In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a giant metronome staring you in the face on my Student Resources page. I’m constantly telling my students about it. If I haven’t successfully badgered them into buying a metronome of their own just yet, then they can at least use the flash version at home. A real metronome is preferable though, as you really shouldn’t sit in front of the computer with all of it’s distractions while you’re practicing.
Of course, just having access to a metronome isn’t enough, you’ve got to use it, and you’ve got to know how to use it. So, in the coming weeks I’ll be sharing several metronome techniques designed to develop your technical prowess and enhance your sense of time.
Let’s start with the basics. If you’ve never played with a metronome before, chances are you’ll find it a bit tricky at first.
Students new to using a metronome often feel that they’re keeping with a nice, steady beat as they play only find out isn’t steady at all according to those unforgiving clicks. They may even suspect at times that the metronome is speeding up or slowing down on them! In fact, they are either rushing ahead of the beat or dragging behind it. This is simply because they have not yet developed their sense of time and are also likely losing their focus on the metronome as they play.
If you find yourself in this position, don’t worry. I experienced it once myself. Be patient with yourself, and start slowly with a basic exercise or a piece that’s slow and very easy to play. A good starting tempo would be between 52 and 60 BPM. If you set the metronome too fast, you won’t be able keep up. Set it too slowly, and you may not be able to tell when the next beat is coming.
Before you begin, give yourself at least two full measures to listen the metronome so you can get a good sense of the tempo. Feel free to tap your foot or count out loud. Remain aware of both the sound of your instrument and that of the metronome as you play. Don’t react to the metronome, but work to anticipate when it’s beat will sound and play simultaneously. When you begin to feel like you are triggering the metronome, instead of following along, then you’re doing things right.
Once you get the hang of it, make playing with the metronome part of your daily practice routine. For the first week or so, don’t worry about developing your speed, just make sure you turn it on and play some pieces you are comfortable with at a reasonable tempo.