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Romek Offline OP
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I know that this is probably one of the evergreen subjects on this Forum, however, I would like to know what are your the most effective ways to practice with a metronome. I experience a typical beginner's problem of "speeding up" while playing a piece live, despite practicing it with a metronome beforehand. Are there any tricks or techniques that work for you?

Any suggestion will be very appreciated.

Romek

Last edited by Romek; 12/09/13 03:48 AM.

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very simple. First you have to be able to play the piece without mistakes - no exception - then and only then you determine a speed that you can play the piece at where you can play it without mistakes listening to the metronome. And then and only then you increase the metronome 1 click at a time and then - again you never ever increase the speed again until you can play the piece at that speed with no errors in play. You should also know that you must at all times when you are playing with a metronome running that you must be relaxed in your brain/mind, fingers, whole body - totally relaxed. I hope you undersand what I am saying.

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Thanks Michael,

what I see now, I start to practice with a metronome when the piece is not finished yet and I need to change my approach. Do you think that dividing it into short parts (i.e. one phrase or 8 beats), mastering it and then playing with a metronome is a good idea? Or should I finish the whole piece (I play short ones so it should not be problem, although improvisation part can be tricky)and the go for a metronome?

Romek


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It doesn't matter what you play at all - it only matters that you play whatever you play - that you play it in a very controlled way of no errors, play it smoothly and relaxed. In other words a metronome is used to improve your speed in a controlled way and you use a metronome to play smoothly - in other words playing on the beat in a relaxed way - else you are playing too fast because you are not playing on the beat, you are off the beat and making mistakes of some kind - so improv is not an issue - the issue is only that you use the metronome to play on the beat and be relaxed at whatever you are doing/playing.

Metronomes are used to teach the brain to play relaxed and smoothly and increase your playing speed of a piece if that is what you want to accomplish.

cheers,

and to answer your question, you can use a metronome to learn any portion of a measure because you can use a metronome to play between two notes because of timing or playing smoothly - it is just using the clicking sound between two objects - so snapping the fingers to the metronome is an example = a timing device.

Last edited by Michael_99; 12/09/13 04:50 AM.
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I have been doing this 1-click-a-time stuff but I'm not so convinced it's the right method. It kind of works but it seems to work slow, unreliable/not repeatable and does give a rushed feeling.

Also I think the main causes of low speed are (1) memory issues / recall speed and (2) improper hand motions. And not being unable to count faster.

This is why I usually try different things to gain speed.

I think Michael is also aiming at this by mentioning smooth playing but I fail to understand what the metronome has to do with it.


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Originally Posted by wouter79
I have been doing this 1-click-a-time stuff but I'm not so convinced it's the right method. It kind of works but it seems to work slow, unreliable/not repeatable and does give a rushed feeling.

Also I think the main causes of low speed are (1) memory issues / recall speed and (2) improper hand motions. And not being unable to count faster.

This is why I usually try different things to gain speed.

I completely agree. Recently I have been working the 1-click metronome method between lessons. I, too, have found it to be slow and unreliable. Not that slow is bad, but unreliable is frustrating. I plan to stick with this method for a few weeks and see what happens. Most likely I am the weak link, with memory issues, hand issues, keyboard geography issues, etc.


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Well, I will tell you guys how it is from my perspective.

I am a beginner of 2 years playing so I know nothing.

If a piano guy wants to use a metronome, the guy has to realize that to play anything on a piano, he has to do it slowly and smoothly and relaxed - just like driving a bus down a highway listening to the clicks of the metronome - never ever missing a beat and that lets the piano guy know that he can play the piece with his eyes closed standing on his head - because the guy knows that he can play the piece that well.

Now, this is the magic that you guys don't know. To be able play any piece that anyone would give you a million dollars for means that you know the piece that well - so how to you do that? You do that 1 click at a time and bring it to the million dollar level of play and you do that for many years with every piece you play for the rest of your life. That is how the Lange Lange guys do it. That is the standard. But you guy may not want to go to that standard and you have that choice because if you are only playing alone and not with other musicians - only - you get to set the standards so others will play with you.

And about this -> repeatable and does give a rushed feeling.

Whenever you play the piano in your life - you cannot ever be rushed or be given a rushed feeling because in simple terms you are playing way, way, way, too fast, or you are rushed reading the music, or you are rushed because your brain is feeling rushed listen to the metronome.

A guy driving down the highway should able to whistle while driving the bus and still listen to the metronome and be very, very, very relaxed else the guy has a problem - and I don't know what it is so you will have to figure it out and tell us here in Piano World what is making you have a rushed feeling.

cheers,

Well, I don't know what this means? ->

Also I think the main causes of low speed are (1) memory issues / recall speed and (2) improper hand motions. And not being unable to count faster.

No, no. Low speed never means anything when playing the piano other than you are very much in control - but if a guy is trying to play a piece and he can't read the music and the guy is making mistakes all over the place and he is in stress - he has no reason to be using a metronome for playing pieces to make them smooth or to increase their speed.

If you are stuck in a measure trying to play the notes within the rhythm, you still have to be able to play the notes slowly without mistakes doing it a 1000 times in a relaxed way to be able to play it well.

Playing the piano means always playing everything very slowly without mistakes - else you are playing too fast - even if you are Lang Lang. Step by step, always relaxed reading or not reading music playing improv same thing. I wish I knew what you guys where thinking!

cheers,

I think Michael is also aiming at this by mentioning smooth playing but I fail to understand what the metronome has to do with it.

What the metronome has to do with playing smoothly is this - you never ever want to use a metronone when you are playing a Lang Lang type concert.

But when you play a piece of music and you can't play with the beat of the metronome then you aren't able to play a "perfect" steady beat so keeping time like a drummer isn't happening and if you play in a band - the other musicians - they will have issues with you having earplugs in your ears and not listening to what the other guys are playing.

There are guys who are drummers with broken brains like me and they can't keep a steady beat whether they are using their foot or not to tap.

It is like guys who are using a compass to find their way and they still get lost!


Last edited by Michael_99; 12/09/13 02:46 PM.
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I have to agree with them that use a 'nome as way of "polishing" a piece. Good timing is a sign of good musicianship. Nobody cares if you speed or lag, if you're playing by yourself, but good time is appreciated by everyone you play with.

I typically started by matching the 'nome to my natural time.
Then a Berkley guy told me one time to slow it down. Cut it in half. Then to make a game out of it, cut in half again. His optimum 'nome would be one that clicked every four measures. Yikes! But I can see his point.

Lastly, I found for optimum effectiveness, though it seems so fundamental, place that 'nome where you can hear it and your instrument equally. I prefer a Taktel mini, because the click really cuts through. But be sure to place the 'nome where you get a good mix.


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My speeding problem comes probably from being nervous in front of the audience however, I observe it at home as well. That's why I tried to go with the metronome as soon as possible but I admit that struggling with a metronome during sight reading might be not effective. So I will cut picece in parts, practice them without a metronome and then I will try to correct the rythm with it. Things that I learn are quite simple (ABRSM Jazz Piano grade 1) so I do not have the problem to play them slowly. When it comes to live performance I tend to go faster than suggested and it makes me more prone to mistakes.

Last edited by Romek; 12/09/13 07:30 PM.

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Okay, what you don't know guys, is that I NEVER play with a metronome - I mean I could - but there is no reason for me to do it now or perhaps ever - you see I say when I play anything even after I have played it a million times "flawlessly" - I only ever read music - because it is a good idea to read music - so I read the music - play the piece so slowly that the metronome only usually goes to 30 MM and I play it at least half that speed and even slower, say 7 MM - when I want to - and why? Well, I love my acoustic 3 legged piano that I only play everything pp because it is just me and the piano - (but I play my cheap Yam P95, too) so I definite play slower than a funeral match - if I could play one - because there is nothing greater than putting your fingers on the piano and playing beautiful music like pieces in a beginner's book or even a simple scale - just the awesome sound of the piano. So, yes, I don't like using a metronome except when there are measures that I can't play right - but because I play sooooo slowly and count though the measure every note or beat in the measure, I doubt that I will ever use a metronome except when I have to play 5 finger chords in each hand - if I ever get that far in playing the piano - but we will see! And as far as speed goes, it is something you do so slowly without mistakes playing the piece a million times and after 10 or 20 years of playing without a metronome - you can play and read the piece at Presto (200 MM) - if you are lucky!

cheers,

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I use a metronome to check in to identify places where I'm not keeping a steady tempo. Then I shut it off, and practice getting those places steady.

Sometimes it's handy to identify the beats if the rhythm is tricky too.


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I am goning to create a few loops with drums and bass to make it more fun instead of simple metronome beeps. Is there any free sample library that I could use (compatibile wit e.g. Kontakt 5 player)?


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Michael,

Thanks for your elaborate answers.

You have a point with relaxtness.

In performance mode, yes, ideally the stress factor should not be there as you should by then master the piece and not need to push further. Even there, this does not hold for most amateurs I guess.

But I'm mostly talking about practicing.

I think I feel stressed because in practice I'm constantly pushing my abilities. I'm pushing my memory to recall the next note(s) faster than it is used to and that is causing the stress. I'm pushing my technique to reach to that next complex chord faster and that is causing stress.

Why is it causing stress? Because I know so well how I WANT to have it and I find it very taxing on my patience to hear my own playing ... too slow... Wrong notes... Wrong dynamics... Maybe I could change this, I don't know.

Yet, I WANT these 'improvements'. This is exactly why I am pushing it. I believe that pushing the brain for specific goals gives quicker results than repeating it a million times in a relaxed pace.

* I don't have the time nor patience to play a piece "a million times and after 10 or 20 years of playing without a metronome". It's likely I will not even be playing piano anymore in 10 years from now. Nor do I believe that that is the right way to learn to play a piece.

* there is no "The standard" for this IMHO. There is variation in quality, even with professionals. Furthermore I'm not a pro. And I do not have the time a pro spends on this.

* "A guy driving down the highway should able to whistle while driving the bus and still listen to the metronome and be very, very, very relaxed else the guy has a problem." -- Have you ever looked at the people on the highway? Yes it would be safer if they were very relaxed smile




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Speeding up in performance has nothing to do with metronome practice. The best way to control tempo in performance is to use a physical method of keeping time such as tonguing the beat or flexing the left thigh muscle. It's generally easier to keep time with a physical action and easier to manipulate it without.

Using a metronome to speed up is also fraught with dangers. I think it's dangerous to set the metronome to a higher speed then try to keep up with it. Rather use the metronome to control the speed. Set it to the speed you can play at. If you want to play it faster make it shorter first. When the shorter sections have been practised then put them together and see what speed you play at. Set the metronome to this new speed.

Always playing slow and accurate may not be the best approach either since you may always be walking and never get to run. There is a limit to walking speed well below that of our running speed. Playing a passage faster may show the required motions better and you can practise THOSE motions slowly and accurately. This is usually more fruitful done HS. The bad practise is frequently playing too fast for accuracy and not practising slow enough to overcome sloppiness.



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Originally Posted by wouter79
I have been doing this 1-click-a-time stuff but I'm not so convinced it's the right method. It kind of works but it seems to work slow, unreliable/not repeatable and does give a rushed feeling.



It works, but for the wrong reasons, and can be dangerous.

Playing with a metronome is a good idea.

Incremental speedup is in general a very bad strategy (although there are some limited cases where it is useful).

Learning not to rush or drag is a separate problem.

Suggestions:

Try playing with the metronome at a moderate speed. I mean really with, so that the start of the note obscures the click of the metronome. It is surprising how many people think that playing with a metronome means averaging a speed somewhere near that of the metronome. If that's all you're going to do, use the metronome to ge the speed then turn it off. You don't want to teach yourself to ignore it, because you end up teaching yourself to ignore other musicians.

Never speed up a click at a time. The minimum change should be 20 beats, and you should play at varying speeds.

Find ways to play at or above tempo. For example, play HT with the metronome at a comfortable speed, then play HS at double speed. Jump up 20 BPM and try again. Or, set the metrome fast, and play only on beat 1. Etc.

Play duets with others as often as possible at whatever skill level. If necessary two utter beginners can each play one hand.

Subdivide, subdivide, subdivide. (and learn to use the metronome for larger divisions. It doesn't have to be set to quarter notes; you can do half notes or whole notes.)

With a metronome set to quarter notes, play 1 sixteenth note ahead. This is VERY challenging.


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I use a metronome regularly. But then I play dance music, and a steady beat is *the* base skill.

I don't speed up a *notch* at a time - my minimum is 5 bpm. I can't even imagine using 20 bpm as the basic jump. Sorry Tim smile But going from 100 to 120? I've just skipped over 3 basic dance tempos from slow to moderate to fast. For my gigs, 20 bpm is *far* too broad a difference, and the difference between 110 and 112 can be the difference between a little uncomfortable to dance to and right on the money.

I use the metronome for many of the above reasons -

1. to check to see where I don't know a piece as well as I think I do - if I can't play it with the metronome I don't know it yet - and work on the glitches

2. to find out where I'm tapping my foot - where the pulse is - we dance at 2 beats per measure, and if I'm doing that, even at slow speeds, I have it. But if I'm tapping 4 beats per measure I need to work on the phrasing/articulation/the story of the measure there

3. to play faster than I can, again to see where the glitches are, and also to break the habit of playing slow - to get the singing-in-my-head up to tempo - and then back off to somewhere where I *can* play it with the metronome and work from there

4. learning to groove - and it comes at every speed, not just fast. In fact, if there's no groove at half speed, there for certain for won't be one any faster - dang laugh

5. all the other reasons that come up - yes, it helps some with learning to play with other people, but in my experience they are often not steady and I have to be solid enough to lead (and they often don't have enough experience to listen to that and don't follow laugh ), so playing with others is a different skill, in my experience, than playing with a metronome. A group has to groove together - sort of like fire flies all finally blinking at the same time laugh And that means listening to all of the other musicians at once, for me.

Cathy



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Originally Posted by jotur
I use a metronome regularly. But then I play dance music, and a steady beat is *the* base skill.

I don't speed up a *notch* at a time - my minimum is 5 bpm. I can't even imagine using 20 bpm as the basic jump. Sorry Tim smile


Dance music would be one of those exceptions! IMO of course.

Dance music really only works in a narrow tempo band. A little too fast or too slow and it's not the same dance.

But also, dance music players have enough skill to play at tempo. They don't risk the speed wall effect that happens with incremental speedup. That's mostly a beginner risk (and a beginner strategy. Skilled players sometimes use incremental speedup but for very different reasons).


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Originally Posted by zrtf90
Speeding up in performance has nothing to do with metronome practice. The best way to control tempo in performance is to use a physical method of keeping time such as tonguing the beat or flexing the left thigh muscle. It's generally easier to keep time with a physical action and easier to manipulate it without.

Using a metronome to speed up is also fraught with dangers. I think it's dangerous to set the metronome to a higher speed then try to keep up with it. Rather use the metronome to control the speed. Set it to the speed you can play at. If you want to play it faster make it shorter first. When the shorter sections have been practised then put them together and see what speed you play at. Set the metronome to this new speed.

Always playing slow and accurate may not be the best approach either since you may always be walking and never get to run. There is a limit to walking speed well below that of our running speed. Playing a passage faster may show the required motions better and you can practise THOSE motions slowly and accurately. This is usually more fruitful done HS. The bad practise is frequently playing too fast for accuracy and not practising slow enough to overcome sloppiness.



This is the post to pay attention to.

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Originally Posted by TimR

Subdivide, subdivide, subdivide. (and learn to use the metronome for larger divisions. It doesn't have to be set to quarter notes; you can do half notes or whole notes.)

With a metronome set to quarter notes, play 1 sixteenth note ahead. This is VERY challenging.

Division and its opposite are good things to know how to do. This is outside of whether one uses a metronome while playing.

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Originally Posted by TimR
But also, dance music players have enough skill to play at tempo. They don't risk the speed wall effect that happens with incremental speedup. That's mostly a beginner risk (and a beginner strategy. Skilled players sometimes use incremental speedup but for very different reasons).


Well, in my experience, that's wrong smile I was very much a beginner when I started playing dance music, and since we're a community band we still have many beginners. And there are other community bands that play. So we have quite a mix of skill levels.

And yes, we risk the speed wall. Playing at 108 to 120 is not easy, and yes, we can hit speed walls before we get there.

Perhaps a little too much generalization?

Cathy


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