“Don’t rush, dear.” Countless music teachers have said that to even more music students for generations. Keeping a steady tempo while you play can be one of the hardest things to do. But it shouldn’t be.
Consider for a moment that our entire body is rhythmic. Our heart beats in a steady rhythm; we breathe in and out. We have a natural sleep cycle. Even our snoring is rhythmic. These processes happen without a single conscious thought on our part.
So why do we have such trouble playing rhythmically? And why do we tend to say, “I just have no sense of rhythm,” when nothing could be farther from the truth?
The truth is that playing at a steady speed is difficult. Drummers spend their entire career making their inner pulse steady and unwavering. We use metronomes, with sometimes doubtful success, in an attempt to instill a habit of playing at a consistent tempo.
I believe we sabotage our efforts at developing our inner pulse. Our well-meaning...
A metronome is a must-have accessory for every musician. It can help you speed up your music or slow it down. It can help you fix your technique or line up a complicated rhythm. It can help you prepare to play in an ensemble or train your inner pulse so your solo music has a steady flow.
But just having the metronome on while you practice won’t necessarily help you attain any of these results. The metronome isn’t a magic cure. It’s a tool, and as with any tool, you need to know how to use it.
In order for you to get the most benefit from working with your metronome, it is helpful to know what your metronome can’t do for you.
Metronomes Can’t Count
I was working with a student some years ago who couldn’t figure out what the problem with her rhythm was. Her music seemed out of rhythm somehow. In her lesson, I told her that she needed to work with a metronome to keep the beat of her music steady. “I use the metronome every day,” she told...