4 Tips For Using A Metronome
The metronome is often mentioned as an essential accessory for music lessons and just as often quickly forgotten. Music students of all ages can often have a very short-lived love affair with the thing and then pushed aside when frustration sets in!
Regular, effective practice with the metronome brings so many benefits to musicians of all levels that not using one is cheating yourself as a musician. So let’s look at 4 ways we can use the metronome effectively and grow as musicians whilst minimising the frustrations.
The student needs to know what the ticking is for.
If a metronome is simply set to ‘on’ and then ignored the student will quickly tune out and question why it is needed. It is important for the teacher to explain and build an internal sense of rhythm within the student. Start simply by having them clap, tap or nod in time with the ticking. Once they are comfortable with this, teach them to divide the beat into 2, 3, 4 and more. Once the sub-division of the beat is understood and has meaning, students can begin to understand where each tick should fall in relation to the rhythm of each measure they are playing. This will make a huge difference!
The student needs to know how to use the metronome for themselves.
Teach students about tempo markings and settings. Show them how to set an appropriate tempo for the pieces and exercises they are working on. If you need to make markings on their sheet music to indicate where the tick will sound in relation to the rhythm of each bar, then do so. Perhaps start by marking the first few bars and then let the student take over so they learn to recognise note groupings and beats within a bar, but you are also on hand to supervise and amp sure it is correct.
Teach them how to recover if they lose the beat.
Often musicians who are used to playing with rhythmic freedom (that is playing a piece how they please when it comes to timing and beat) struggle with playing to a strict beat…and subsequently in playing with other musicians. The metronome does not lose its place nor does it wait for you to catch up if make a mistake. If the student does lose their spot, simply have them pause their playing, count along with the metronome for a bar and then come back in.
Develop their inner metronome.
One way to help students develop their internal sense of beat is to have them clap or play along with a metronome, stop or silence it (whether it is an analogue or digital model) while the student keeps playing, and then bring it back in after a few measures and see how they have gone with playing in time. This will help develop their own sense of the pulse of the music and their ‘inner’ metronome.
The use of a metronome is very useful for the development of the musician, but also give them plenty of time and encouragement to simply have fun and express themselves without the metronome. The balance between discipline and freedom will help the student to keep enjoying their lessons, because they will see their progress but also be having fun whilst achieving something on their chosen instrument.