William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

The Dreaded Metronome

How to use the metronome correctly for learning the violin

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick shows you how to correctly use the metronome for practicing and learning the violin.

Released on August 3, 2016

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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 then...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, its 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 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 Kurt Sussmannshaus using 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 Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen. 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. 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 Paganini's Concerto.

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:

Feather on August 28, 2016 @12:47 am PST
Well stated, your ideas toward making use of metronome to bring scale-like passages up to tempo with good bow divisions and correct time is very useful to me as I have struggled figuring out how practice them
William - host, on June 7, 2017 @11:30 am PST
Hi glad that it's been helpful!
Cynthia Faisst on August 10, 2016 @4:33 pm PST
Another great technic basics for aspiring young musicians. Thanks for helping to flip my classroom so we can spend more time teaching the exceptions and working on individual needs of students during their lessons in the studio.
William - host, on June 7, 2017 @11:30 am PST
Cheryl * VSM MEMBER * on August 3, 2016 @7:16 am PST
Nice job with how to use the metronome for 24 notes to bow, how would you approach playing very fast separate notes like 16th notes at qtr=160?
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