The metronome. I can see my students repress a shudder each time I reach for it in their lessons. I remember that feeling, the feeling that you have to keep up with that infernal clicking , but you can’t keep up and why can’t you just turn it off and play the piece?
In contrast, I can’t recall the exact moment that my relationship with the metronome changed. At some point, I began to view the metronome as a helpful tool, one that actually solved problems and made practicing easier.
I don’t know when it happened, but I know how. Over the course of my musical life, I realized that there were four ways in which a metronome could help me practice more efficiently and even become a better musician. All you doubters and metronome-phobes, read on…
1. It keeps you honest. This is probably the most frequent and the most dreaded use of the metronome. The metronome is rigid task-master, brooking no unauthorized tempo fluctuations. 1,2,3,4…click, click, click, click…
2. It can help you stay slow enough.“Slow motion” practice is a regular part of my practicing. It’s a great way to look at details and check my technique. But it is so easy to slip back into a more normal tempo without meaning to. The metronome keeps me at a slow, careful tempo, giving me the freedom to pay attention to the important details. This is also a great way to isolate the exact problem note or notes in a tricky passage.
3. It creates order. Just as you would want a ruler to help you draw a straight line, you need a metronome to help line things up – hands, beats, fingers. It can help you regulate and remember your tempo. It can help you speed up a piece, as you turn the metronome speed up notch by notch, without creating unevenness. It can help you add in extra time to help you maintain your focus and prevent errors.
4. It can instruct your inner metronome. Regular metronome use can help you develop a strong sense of pulse. This will help you in solo and ensemble playing, especially orchestra playing. It will help you stay in control in solo performance, and stay with others in an ensemble. in short, it will help you be a better musician.
The more you use your metronome, the more comfortable you will be with it. Remember, it is not a substitute for counting. You still should count everything all the time. But with the metronome, your counting will be even and regular, giving your fingers their best chance to play the notes. Click, click, click, click…
Do you hate your metronome, or love it?