Make friends with your metronome

That pyramid-shaped clicking device, which back in the day used to be a hefty, wooden, wind-up device (well they still are…) and cost at least half an arm, if not a full one plus a leg too. These days anyone with a smart phone, which is pretty much most folks, can have their very own metronome for just the price of a coffee. I personally use a metronome app on on my iPhone called Tempo – a very useful little app indeed.

Metronome with guitar
Metronome with guitar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So with these kinds of apps out there at literally the touch of a button for a minimal cost, there is absolutely no excuse not to be using one!

So why are they so important?

The metronome is a great indicator of the following of whether:

  1. you’re actually playing in time
  2. that interesting rhythmic bit in bar 42, that set of grace of notes, that syncopation,  that triplet or quintuplet, or that bit you could swear blind is really in time actually is in time
  3. you do really know what you’re playing – when playing everything at the same tempo one can realise where there are perhaps a few stumbling blocks or little “knots’ in the music that need a bit of attention and teasing out
  4. you’re speeding up because a section is “easy” or perhaps the nature of the music lends itself to that if you’re not careful
  5. you’re slowing down to allow for a technical challenge rather than for the purposes of expression that you might be doing when playing without the metronome

Well, I most definitely advocate for my students to use a metronome whilst practicing scales, at least a couple of times of week, particularly to engender that sense of pulse, resisting the urge to speed up and ensuring evenness between the notes. The metronome is also particularly useful in training one to play faster tempi whilst maintaining evenness, for example, in scales.

To do this I set the metronome at a comfortable tempo and play the scale at that tempo. I then notch it up say two or three beats per minute, and play the scale at that tempo – always listening to the sound quality I’m creating of course – and being aware of the evenness of the notes. I then continue to keep notching up two or three beats per minute until I notice I’m tripping up – this reveals where there may some attention required to the movement of the left hand, the right hand and/ or the two in combination.

I don’t advocate, however, that the metronome should be used all of the time. Far from it.

Once that feel of the tempo and the pulse in a scale or a piece has become more engrained, and that playing straight ahead is mastered, then it’s time to put the metronome away. That’s when you can begin to shape and refine the music you’re making, the subtle pushes and pulls in phrases, the rubato, the rits and the ralls.

But you’ve first got to know where your boundaries are, so you can push beyond them. Is it time you made friends with your metronome?

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5 thoughts on “Make friends with your metronome

  1. Hello! This is my 1st comment here so I just
    wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy reading your articles.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the
    same topics? Thank you so much!

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