Robert Estrin - piano expert

Why you Should Practice with a Metronome

Useful tips for all musicians

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

This is Robert Estrin and you're watching livingpianos.com. Thanks so much for being here today for a really important subject. I can't tell you how many people have struggled with a metronome and they've come to me, "How do you play with a metronome?" And it could be a really daunting task, particularly if you're not accustomed to playing with a metronome. And the tips I'm going to give you today are not just for those of you who are new to the metronome, but those of you who practice with a metronome incessantly and wonder how do you stay with the metronome?

Well, first of all, I'm going to start with how do you even figure out how to set this thing? I mean where do you figure it? How do you know? Well, first of all, there are some great software out there where you can have apps on your phone where you can just tap the tempo and it finds it for you. And that can be incredibly valuable, but how do you even establish the tempo? Well, I'm going to take Bach's Minuet in G as an example of how you would figure out how to set the metronome. Let's say you're playing Minuet in G of Bach.

And you're wondering, "How do I know how to set the metronome to that?" Well, if you can tap your foot or tap along, or just imagine you just played it. So you have to establish the beat first, then you turn your metronome on and try to match it. Let's see, I've got another one over here. One of these work. And that sounds right, but we try it and see if it seems right. And maybe that feels a little bit too fast. You could always turn it down a little bit and try it again.

So that's basically how to set the metronome, but how the heck do you stay with it? And I've seen people struggle so much with this, and there's a very simple technique that if you remember what I'm about to tell you, it's going to make a world of difference in staying with the metronome. When the metronome speeds up, speed up with it. When the metronome slows down, slow down with it. And I bet when you're playing with the metronome you could swear that it's speeding up and slowing down, although in reality, it's you who are playing not with the metronome. But it feels like it's going slower sometimes, doesn't it? Wouldn't you swear it's slowing down sometimes or speeding up?

So all you have to do is follow whatever it seems to be doing. If it seems to be getting faster, you get faster. If it seems to be getting slower, you get slower. And if as long as you do that, you will stay with the metronome. Now, when you're playing with a metronome, if you're not absolutely precisely with it, and you make these minute adjustments by going a little faster with it, or a little slower with it to get back on, that's okay. If you ever gain or lose a beat, you must stop and figure out if maybe the metronome is set a little too fast for you. Try a slightly slower speed to see if you can stay with it because you can never gain or lose a beat.

However, if you just nuance slightly behind or ahead, you might just finish the phrase then go back and see if you can do it more faithfully on the beat and practice a number of times until that ebb and flow around the beat is minimized and you can stay spot on with the metronome, which is of course the goal. But you don't necessarily have to stop every single time you're slightly off. Instead, get used to adjusting, following whatever the metronome seems to be doing. And that's the answer for staying with the metronome.

First of all, once again to recap, establish the speed by tapping your foot or tapping your hand and then finding that speed on your metronome. Or better off, download an app that you can just tap in the tempo and then it'll find it for you. And from there, you can adjust further to nuance it to exactly the right speed. And as you're playing, if it feels just too fast or it's just way too slow to be able to play with, of course adjust the speed. But once you lock it in, then play and whatever the metronome seems to do, that's what you're going to do and that's how you'll stay with the metronome. I encourage all of you to try this. If you've had problems with the metronome, try these techniques and see how they work for you. Again, I'm Robert Estrin. This is livingpianos.com, your online piano resource. We'll see you next time.
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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.
reply
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:

http://www.virtualsheetmusic.com/experts/robert/rubato/
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