Learning to maintain tempo is an important step to mastering your instrument. After all, it’s no good learning to play the notes if you can’t string them together the way they were intended, and create a beautiful sound.
Many a violinist has found themselves shouting a big ‘yay’ after mastering a difficult song, rushing off to compare themselves to their favourite violinist on youtube only to realise…dun dun dun! Your rendition is a mess! You’re too slow, too fast, and those 64thnotes you thought faultless, aren’t being played as 64ths at all!
So what to do when your perfect, head swaying, face scrunch inducing perfection of a song, is not so perfect? Try practicing with a metronome. By practising with a metronome you’re not just playing the notes, you can learn to control them. A skill that is especially important when playing with other musicians. Using a metronome successfully will make your playing more polished, and develop good rhythmic habits for future musical endeavours where you will be injecting your own rhythmic ‘groove’ into your music. Having a solid foundation of rhythmic control is an important first step.
- “No indeed, it is not unmusicianly to play in perfect time. It is an art that is all too rare.”
Ruth L. F. Barnett, Etude, October, 1924
- “Of course, everyone knows that after a piece has been thoroughly tested and stabilized with the metronome, the necessary rhythmic variations, the accelerandos [Speeding up of the tempo], the ritardandos [Gradually slowing in tempo], the ad libs [Ad Libitum – Latin for “at one’s pleasure“], the tempo rubatos [Rhythmic flexibility within the phrase or measure, ie. relaxation of strict time] may be introduced far more intelligently and artistically.”
James Francis Cooke, Etude, April, 1940
- “To be an artist one must be able to play in perfect time- slow, fast, or anywhere between. Then one must be able to leave the time at will. This is not the same as having the time leave the player, and that is the effect if one is not able to play with the metronome.”
M.L. Carr, Violin World, March, 1896
TOP TIPS FOR USING A METRONOME
- When you first start using a metronome, try playing a familiar song at a slower tempo to get used to the feel of using your metronome
- For some people moving a body part in time with your metronome can help fine tune your own sense of rhythm, and make it easier to anticipate the ‘clicks’ of the metronome (beware not to let the body part run away on its own tempo though!)
- Practice scales precisely at different tempos. Sometimes the simplest exercises can be the most useful.
- Remember to practice without the metronome once you have the rhythm of the practice piece perfected.
- Do not watch the metronome, depend on your ear. That’s what you want to train, so place the metronome out of your eyeline.
There are many options when looking at which metronome to buy, but a few stand out from the crowd. For all the old school stringies (and those who just love the way traditional metronomes look) great quality traditional weighted metronomes can be found from between $69.00 for the (very handy for travelling) Taktell Super Mini all the way to $199.95 for the Traditional Wittner German Metronome, which is not only useful, but will look very posh in the practice room.
For those who love the high tech, or want something with a few more functions, a digital metronome may be the way to go. Animato Strings carries a great range of digital metronomes starting at just $49.95 for the Intelli Digital Metronome/Dual Tuner IMT-202 (pssst you get a tuner built in!). For those with a little more cash in their pocket, you can’t go past the Intelli Metronome DMT-8LT for $139.00.
A whole host of other options for any budget can be found here. Have fun with your metronome and let the rhythm flow.
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Have any stories of your own metronome use? We’d love to hear it!
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