Many people think the whole point of a metronome is to help make sure you aren’t slowing down when playing fast, or to speed up a piece of music. In fact the opposite is true. It is most useful for helping you play slowly.
A metronome is for establishing and checking the tempo. It is not for playing along with for extended periods of time. True, when practicing a short (say 8 - 16 bar) section slowly it can be useful to play along with it a couple of times to help keep you in time. However, it should be turned off as soon as possible as eventually you will just filter out the clicks anyway, or you will spend too much time listening to the clicking and not yourself playing. Listening to your playing is always the most important thing to do. It also means we do not rely on our own ‘internal timekeeper’. And of course the more practice you give your brain at keeping in time, the better it will become.
To use one to practice a section, set it to a speed at which you can play a section comfortably. Play through the section keeping in time and counting out loud Make sure all notes are 100% correct. Click here to read about why it is imperative that all notes are 100% correct at all times!
Listen carefully to the click to make sure you aren’t speeding up. If it sounds as if the click is going out of time the likelihood is that you are out of time. You are either speeding up (or slowing down) or you don’t have the correct timing in certain places. Play through and count out loud to establish if there are any timing errors. Timing errors can be responsible for ‘speed walls.’ A speed wall is what you run into when you are trying to play a piece at the marked speed but finding it impossible as your muscles get tense meaning you can’t play fast enough.
Some people believe that playing with any time keeping device makes you play like a robot. Only if you let it! Use the click to establish and keep tempo. And don’t use it for too long! Concentrate on shaping your phrases and playing musically! It is a tool - you are not!
There is a school of thought that recommends using the click to speed a piece up gradually one beat per minute at a time. Click here to find out why this is not recommended if you want to achieve your target tempo quickly and easily.
There are so many different models available now it is hard to choose which one to buy. click here if you are wondering which metronome to buy. This page includes reviews with pros and cons of models musician friends of mine and I have actually used.
For more advice on how to make more efficient use of your practice time, read my book Practice Makes Perfect. For more guidance when practising scales order Practice Makes Perfect,
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