13-Confessions-of-a-Metronome

13: Confessions of a Metronome

MD attempts to counsel a depressed and frustrated metronome. Plus he reveals 10 reasons why your music timing’s poor.

Geez!! I can’t stand that annoying clicking sound! Grrr!!!

My student Sandy for some reason can’t overcome the dislike of the metronome. I completely understand the metronome is very rigid and unemotional. It felt like she literally wanted to rip her ear loaves out.

“The metronome is just another musician in the room that wants to join with you and make music” I mentioned.

“Well I don’t like him, can you kick him out the room!” She blurted.

“Nice try Sandy…” I responded. “Let’s start from the top.”

The metronome or otherwise known as the “clicker” is not a new invention. It’s been around for over 200 years.

In the early 19th century Beethoven was suffering from hearing loss and connected with a man named Johann Maelzel who made him hearing trumpets to help Beethoven with his hearing. Not sure if it helped though.

At the time Maelzel was trying to perfect his own metronome but heard of a man named Dietrich Winkel in 1812 that had a far superior metronome than his own. Winkel refused to sell Maelzel a metronome.

Maelzel ending up stealing a copy of Winkel’s device and pantented it in 1815. Not Cool!

It seems Winkel and Maelzel were both in a race for the first ever metronome for musicians. In reality it was Dietrich Winkel that created the pendulum metronome that we know and love or hate today.

The metronome has helped many musicians today practically perfect the rhythm and time.

For the last 15 years I’ve taught thousands of students and if I can remember the two top issues that most students have is rhythm and timing!

The metronome is pretty much your answer.

10 Causes why your music timing sucks.

1. Identify Mistakes

If you have never used a metronome or rarely use it. Grab your smart phone, because 90 percent of all smart phones have a simple audio recording app.

Play a simple musical piece and record yourself playing with the metronome at the tempo of the musical piece of course.

Play it back! Use headphones to really hear it more clearly.

Now, if you have super Jesus powers than most likely you’ll be locked in the with the click. If not you’ll notice that your timing is really off.

Or, you’ll blame the metronome and think it’s slowing down or speeding up. If you have that thought than that means you have poor timing and rhythm.

All amateur musicians that I have played with always say this. Then they fall back and say the metronome is not natural and it makes your too rigid.

We’re inconsistent humans and we will never be as tight and rigid as the metronome.

2. Improves Cleanliness

Once you capture a recording of yourself playing with the metronome and identifying the mistakes. Now, it’s time correct them through repetitions and you’ll see the enormous difference in the cleanliness of your playing.

The metronome works like magic as long as you create and stick to a consistent game plan. Your results will shine.

3. Solid Timing

My boy Stix is an enormously talented drummer who plays for Ariana Grande. His timing and rhythm is so solid it’s ridiculous.

This guy makes the click just disappear. When I get the chance to work with him I sometimes wonder if he turns off the metronome. But the metronome is still turned on.

Stix is so locked in with the click it just fades away. He can create these amazing fills and land right back on the click like a pro.

The key to solid timing is anticipating the click and allowing it to become your practice partner. Practice, practice, practice.

4. Improves Group Playing

Let’s go back to my student Sandy.

If I placed her in a group situation she would be completely lost on where to start and end.

I guess I’m to blame in this situation I need to get her to embrace the metronome as friend not a foe.

Work in progress.

Not everyone can play with a band everyday. The next best thing are metronomes, now in today’s world we have drum machines and live backing track play alongs which are great.

I do however suggest that you start learning the metronome first, then move onto drum machines, then live play alongs.

This is my science behind it.

The sound and frequencies of a click are very thin and steady with just a simple quarter note rhythm. This will help you identify your timing mistakes easily and help you make corrections.

As opposed to a drum machine or play alongs there are many rhythms being played at the same time and can easily hide your mistakes, thus you won’t be able to identify and attack mistakes.

The metronome helps with your timing and rhythm. Drum machine and play alongs help with your rhythm only.

5. Tightens Rhythm and Feel

Like I said before it can definitely help with your rhythm even though the click is very rigid sounding.

I know a lot of people who are uptight and rigid, but that doesn’t mean they walk and talk like robots. No human being acts like this as far as I know.

Metronome apps are great. If you’re like most folks you have a smart phone where you can download apps. I recommend the Tempo app. I use this app 100% of the time I rehearse.

6. Keeps you from dragging

2007, I appeared with my band Glorforthepeople at the time on a TV show. Our drummer could not make it so we got Bo from who knows. He seemed like a cool dude.

When we arrived at the SiTV studios for dress rehearsal, we got setup and started rehearsing the tunes.

Bo the drummer starting dragging the tunes during rehearsals. “Hey Bo can you speed it up a bit it’s kinda dragging.” I said.

“Sure, whatever!” He blurted.

“Take 2!” shouted the T.V. producer. And again Bo dragged it.

“Hey bro can you speed it up a hair.” the guitar player mentioned.

“Dude get off my back!” Bo blurted. “Bro we’re going on national T.V. and the tempo is wrong.” Said the guitarist.

“Man I’ll play it like how I want to.” Bo grudgingly said.

Yes, the gig came out poor and that dude was never heard of again.

Practice with your metronome please.

7. Keeps you from speeding up

Years back I decided to become recording engineer and started getting recording gigs recording garage bands and independent artists. I still do it to this day.

I wrote a tune and hired my homie Jose to track the drums. Great young drummer coming out of the woodworks.

“You’re good with the clicker right?” I said. “No prob man.” Jose responded.

I setup all the drum mics and opened up Protools. I signaled him to be ready. He gave me the thumbs up. I clicked on the record button.

Half ways into the songs he stopped. “What happened?” I shouted. “I think the clicker slowed down.” He shouted back.

“Uh no, I’m pretty sure you’re speeding up.” I shouted back.

“Maybe you should remove the click” Jose said.

“Not happening dude. I need to edit you later and if you can’t work with the click I gotta find some one else.” I responded.

That was a very long night. Pretty please work with the metronome.

8. Perfects chops through repetition

Without a clicker you won’t be 100% sure if you’re timing is absolute when you practice your repetitive drills.

Your repetitions will fluctuate in tempo and will not be accurate. The metronome will harness that fluctuation (not the flux capacitor from Back to the Future=)).

9. Master Recording skills

The recording industry has been around since the 20’s and 30’s and it has evolved immensely. 90% of all recordings today are tracked with the metronome or some type of musical sequence.

Back in the 60’s recording with a clicker was rarely used but everybody caught on real quickly when they would listen to their playbacks and heard how badly their timing was.

Studio microphones are like a telescopic lens that zooms right into every nook and cranny of your playing where you can spot mistakes very easily.

Mastering the clicker or metronome will give you that pro edge when you walk into the studio and plug right in and nail the first few takes.

Nailing those first few takes coupled with an awesome attitude and your phone will be ringing off the hook.

10. Allows you to play with top artists

If you ever get the opportunity to perform with professional artists. I would say about 90% of all professional artists perform with click or some type of backing track live.

Don’t walk into a situation thinking the pros never use a click during a gig. More than likely you’ll fall into a situation where it will happen. Please don’t get caught with your pants down.

Been there done that.

Be prepared for all situations.

11. Allows you not to suck.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain this last point. Just don’t allow yourself to suck!

Be excellent and serve others with a great attitude and God will bless you and maybe your pocketbook as well.:)

I wrote a cool tutorial that’s give some pointers on how to use the metronome with a comic twist check it out here.

Conclusion

Selfishness is rampant in our industry and it’s all about me, me, me. The day will come when you will realize it’s not about you. It’s about serving others.

If you enjoyed this post please share it with a friend.

Question.

What issues are you struggling with the metronome?

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