Thursday, March 14, 2013

Enjoy Playing with a Metronome

I have written posts on how to use a metronome to help students improve their musical awareness and become more effortless and accurate in their performance.  In keeping with my principles of pedagogy, I will discuss how to use a metronome to enjoy the process of making music.

First of all, if students are using the metronome to improve awareness and play effortlessly and accurately, it will automatically be more enjoyable for them.  The students will grow and develop as musicians, which is a very satisfying feeling.  Initially, they might not realize that the metronome is helping them to enjoy music, but if they are reminded of that fact, they will develop a greater appreciation for it.

Here are some more suggestions on how to use a metronome to enjoy the process of making music:

Use MetronomeBot

I realize that many students are reluctant to use a metronome, so several years ago I set out to create one that is enjoyable for young students.  Developing a fun device whose sole purpose is to provide a steady clicking beat presents a challenge, though.  My solution was MetronomeBot, a happy little robot that talks, clicks, subdivides, and speaks the beat.  Most kids like robots, so I thought that was my best bet.  The result is that young students thoroughly enjoy MetronomeBot and are encouraged to practice more with those metronomes.  I have yet to encounter a child who didn’t like MetronomeBot, but if you don’t like the little robot metronome, you can always poke him in the eye.

Avoid playing too fast, too soon

One of the main reasons that students don’t like to play with a metronome is because they get frustrated with it, and the main reason they get frustrated is because they set the tempo too fast.  Slow down and enjoy the music you are playing at an easy tempo.  When you need to increase the tempo, do it gradually.

Improvise rhythms with the metronome

Set the metronome to an easy tempo and create your own rhythms. If you are a drummer, turn on the metronome and just play.  If you are not a drummer, select two or maybe three pitches and improvise rhythms on those notes.  Playing the drums is fun.  If you are not a drummer, think like one.  Play with the metronome and focus on the beat.  For more rhythm ideas, visit

Improvise melodies with the metronome

Set the metronome to an easy tempo and create your own melodies.  Make them simple and avoid trying to play lots of notes.  Find the sounds you that like, and focus on the beat.

Use the metronome with other musicians

The metronome is not exclusively for individual practice.  Two, three, or four musicians, or an entire orchestra can play along with a metronome.  One fun group activity for the metronome is to play echo games.  A musician can play a short one or two measure rhythmic idea and have the rest of the musicians repeat that rhythm.  The possibilities are endless with this type of game.

Students who learn how to use the metronome in a positive, fun, creative way at the beginning of their studies will benefit greatly from using this essential practice tool.  However, if the metronome is only used as a device to learn how to play faster, it will turn practicing into a chore.

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