I am actually playing. But I have always been turned off by the difficulty of recording and playback. I used to use a microphone and laptop, but that was way too cumbersome. Then I changed to a Zoom recorder, mounted on a camera tripod. Easier, but still didn't make it easy to do a quick, short recording of something I am practicing.
If I have a short segment that I am struggling with, and want to check some aspect of that short segment by recording it and playing it back, it can be disruptive to fool with the recorder, get up and down to push buttons, and be distracted by the blinking lights.
I now use a Boss RC-3 loop pedal. One tap with my left foot, and it starts recording. Another tap, and it plays back. A double tap to stop it, and a tap-and-hold to clear it. Now I can instantly check a phrase without interrupting my practice workflow.
Here's what it looks like beneath my 1927 C. Bechstein grand:
You need an audio source to feed it - I use my zoom in monitor mode, connecting the audio out to the audio in on the Boss. The output of the Boss goes into a powered monitor speaker (a Behringer), which has level controls. You need to adjust levels so that you don't get feedback. The Zoom is sitting on the music desk above the piano. I changed the default order of recording on the Boss to record/playback/overdub - I don't use the overdub.
In practice, I turn it all on when I start a practice session. When I come to a spot that I want to check ("Am I really playing that ornament on the beat?") I just tap the pedal and it starts recording. Tap again to stop and start playback. It will loop forever until you stop it. Then a tap-and-hold to clear and its ready to go again.
The Boss can do a lot of things, including recording for hours and overdubbing, so I am just using a small portion of what it can do with my acoustic piano. I will probably start using it to record entire pieces for the ABF recitals, but I am already getting a lot of help listening to myself by using it.