Robert Estrin - piano expert

Why you Should Practice with a Metronome

How to use the metronome correctly for your violin learning

In this video, Robert talks about why using a metronome can help your music practicing a big deal!

Released on June 17, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

All right, so first let me be clear about what I believe. I believe that no one should play like a metronome. The metronome at best is a very useful tool, but in terms of making music, I find it rather useless. So again making music is not metronomical. For me, not in any way. Now, does this mean that I'm suggesting we all take our metronomes and throw them out the window? No, not at all, course not. But I do think that it would be a good idea to explore how to exploit this object that we have loved to hate so much.

We've come a long way with our dreaded metronome. You know what, I'd tell you, we've come a long way with that dreaded metronome from this old one to new apps on your phone like the one I was showing you when I started this video. But you know what, i'ts purpose remains the same, to keep us in time in the most boring and pedantic of ways. So where do we start? Well, a metronome is a device that divides time in a regular fashion, much to the dismay of composers such as Mendelssohn, Wagner, Verity, Brahms and others.

But in spite of itself, it can be useful in helping us to organize and develop a vertical strategy for cleaning up a section of music. What I mean by vertical, what I mean by a vertical strategy, is sort of like a ladder approach to problem-solving, a step by step approach. If for example, I have the goal of acquiring that utopian place where every bit of my bow sounds like every other bit of my bow, well then a metronome can be quite useful in helping us to get there or shall I say, helping us to get close to there. So, to do a 24 duet [SP] scale, let's turn our metronome on to 40. And we're gonna allow two clicks per note. [music] So you see how that works? Now, how about two notes to a bow? That would be one per click. [music] Or three. You might wanna turn it to 20 to avoid 3 against 2 if that's an issue. All right, 4, 6, 8, 12 and 24. Well, I must say that I borrowed this idea from my friend [inaudible 00:04:26] using [SP] a master class for the MusiShare Young Artist Program. He brought out this bow that had division marks like this one. Can you see? What this does is to help illustrate the time is distance.

With that in mind, when we divide the bow to two nodes, to a beat, we also need to divide the bow into two equal parts. This will certainly help to regulate speed. To be sure of these distances, try stopping at each marker like this. I'm gonna stop at the silver and at the red and at the silver. Now, let's get practical for a moment. What exactly do we gain from doing this? Well, in a way we've learned how to practice. We have learned a way to practice any scale-like passage we might find in a concerto, sonata or an accompanied work.

So, let's have a look at [inaudible 00:05:51]. The first run. The first question needed to be asked when trying to get it up to tempo is, how many notes are there in the run? In this case, they are 21 or 4 times 4 plus 5. So, let's divide the bow up into five parts, then practice it part to part like this. Now, let's put the parts together, how about the first two fours. Next two fours. Last five. And we keep doing this until we have a complete bladder [SP]. So, that's another way to look at how the scales help us not only to play scales better, but help us in the pieces, the concertos that we play.

So, once you've learned to organize this way, practice this way, why don't you try finding scale passages in the pieces that you're working on and practice them the same way? I guess one could say practicing the scales in your pieces is the same as practicing a scale. What we've learned in practicing that scale, we take to the piece. You know what, you could even do this during your scale practice time, save time. You could even make a book of scale excerpts from major pieces like from the last movement of Mendelssohn or from Barber concerto or book Scottish fantasy or [inaudible 00:07:58].

So, with that, my name is William Fitzpatrick and I am The Henri Temianka Professor of Violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, which is located on the campus of Chapman University. I am as well Artistic Director of the MusiShare Young Artist Program. So, until next time, do take care and here's hoping that this video helps your practicing to become more and more efficient, you know, with our friend the metronome. This is leading you to even better performances.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on June 17, 2015 @6:11 pm PST
I use the metronome only for the studies, it drives me nuts for other pieces! I have a Dr. Beat DB-66 because in the past I was designing musical horse rides and with the Dr. Beat I could tap according to the tempo of the leading horse and then sort the music for the ride. This metronome can be set to beat at each note and it generates different tones, I find it too distracting !
Tony Lockwood * VSM MEMBER * on June 17, 2015 @1:59 pm PST
That is all very well, but, when I countc I concentrate on my counting and lose the notes. I can say '1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4......' with the best of them but when I do my music goes to pieces!!
I love your hints and look forward to them. Thank you.
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on June 17, 2015 @10:23 am PST
Your advice is so true, as always. But I have a related question, which perhaps you could address for me: how does one avoid playing rhythmically in a "mechanical" way? Is it a matter of how one phrases certain passages, e.g., emphasizing or hesitating over certain notes, etc. etc.? In that regard, I'm reminded of that great pop singer, Frank Sinatra, who would phrase passages of songs in various ways, never mechanically, but still rhythmically and often in almost unpredictable ways that made you pay attention to what he was doing. In his treatise on violin playing, Carl Flesch set out illustrations of how certain virtuosos played the opening passage of a certain violin concerto, and how each played it differently as regards rhythm (not strict by any means) and phrasing.
Robert Estrin on June 17, 2015 @4:43 pm PST
That's an excellent question. The answer depends upon the period and style of the music. Here is a partial answer to your question which explores the use of rubato:
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