How a Metronome Works

Staying in the lines. Every now and then we stray, and that’s okay. As long as you get back on the path.

I am a music teacher. As such, it’s one of my duties to help my students develop a sense of timing. I haven’t met too many people that have an innate sense of rhythm. It has to be taught.

One of the tools that I encourage my students to use to develop their sense of timing is a metronome. A metronome is a device that keeps perfect time or a perfect beat. It sets the standard for a steady pulse. If somebody is off, you can bet it’s the student that has deviated and not the metronome.

As wonderful, perfect and helpful a little item this gadget is, though, you wouldn’t believe how resistent students are to using it. Most of them actually hate it. Week after week, despite my continual reminders to do so, students continue to neglect practicing with a metronome.

Well, I’ve got news for you. The metronome isn’t going away. Even if you get rid of the metronome, you cannot get rid of what a metronome represents – perfect timing.

One of the challenges to practicing with a metronome is that you have to listen very carefully to it. When you are playing your instrument, you are obviously making a sound. That sound is competing with the sound the metronome makes, and usually your instrument is louder. It takes serious focus.

Another challenge to focusing on the metronome is that students feel that what they are doing is more important, and therefore requires the greater attention, than this obnoxious little click maker.

I always tell my students, “You can have rhythm without harmony or melody, but not the other way around – unless, of course, you’re into chaos.”

If having rhythm is so important, essential, even elemental, why do students reject it so readily?

One thing I do is take advantage of the time we have together during our lesson time to work with a metronome. If they’re not going to do it at home, by golly, they’re going to do it when I’m with them!

So, we set it and motion, and here’s what’s key: I tell my students that, should they get ahead or fall behind, that’s okay. Just don’t stop. Get back on track. Don’t start over again from the beginning. Don’t give up. Figure out where you’re supposed to be and join in again.

Think about your life. What is the “metronome” in your life – that standard by which you live? Do you deviate from it’s perfect rhythm from time to time? If you do, what do you think the “band director” would most want you to do? Quit? Have everyone else stop and start over again? Cry about it?

I think the band director would want you to get back into the rhythm as quickly as possible.


About stevepederson

I am a speaker, author, musician, coach, teacher and web designer. I love nature, photography, exercise and combining these elements when I can.
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