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04/04/2018

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How to use a metronome correctly.

A metronome can be a very useful piece of equipment, especially when learning faster, more complicated pieces.
A metronome can be a very useful piece of equipment, especially when learning faster, more complicated pieces. Very often students will try to attempt learning a piece too quickly, with many hesitations and these inconsistencies in tempo will remain if we don't first practice slowly enough. You should always practice at a speed that you can comfortably keep going at without hesitation. Then you can use a metronome to very gradually build up the tempo as you develop muscle memory. Many modern metronomes which you can download onto your phone or ipad have a tap tempo function, meaning that you can tap the beat of a speed which you think you can maintain and the metronome will remember that speed in beats per minute (bpm).

As you increase the speed, only do so very gradually so that the hesitant playing does not return. Traditional metronomes increased by intervals of 3 bpm from 60 - 72 and by 4 bpm from 72 up to 120 and these incremental changes are ideal for increasing the speed  gradually. Don't try and run before you can walk.

I tend not to go too far below 50 or above 150, because beyond these extremes the beat becomes too slow or too fast and thus harder to follow. Instead, I subdivide or double the beat. For example, if I wanted a beat slower than crotchet = 60, I would first convert it into quavers and use quaver = 120 and then go lower from there as a quaver beat. When I achieve a quaver = 120 comfortably, I would then go back into a crotchet beat increasing further from crotchet = 60. Of course if the beat subdivides into threes as in compound time signatures you could subdivide a dotted crotchet = 50, into quaver =150



A word of caution here - although metronomes can be very useful in building the speed of a fast, complicated piece, they can also make your playing very mechanical. Therefore you should do as much practice with and without a metronome and when without, you can add little nuances such as rubato (which is not an excuse for hesitant playing by the way).

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