|You've Probably heard the old Sonny and Cher song, The Beat Goes On. And that's exactly what we're talking about . . . the beat. And nothing can help a musician with that more than a metronome. A metronome is one of those basic things that a studio or practice room should not be without! No matter what your instrument, a metronome can be incredibly useful in helping a musician play or sing at the proper speed, maintain a steady speed and overcome rhythmic difficulties.|
|Okay, you're looking at metronomes, but what are they good for?|
|The Beat Goes On
La De Da De De
La De Da De Da
|The first thing is, they can tell you how fast a piece is to be played. You'll see at the top of many pieces of sheet music a notation like the one above. This one tells you that there should be 128 quarter notes with a value of one beat each (you'll get that part from the time signature) per minute. And as I listen to "The Beat Goes On" on my computer, that's about how fast it is going. A little faster than two beats per second. So I could set my metronome to that speed.
But let's start earlier than that. When I have mastered the basics of a piece of music, I can start playing it with a metronome set much slower than the piece is written. In the case of The Beat Goes On, I might start at 60 beats per minute. If I can't play it easily there, I set the metronome even slower. (Violin Virtuosa Rachel Barton-Pine told me that when she talks with students she tells them to start out "SLOW," and the first time they play the piece she immediately says, "No, I said 'Slow.' That was Medium. Start slower." Eventually I find a place where I am completely comfortable and also completely successful playing the piece through.
When I am confident that I can play the piece through correctly, I turn up the speed A LITTLE BIT, maybe 5 or 10 beats a minute, and I work through it again. When I am completely successful at the new speed, I can move the setting again. And I do that over and over again until I am playing comfortably at the right speed. This is not generally a one-day process. It can last days, or weeks, or with some of the quicker things I've played it has lasted a lifetime!
Until I have finally reached the point where I am satisfied with my ability to play the piece at speed, I don't really concentrate on the musicality of changing speeds within a piece. I'll practice ritards and changes of pace somewhat just to get the feel of what the piece will be like when I have it under control, but the concept of rubato remains just a thought until my hands can handle the technical aspect of the music.
|The shirt talks about the song which has become the standard for a fiddler, Orange Blossom Special. The question is asked, "Can You Keep Up?" Orange Blossom Special is quick and somewhat technically demanding, but with a plan of metronome use and wise increases of speed, your answer can be..."Want to Race?"
What to look for in a metronome?
It Must Be Loud Enough to be Heard Easily. (When I'm Playing, Not Just Sitting Still in a Quiet Room)
It Must Be Tough Enough to Handle the Abuse I Give It. (Will You Be Carrying it in Your Case or Leaving on the Music Shelf at Home?)
It Must Have the Features I Want. (Built In Tuner?)
If you don't have a metronome, ask your teacher about it. Ask if there is one he or she recommends. A good metronome is one of the best investments that you can make in your music.