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Using A Metronome


frogspawn
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aybee and Geoff Wooff suggested starting a new topic so here it is...

 

As I said in the other thread, I need to use a metronome to improve my regularity but IMO 'absolute' speed *is* also an issue. This is not because I'm too slow when playing tunes but because I've been too fast.

 

I have seen discussion on the Session with regard to typical speed ranges for different sorts of ITM tunes - reels, jigs etc - but ITM sessions are notoriously faster than English ones (and seem so to me).

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Like Aybee I do not have knowledge of metronome speeds that could be applicable to English sessions.

 

I notice though, that in France speed of playing dance tunes will vary quite a lot depending on the region due to variations in dancing styles.

 

I lived for many years in Co.Clare where Irish music was generally played at a more relaxed pace than you might notice at sessions in other places. One word of advice I would suggest to listen carefully to the way music is being played.... and if it sounds to you be in a hurry then it is being played too fast by those you are listening to. Some people can play very quickly but make it sound relaxed. Others somehow manage to make all their music sound rushed.

 

With regard to setting speeds on your metronome I would suggest that, as you feel that you play too fast, setting a slower pace will allow you to feel the pulse and internal rhythm, giving you time to work on stress, weight, bounce, lean, etc whatever you wish to call it, which whilst some of that may get lost when you play more quickly, at a session, the hope is that some of it will remain.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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You both beat me to it... (sorry)

 

My preferred instrument of torture is the Seiko SQ50V - the only one I could hear over my concertina playing in the local music shop.

post-6143-0-89063700-1384707529_thumb.jpg

I'm aware there are fancy metronomes with digital displays and even metronome apps, but I like the simple device with a dial, and the satisfying clicks it makes as you spin it to change tempo settings.

The reasons I often use a metronome in practice:
1. It gives objectivity to my timing, and will show any discrepancies in a horribly unforgiving fashion.
2. It helps when practising difficult passages to really 'nail' them.
3. It helps if I have to play faster than my comfort zone, to push said comfort zone further.

Using a metronome:
If you've not done it before, it will perhaps be quite a shock when you start playing with a metronome. As I mentioned above it is really a very unforgiving device and you will hear every slight deviancy of tempo. However, don't be put off by this and try to play along, listening to the device and how it compares with your own sense of timing and how you 'think' you are playing.
Of the three reasons I've mentioned above, perhaps number 2 is the most useful, in that you can isolate certain difficult passages, and force yourself to play them at a slower tempo than normal. Say I have 3 bars of 16th notes in groups of 4 - a real wall of black... I'd start by playing the first group of 4 + the first note of the next group in a slow tempo - repeating over and over again until I had the pattern in my fingers and brain. I'm told 7 times is an optimum number to play at each tempo, since with more than this you tend to lose concentration and below this, is not enough for it to really sink in. I'll then increase the tempo up a step and repeat. At the point where I can no longer keep up, or concentrate, I note the tempo at which I can play the section satisfactorily and move onto the next section of 4+1 and so on. The next day, I'll perhaps be delighted to see that my 'start tempo' is subsequently faster than the day before, which would of course be encouraging. Often it's unfortunately not the case, but in the long run, you can certainly measure your progress objectively by working in this way. It also enables you to use your practice time efficiently, working particularly on the bits you can't do, rather than endlessly practising parts of tunes you have no difficulty with. It will work in exactly the same way if you play by ear, you just need to remember the parts of the tune, you're working on and jot down a b.p.m tally.
Of course the object of the exercise is not to play like a metronome, but to have a critical ear and control over what you are doing.
The number of clicks you set per bar will depend on the effect you're trying to achieve and the difficulty of the passage. For example, setting the metronome clicks to come once per bar in a 3/2 rhythm will feel very different to having them come 3 times a bar and will allow you more flexibility within the bar to make subtile shifts.
Does this ring a bell?

Adrian

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I tried out a few iPhone apps, and settled on the succinctly-named "Metronome" (whose icon shows "120 allegro" in teal digital font, if you're confused about which one to download). I forget whether it was free or $0.99, but it's worth every penny either way :)

 

I like this app mainly for exactly the reasons Adrian likes that Seiko: it has a dial and the dial makes satisfying clicks as you spin it to change the setting; and it's actually loud enough to hear over my Morse concertina.

 

You can also set the meter and then independently set the volume or tone of each beat in the measure to emphasize or de-emphasize (or even mute) certain beats, if you find that helpful.

 

And it also has the great feature that there's a square on the screen you can tap, and it will determine the tempo of your tapping and set itself accordingly. So, if you're curious about exactly what tempo a tune is being played at a session, pull out your iPhone and discreetly tap along for a few bars (the app doesn't make noise when you're doing this) to find out. I've done this at dances, and I find I'm often surprised: one band may sound very, very rushed while actually dragging the dance down at 112 while another band may be in a very relaxed groove while clipping along at 130 (as Geoff described above).

Edited by wayman
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Another approach is to find a recording of someone who plays your tune well and play along with them. I use a metronome to practice sometimes (an old fashioned clockwork job) and sometimes find it too unforgiving - so playing along with someone is a less confronting alternative. I also use the fantastic and free Audacity software that lets you slow down, or speed up, a recording without changing the pitch. It produces some weird artifacts sometimes, but they're fine if you just want something to play along with. Audacity can also produce a 'click track' that works like a metronome, but with more emphasis on the pulses in the bar (like the app Wayman mentions) which I've also found to be a useful tool.

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Following on from Aybee's remarks about setting the metronome to one beat per bar for tunes in 3/2 ,so as to give room to feel for the in between note length alterations, I suggest trying this for 6/8 tunes.

 

I think that if the metronome is set to give two beats per bar for a 6/8 Jig then each of the two groups of eighth notes can be pronounced as one needs for any particular regional style.

 

So, as a for-instance... in English Rapper Dancing... as I recall... these eighth notes are played with almost equal length but with a beat stress on the first of each group.

 

In Irish Jig Playing the first note in each group is longer , the second is shortest and the third is somewhat in between. The amounts of difference given will again vary from region to region and by individual choice.

 

I would suggest to decide on an 'internal rhythm' that you wish to use and try to keep to it throughout a tune and not play some Bars with notes of very different lengths ( or strengths) and other Bars with even sized notes.

 

Using subtle note stresses is the key to the style of a particular music , how it might then sound rhythmically, Klesma or Scottish for example, however if this Inside pulse is not maintained, or at least suggested throughout, then the Dance Music effect becomes disjointed....and the listener becomes unsettled.

 

The point of using a metronome, in this way is to help train yourself in expressing the rhythm, to maintain a regular measure and to place the notes Under the dancers feet or let them arrive at the listener's ear when they are expected, and not before or after.

 

One of the principles of MUSIC is fine timing... that is why one should only listen to very good music.A player with great time will be able to play faster and still sound unrushed.

 

.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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Just to be sure that I understand Adrian and Geoff correctly.

 

Do you mean to set up the metronome so that it only clicks on an on beat and never on an off beat?

 

Is this advisable for more regular tempos too, like 4/4 or 3/4?

Some people tap their foot on the off beat so why not let the metronome click be an off beat one or any beat that you wish to be the 'on target' mark of the Framework "external rhythm" of your tune.

 

I'd be more inclined to set one beat per bar for a 3/4 and two beats PB for a 4/4 .

 

I would say " use your metronome in any way that suits you. It is all about regularity of Pace and Space in this context.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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Regarding being able to here oneself, one thing I ended up doing in order to be able to practice seriously at the local park: bluetooth earpiece.

 

I loaded up some tracks I was trying to learn (John Connolly on 1-row melodeon) onto my smartphone, sat on a park bench, and played along with a recording only I could hear, which was nice and clear in the left side of my head. I've done this with metronome apps as well.

 

The other great thing about this method is that the Amazing Slower Downer isn't too expensive an app, and I find it very helpful not just for speed, but also for manipulating pitch so I can drop a tune two half steps, playing along with a D tune on a C/G Anglo. One of my favorite 1-row albums is Dance Sean Nos by Tom Doherty, and he did the entire album on an Eb (!) 1 row, so being able to transpose the recording is a lifesaver there.

 

So yeah, bluetooth earpiece, or headphone with just one cup on, should have you metronome right loud and clear.

Edited by MatthewVanitas
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Another approach is to find a recording of someone who plays your tune well and play along with them. I use a metronome to practice sometimes (an old fashioned clockwork job) and sometimes find it too unforgiving - so playing along with someone is a less confronting alternative. I also use the fantastic and free Audacity software that lets you slow down, or speed up, a recording without changing the pitch. It produces some weird artifacts sometimes, but they're fine if you just want something to play along with. Audacity can also produce a 'click track' that works like a metronome, but with more emphasis on the pulses in the bar (like the app Wayman mentions) which I've also found to be a useful tool.

I have been thinking about this, wondering if it will actually produce the same effect as practising with a metronome. As I wrote earlier, I like to isolate problem areas of tunes (and songs) and concentrate on them while practising. This often involves doing a bar or two here, slowly increasing the tempo, then moving to another "problem area". I'm not sure how useful it would be to try to play along with a recording of somebody in this context, and the idea of chopping up an mp3 and saving bits of it at different tempos seems a bit too much work. I even dislike electronic metronomes that give a different sound on the first beat of the bar (I don't like to have to wait!) and prefer the uniform click pattern.

 

Just to be sure that I understand Adrian and Geoff correctly.

 

Do you mean to set up the metronome so that it only clicks on an on beat and never on an off beat?

 

Is this advisable for more regular tempos too, like 4/4 or 3/4?

You might find it easier in the early stages of learning a tune to have, for example in a 3/4 tune, three clicks a bar rather than one. It depends whats going on in the bar, and how difficult the fingering is. To learn a long passage of 16th notes, I might set the metronome clicking at eighths to start with (so two to a click) and then set it to quarters when I get better at it.

I hope this helps.

 

Adrian

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I have been thinking about this, wondering if it will actually produce the same effect as practising with a metronome. As I wrote earlier, I like to isolate problem areas of tunes (and songs) and concentrate on them while practising. This often involves doing a bar or two here, slowly increasing the tempo, then moving to another "problem area". I'm not sure how useful it would be to try to play along with a recording of somebody in this context

 

aybee,

In my experience, isolating problem areas - like fast semiquaver sequences or awkward chord changes - is more useful in the initial phase of getting the notes of a piece into my fingers. I find the metronome more useful when I can, in principle, play all the notes without hesitation. There will still be dead easy passages which I may be playing faster than others that really take my technique to its limits. The metronome helps me to get rid of these tempo irregularities, and may uncover problem areas. I would then forget about the metronome and concentrate on these isolated problems, using the metronome again later to check my progress.

 

In short, frequent repitition of difficult phrases and fluent playing to the metronome are just two different tools for two different jobs.

 

Cheers,

John

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I have been thinking about this, wondering if it will actually produce the same effect as practising with a metronome. As I wrote earlier, I like to isolate problem areas of tunes (and songs) and concentrate on them while practising. This often involves doing a bar or two here, slowly increasing the tempo, then moving to another "problem area". I'm not sure how useful it would be to try to play along with a recording of somebody in this context

 

aybee,

In my experience, isolating problem areas - like fast semiquaver sequences or awkward chord changes - is more useful in the initial phase of getting the notes of a piece into my fingers. I find the metronome more useful when I can, in principle, play all the notes without hesitation. There will still be dead easy passages which I may be playing faster than others that really take my technique to its limits. The metronome helps me to get rid of these tempo irregularities, and may uncover problem areas. I would then forget about the metronome and concentrate on these isolated problems, using the metronome again later to check my progress.

 

In short, frequent repitition of difficult phrases and fluent playing to the metronome are just two different tools for two different jobs.

 

Cheers,

John

 

 

Along the same line: A metronome (sort of like playing together with other musicians, albeit more predictable, and more forgiving) forces you to concentrate on both your own playing and the other "thing" going on (with the ultimate goal - presumably - being that you do NOT concentrate on your own playing anymore). Thus, having the metronome as a "rhythm backing track" also serves the useful purpose of improving your skills as a band player...

 

Hi John,

 

I think I pointed this out in my earlier post - at least that was my intention with my three "reasons why I often use a metronome in practice". I just homed in on the second of these because it seems to me to be the one you can't use a recording for. On another tack, I doubt too that you can find the same degree of objectivity when playing along to a recording? It may well be the way to go if you want to learn somebody's style, but I'm not sure if one can learn to be 'self-sufficiant', in the way I think Ruediger implies? (And which I agree is the ultimate goal.)

 

Adrian

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I have experience with other instruments in which metronomes are usually used for practice, so I started using one for anglo concertina.

At a popular concertina school, I diligently practiced the day's tune using a metronome, and got it down pretty well. But as soon as I started performing for the teacher I was admonished for sounding "mechanical". When I said that I had practiced to a metronome I was told that was not a good idea and that you should play naturally. He added that he always declined to use the metronome tracks that are provided during recording sessions.

I was pretty dumbfounded by this, but who am I to argue with a leading player/teacher?

He really left no wriggle room here. He just said put the damn thing away.

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I have experience with other instruments in which metronomes are usually used for practice, so I started using one for anglo concertina.

At a popular concertina school, I diligently practiced the day's tune using a metronome, and got it down pretty well. But as soon as I started performing for the teacher I was admonished for sounding "mechanical". When I said that I had practiced to a metronome I was told that was not a good idea and that you should play naturally. He added that he always declined to use the metronome tracks that are provided during recording sessions.

I was pretty dumbfounded by this, but who am I to argue with a leading player/teacher?

He really left no wriggle room here. He just said put the damn thing away.

 

I don't think this is a good teacher. Possbily (probably) an excellent musician who has a good intuition for rhythm (otherwise he wouldn't dismiss the metronome so dogmatically), but imho, a good TEACHER also cares about his student, and if you consider it important for yourself to obtain a steady and good rhythm, he should at the very least provide alternatives to using the metronome to you.

 

It IS true that too strict an adherence to rhythm (without paying equal attention to the other elements of the music) may leave a tune studied that way bloodless, but it is also true that a tune played without a solid rhythm is not a tune. Rhythm is the heartbeat of music, so it definitely is important to work on a solid rhythm. Of course, playing naturally is the best way, but if it doesn't come natural to an individual to keep a good and steady rhythm out of nowhere (which I believe is true for most of us), it is the teacher's responsibility to show the student alternative ways to accomplish the goal. Did he say anything else after "put that damn thing away," such as "try it this or that other way instead?"

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Using a metronome:

If you've not done it before, it will perhaps be quite a shock when you start playing with a metronome. As I mentioned above it is really a very unforgiving device and you will hear every slight deviancy of tempo. However, don't be put off by this and try to play along, listening to the device and how it compares with your own sense of timing and how you 'think' you are playing.

Indeed, you will want to believe that the metronome has gone irregular on you. But as soon as you stop playing the rhythm magically straightens out.

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I have experience with other instruments in which metronomes are usually used for practice, so I started using one for anglo concertina.

At a popular concertina school, I diligently practiced the day's tune using a metronome, and got it down pretty well. But as soon as I started performing for the teacher I was admonished for sounding "mechanical". When I said that I had practiced to a metronome I was told that was not a good idea and that you should play naturally. He added that he always declined to use the metronome tracks that are provided during recording sessions.

I was pretty dumbfounded by this, but who am I to argue with a leading player/teacher?

He really left no wriggle room here. He just said put the damn thing away.

 

I wonder if this isn't the result of playing to too many metronome clicks per bar? While the object of using a metronome is to give yourself a sense of what is 'straight', you will of course want to deviate from this to avoid sounding like one! The important thing is to know when you are getting away from the 'straight and narrow', so you can get back into it and not sound messy. As Ruediger said, Rhythm is the heartbeat of music, and if you lead your listeners too far away from a regular pulse, you won't take them with you.

I know many good players will rely on their feet, their inner sense, etc. to give that heartbeat, but it doesn't just come from nothing - you have to train it and a metronome is a very efficient way to learn. As David pointed out, there are times when I can almost convince myself that it's the metronome that's gone wonky....

 

Adrian

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