Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick....

How to use a metronome?

A metronome is a practice tool that produces a steady pulse (or beat) to help musicians play rhythms accurately. The pulses are measured in beats-per-minute (BPM). Most metronomes are capable of playing beats from 35 to 250 BPM. Common uses of the metronome are helping you to maintain an established tempo while practicing, and learning difficult passages.

There are different schools of thought on the use of a metronome for practice. Some say that the unerring pace of the beat is an unrealistic substitute for the ever-subtly fluctuating tempos of live performances. Others counter that the rigidity forces you to play smoother, cleaner and with more consistency. Personally, I find that a metronome trains me to be more accurate with my rhythms and also encourages me to keep a steadier tempo rather than speeding up, especially during slow passages. It's good to have a metronome in the house, and they don't have to be fancy (or antiquated like the one pictured here.) There are even a number of metronomes online and this is one of the coolest I've ever seen.

Try practicing a piece of music that you know at a slow, steady pace. Force yourself to stay in time with the beat. It's more difficult to play accurately at a lesser tempo than when the b.p.m. (beats per minute) accelerate. Want to learn a particularly difficult fiddle tune? Start off playing it slowly, not missing any notes, and when you've got it down, increase the tempo on the metronome slightly and then continue. Keep speeding up until you hit a snag and start messing up. Then, kick it back a notch and keep pressing forward. Before you know it, you'll be playing faster with better precision and can always adapt to a live environment when playing with others!

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