The never ending tick – a Metronome tale
I don’t know if you have seen the new Steve Jobs movie, but in it the too-sexy-to-be-believable Michael Fassbender, tells a story of how he met a famous conductor which he asked what was the point of his vocation when a metronome can do what he does. This conversation was the build up to the quote we are bound to see on inspirational posters in the future:
‘Musicians play instruments. I play the orchestra’
But let us get back to the interesting concept of the metronome. The metronome is a trusted friend that guides us on our path to music proficiency. As long as you use it right it is an indispensable companion in your musical journey. Why and how to use the metronome?
Why should you use the metronome?
The metronome can help you:
- Improve your timing sensitivity
- Work on your rhythmic precision
- Build up your sense of tempo
- Annoy your cat
Interestingly enough, something else you can do with a metronome is to invite for a band member. Paul McCartney has used the metronome to replace the percussions in ‘Distractions’, a song from his album ‘Flowers in dirt’.
So if you are still wondering if the metronome is right for you we suggest you abandon all suspicion and give it a try! It is an important tool if you are a young musician, as it molds you and helps you build that inner sense of rhythm and tempo. Real beat comes from the pulse and groove the musician brings to it – it is a rhythm that the meticulous metronome cannot replicate. However, if you lack the basic schooling that the metronome brings, the groove might not be in your heart, contrary to Deee-Lite’s song.
You have been playing your instrument for years but have never used a metronome? Go ahead and try it now, you might be surprised at how much you can benefit from it and improve your craft.
So, what is a metronome?
The metronome is a magical ticking box which was crafted by the hands of skillful melodic elves from the kingdom of “Musical Time”. Sadly, the government doesn’t want us to know this so here is the “real” origin story of the metronome:
It all started with Galileo Galilei who in 1581 discovered that pendulums vibrate in the same time, no matter how long they were or what their amplitude is. Then a quest for inventors began! They wanted to figure out how to make the pendulum keep on moving without interfering with its movement.
Around 1659 Christian Hyughens did exactly that through the development of an escapement mechanism which allowed him to successfully use pendulums in clocks. This invention was quickly picked up from all the geeks in the metronome field and in 1812 Dietrik Nikolaus Winkel found that a weighted pendulum on both sides of the pivot could beat to low tempos even when it is short in length. This was groundbreaking as previous inventors failed to replicate the low tempos used in music without having to use a very long pendulum.
Soon after that sneaky Johann Nepenuk Maelzel copied Winkel’s invention and set on to mass-produce “Maelzel’s” Metronome, which is very popular even to this day.
Now that we are done with the history lesson it’s time to practice.
Exercise and get the groove
So how can you use the good old ticking box to improve your sense of rhythm and tempo? Here are some exercises you can try out:
- Alternate with the metronome – you play one beat, it plays one beat at a low tempo. This is all about starting off a relaxing practice with the metronome and building a relationship of love, not hate.
- Be the echo – play ahead or after the metronome, in other words, be the echo or let the metronome be the echo. Keep getting closer and closer to the metronome so that soon instead of an echo it feels like a subtle reverb. Then play together with the metronome.
- Smooth changes – set the metronome to change the tempo gradually so you can follow it and practice smooth tempo changes.
If you don’t have a metronome at your disposal, don’t worry:
Drooble got your back
Are you in a need of a trusty metronome to be your partner in this music adventure you have started? Then meet Drooble’s very own and FREE online metronome. It is quick and easy to use, just set the tempo you are looking for from the scale and start jamming.
If the beats per minute you are eager to practice at are not on display, just type them in the “Type for custom tempo box” and click start.
Tune your instrument by clicking “A4”, which produces a references tone “A’’.
Click the “Start” button to start the metronome and the “Stop” button to stop it – but I guess you had that figured out already.
We would love to hear some of the metronome exercises you like to do. Share them in the comments below for others to enjoy. Also – if you could suggest improvements for the Drooble metronome – share them as well.