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SilentQ Offline OP
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Hello all,

I am currently learning RCM Grade 4 "Avalanche". My timing for this piece is dismal at best. My teacher was able to tap her foot and I could match the rhythm aside from pausing to find proper chords. She said I would have to use a metronome to improve my rhythm for the piece. How hard can it be?

I got home, tried at 86 bpm and failed. It was just too fast. I lowered the speed to 40 and still could not get it. How on earth can anyone learn to play with the insipid ticking and dinging and single ticks for triplets? I tried setting it to 6/8 to account for the triplets, but the chords and quarter notes were then confusing. I cannot play with the metronome and have no idea how to learn to play with it.

I have searched the forums and all I can find is that people say it is great and to use it. I have searched the Internet and all I have learned is that I should start slow. There is not a single resource that teaches you how to use it. Can anyone offer advice?

If it helps, I have never used it before and I am at Gr. 4. I can't count out loud either. I start to miss notes and mess up altogether. I can't tap my foot at a consistent pace, and just like counting out loud, it is a distraction and ruins my ability to play.

Thanks,
Q


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I suggest you really find out where the beat is. Counting out loud confuses your playing, because you probably don't know where the beat is. Find out exactly which note, lands on which beat, then count from there.

Also, playing a metronome on 40 is a lot harder than 100. The slower is gets, the better you must understand the exact rhythm.

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Seems you expect that you should be able to switch on the metronome and play with it immediately, no questions asked, no practice required.

Well, that's not how it works. Were you able to play smooth and fast scales right away, without practice? Or triplets vs. duplets? Or any other non-trivial piano skill? Probably not. The need to practice these skills to become good at them was probably obvious to you. So - with the metronome it's just the same.

Practice will make you better. And don't jump in at the deep end. You didn't with those other skills either, I would guess. Start with very simple pieces at a slow tempo. Probably even hands separate. Set the metronome somewhere around 80. One tick per quarter too fast for you? Then play one click per eighth instead. Etc.

With practice it will come.


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I suggest putting aside the metronome for the present.

First, make sure you know all the notes and aren't fumbling for the right ones. Otherwise, every time you pause to find the notes, the beat goes off. Then make sure you know where the beats are in the piece - write them down in the space between the staves on your score - and which notes fall on the beat and which are off-beat.

Then, clap your hands at a steady beat, at a pace you think you're going to play the piece at, look at the sheet music and sing (or hum, or whistle, or squawk) the melody in time to your clapping. Do it away from the piano, and keep practicing until you've internalized (and perfectly synchronized) the music with your clapping of the beats. It's much easier to clap at a steady beat than to tap your foot to one. You can then use the metronome to substitute for your clapping, and do the same, singing in time to the clicking.

When you practiced it sufficiently such that you know exactly how the rhythm goes, then - and only then - go to the piano, and play. Without the metronome, then with, if you need to check.


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I agree that playing with metronome at 40 is way harder than playing with metronome at 100. Personaly, I rarely use the metronome slower than 60. I find it difficult to keep a steady beat at a tempo that slow.
If I need to practice this slow, then I put it at 80 instead of 40 and the ticking represents a 8th note instead of a quarter note. Or if my piece is ternary, I can put the metronome at 120, each ticking being a third of a quarter note.

It becomes tricky if you have to count both triplets and eight notes in the same piece. But this is another problem... (in that case, either I force myself to count like in 3 against 2 or I forget the idea of using the metronome in that part until I know the notes better and can play at 60 bpm for the quarter note).


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. . . How hard can it be?


ROFL !!!!!!!

Quote
. . . I can't tap my foot at a consistent pace, and just like counting out loud, it is a distraction and ruins my ability to play.
. . .


Do you mean:

. . . "I can play at a consistent tempo if I don't tap my foot"

or:

. . . "I can't play at a consistent tempo, and tapping my foot doesn't help" ?


FWIW (I don't teach) --

As several people have said, it's difficult to play with a metronome that's ticking at less than around 60 bpm -- the interval between ticks is too long. So avoid doing that.

What I suggest, as a way of getting used to "playing , guided by the metronome":

Set the metronome at a speed around 120 bpm. Right hand only, play a scale (one that you know, not a new one!) with one note per tick. Practice that until you can do it -- no rushing ahead, no falling behind.

Do the same for the LH. Then do it for both hands together.

(You may think this is too easy for you -- it's probably about right.)

Now, set the metronome to a little faster - say 130 bpm. Do the same exercises, until you can play with the metronome.

Set it to 140 bpm, and repeat the exercise.

Now, set the metronome to 70 bpm. Play the scales at the same speed, but you'll be playing two _evenly spaced notes_ on every tick.

Speed up the metronome gradually, to around 105 bpm. You should be able to handle that (I think) -- two notes per tick -- at Grade 4.

Set the metronome to around 70 bpm (2/3 of 105 bpm). Practice the scales at the same speed as before, but you'll be playing _three_ notes per tick. (you may want to accent the scales in triplets -- talk with your teacher if that causes problems.)

When you can do that, _then_ try playing a piece of music that you know well, at a tempo you can easily handle, with the metronome running _at that tempo_. It will feel strange -- the metronome puts you into a rhythmical straitjacket. But you will -- eventually -- be able to control your rubato (or just involuntary tempo changes) to match the steady tick-tick-tick of the infernal device.

And _then_, you can start to use it to _slowly_ increase the speed of difficult passages.

Stay in touch -- the process isn't easy, but it's worthwhile, IMHO.

PS -- It would be a _really_ good idea to talk this over with your teacher. She may have other ideas, and you're probably better off following her, than following me.


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Count out loud when you practice. If you get confused, just keep counting over and over. If your teacher said you must use a metronome have them teach you how.

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Hello,

Thank you all for the suggestions. I guess I just figured that I would be able to play with it like anything else. I didn’t know that it is an acquired skill. So the fact that you said it was something to be learned taught me to look at my failures in a different light.

I got lucky with this piece. 2/4 timing with triplets and no 8th notes. I just count 1-2-3 for every tick in my head. I did this without playing, but just listening to the ticks. That helped. Even the quarter and half notes. I tried setting it to 6/8 but that made it worse. However, bringing it up to 70 bpm was my max for being able to hit my chords. At 80 I just fumbled them.

Looks like I need to work on the chords to bring up the bpm.

And I really can’t tap my foot at a consistent pace and play at the same time. I am too focused on playing and my foot rhythm messes up.

I never learned to use it before because there were only a few pieces before this with timing issues and they were usually just one measure. So, my teacher was able to correct the one mistake, but avalanche has timing problems everywhere lol.

Thanks again,
Q


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And I really can’t tap my foot at a consistent pace and play at the same time. I am too focused on playing and my foot rhythm messes up.


Don't worry about that. Jazz and pop pianists are allowed to tap their feet. Classical pianists are _not_ allowed to tap while performing!<g>

So, developing a solid internal sense of "pulse", without tapping, is a good idea.


. Charles
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Another thing: Only run the metronome when you're paying attention to it, and never for a long time. Otherwise, it can become a background noise that you just ignore.


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I think you just get used to it, to be honest. I find with beginners the metronome puts them off because they are having to concentrate on one more thing.

However, once you get used to it, personally I find you learn to incorporate it into the sound, in a homogeneous way.

After a while, you find you just play along to it without having to concentrate specifically on it, however, that's farther down the road.

As a few have mentioned, it's another "skill" that will take a bit of practice.

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For a very slow tempo, I found out that it's easier to me to follow not a metronome but drum rhythms that normally we find in digital pianos. But I suspect the piano teachers become horrified by this.


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