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#1274242 - 09/24/09 02:17 PM Using a metronome
PianoKitty Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 133
Loc: US
Personally, I am very fond of the metronome. I still have my original metronome from when I started taking lessons at 6 years old LOL, and it's the one I use in my lessons. I also require all of my students to purchase a metronome for home practice.

However, some students just cannot seem to follow the beat of the metronome no matter what we do! They *always* play faster than the beat instead of right on the beat, no matter how slow we set it. But if I count out loud for them (1-2-3-4 or whatever the time signature), they always play on beat. Why do some students have such a problem with the metronome's beat, when they can play with no problem along with my steady counting? Does anyone else experience this, and how have you corrected it?

I always have the talk with them in the beginning lessons about having a steady beat, like a clock or a heartbeat, but a few of my students just don't seem to get it, and their metronome is not helping at home. For these students, I recommend counting out loud but that isn't helping either. Any suggestions?


Edited by PianoKitty (09/24/09 02:19 PM)
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#1274250 - 09/24/09 02:22 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: PianoKitty]
Phil Best Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/09
Posts: 27
Loc: Fulham, London, UK
It may not be a popular response, but for me students should never practise with a metronome. I believe it is damaging on many levels. Even when playing strictly in time there is a human, rhythmic element. Attempting to play perfectly evenly generates tension and technical problems whilst musically it is always a recipe for disaster. For a few years, I suffered with a teacher who taught metronomic time keeping and I found it more and more difficult to keep a flowing tempo and a regular pulse. It is rather like gripping the handlebars too tightly on a bicycle as you try to cycle in a perfectly straight line. Conversely, when you tune into the matrix, as I call it, the human "imperfections" become absorbed by its natural, elastic, organic perfection and keeping the tempo constant is simply a musical choice that is effortlessly possible.

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#1274253 - 09/24/09 02:28 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Phil Best]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5421
Loc: Orange County, CA
I use my metronome every day. I tell my students to use a metronome during practice. It's really easy to tell if they used the metronome or not. It is an essential tool for pianists. Can't imagine playing some difficult pieces without the metronome's help during practice.
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#1274281 - 09/24/09 03:10 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: AZNpiano]
Mrs.A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 155
I also require students have a metronome but I agree overuse can be a problem.

I never ask students to use the metronome for a complete piece. I instruct them to use it with technical exercises or solving rhythm problem.

I have beginner students play one note on the piano or clap to different speeds. I also use it to demonstrate allegro, allegretto and so on.


In the studio I use a wood rhythm block and tap while students play. I can be a little more flexible and the wood block can be heard over the piano.

While on this topic, I have student now with no sense of rhythm whatsoever. The poor little guy can‘t even clap to a rhythmic beat. He is very bright and understand the note values but has no internal sense of rhythm. Playing a simple steady scale is difficult. In my fourteen years of teaching I have never seen a student struggle to this extent. I believe that he is trying and therefore I don’ t want him to get frustrated.. Any suggestions?
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#1274296 - 09/24/09 03:40 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Mrs.A]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5421
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
While on this topic, I have student now with no sense of rhythm whatsoever. The poor little guy can‘t even clap to a rhythmic beat. He is very bright and understand the note values but has no internal sense of rhythm. Playing a simple steady scale is difficult. In my fourteen years of teaching I have never seen a student struggle to this extent. I believe that he is trying and therefore I don’ t want him to get frustrated.. Any suggestions?


I have these students, too. Most of the time I just wait until they are older. If you try to make them play with perfect rhythm, it will end up being too discouraging. I've learned to accept people who don't have a sense of rhythm. I pick pieces that are not rhythmically complex, and I try to get them to play other areas well (tone quality, pedaling, etc.)
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#1274303 - 09/24/09 03:50 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: AZNpiano]
Mrs.A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 155
“The rhythm of a musical composition is frequently compared to the pulse of a living organism. Not the swinging of a pendulum, or the ticking or a clock or the beat of a metronome (all this is metre, not rhythm) but to such a phenomena as pulse, the waves of the sea, the swaying of the wheat field, etc…..” Heinrich Neuhaus
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#1274316 - 09/24/09 04:12 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Mrs.A]
mstrongpianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 38
Like a beating heart is to our human existence, rhythm is to music!

I most certainly have my students, especially beginning students, to explore rhythm by counting out loud, clapping, tapping, stomping... and, yes, they should also be able to do this with a metronome. Not all students easily grasp rhythm, and we simply work on this issue in weekly lessons... ie. counting out loud, clapping, tapping, stomping... and with a metronome! Lots of patience; lots of encouragement; lots of praise when they improve!

Many of my students are in other extra-curricular activities besides piano- karate, ballet, orchestra. In these other activities, they are not allowed movement or to play outside of the given beat, so why should we as piano teachers concede to a student playing unsteadily, or with an irregular beat?

There should be no stigma attached to using a metronome (only when it is overused and students cry at the sight of it or are so trained by it they play mechanically!). A metronome is simply a tool to help set one's internal pulse. Our pulses don't beat at one monotonous tempo, so it is not expected that a student play all exercises and pieces at one tempo. Music, after all, does have inflections, but practicing with a metronome facilitates a student's understanding of the overall structure of a piece, helps a student to work through complicated passages, and makes easier duet and ensemble playing.
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#1274321 - 09/24/09 04:16 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Phil Best]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5901
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Phil Best
It may not be a popular response, but for me students should never practise with a metronome. I believe it is damaging on many levels. Even when playing strictly in time there is a human, rhythmic element. Attempting to play perfectly evenly generates tension and technical problems whilst musically it is always a recipe for disaster. For a few years, I suffered with a teacher who taught metronomic time keeping and I found it more and more difficult to keep a flowing tempo and a regular pulse. It is rather like gripping the handlebars too tightly on a bicycle as you try to cycle in a perfectly straight line. Conversely, when you tune into the matrix, as I call it, the human "imperfections" become absorbed by its natural, elastic, organic perfection and keeping the tempo constant is simply a musical choice that is effortlessly possible.

Originally Posted By: AZNPiano
I use my metronome every day. I tell my students to use a metronome during practice. It's really easy to tell if they used the metronome or not. It is an essential tool for pianists. Can't imagine playing some difficult pieces without the metronome's help during practice.

Well I'm somewhere between the two, but I lean more towards Phil's position. I just about never use it for my own playing, except to record a tempo. I did recently use it to try and get the Hindemith trumpet sonata to the manic speed the trumpeter seemed to need to play it at smile. And I didn't find it much use, frankly. Another interesting experience I had when I first got my digital metronome sort of supports Phil's comments above - I was making an accompaniment recording for a singer of the Bach Laudamus te (from the Mass) and thought I'd listen to the metronome via earphones while I played and recorded. The resulting recording was, naturally, just the right tempo, and perfectly in time. It was also impossible to sing with!

As far as my students go, I often play on the second piano, which I suppose is a sort of human metronome, and more musical than a disembodied click. I have recommended practising certain passsages sometimes with a metronome, but the main thing is that I'm not convinced that use of a metronome actually develops the internal sense of pulse. I've taught very young children (not piano!) and always preferred to establish the internal sense of pulse physically rather than imposing it mechanically.

And AZN, when you say "Can't imagine playing some difficult pieces without the metronome's help during practice" are you talking about your students, or yourself? Just wondering.
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#1274346 - 09/24/09 04:54 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: currawong]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5421
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: currawong
And AZN, when you say "Can't imagine playing some difficult pieces without the metronome's help during practice" are you talking about your students, or yourself? Just wondering.


Both. Mostly myself. I find that, the more difficult the repertoire, the more I rely on the metronome, mostly for speed-building purposes. For my students, I set weekly goals for them to attain. Of course, once I get the piece (or section) up to speed, I go off the metronome and add artistic touches to the music.
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#1274380 - 09/24/09 05:47 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Phil Best]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7304
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Phil Best
It may not be a popular response, but for me students should never practise with a metronome. I believe it is damaging on many levels. Even when playing strictly in time there is a human, rhythmic element. Attempting to play perfectly evenly generates tension and technical problems whilst musically it is always a recipe for disaster. For a few years, I suffered with a teacher who taught metronomic time keeping and I found it more and more difficult to keep a flowing tempo and a regular pulse. It is rather like gripping the handlebars too tightly on a bicycle as you try to cycle in a perfectly straight line. Conversely, when you tune into the matrix, as I call it, the human "imperfections" become absorbed by its natural, elastic, organic perfection and keeping the tempo constant is simply a musical choice that is effortlessly possible.


Phil, you might want to think about this some more. Perhaps you were reacting negatively to that teacher, and the metronome just happened to be the instrument of torture. But realize that most ensembles have a "metronome" if you will. Bands, orchestras, etc., frequently have one instrument which is part time keeper (percussion most often, but sometimes the bass serves that purpose), and of course, the conductor is a silent metronome.
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#1274482 - 09/24/09 08:41 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: John v.d.Brook]
EDWARDIAN Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 89
Loc: New York, USA
On this topic I lean toward agreeing with currawong and Phil. I use the metronome very selectively, usually to establish a tempo. I think the metronome can do more harm than good, especially in beginner students. I find it throws a student off more often than not, and can be a very frustrating device if not properly used. I go more for the natural, organic approach to establishing pulse and rhythm.

Joan
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#1274488 - 09/24/09 08:53 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Phil, you might want to think about this some more. Perhaps you were reacting negatively to that teacher, and the metronome just happened to be the instrument of torture. But realize that most ensembles have a "metronome" if you will. Bands, orchestras, etc., frequently have one instrument which is part time keeper (percussion most often, but sometimes the bass serves that purpose), and of course, the conductor is a silent metronome.

A metronome is absolutely unyielding and will never adapt to anything. So any conductor who conducts like a silent metronome should be fired on the spot.
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#1274492 - 09/24/09 08:57 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: EDWARDIAN]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: EDWARDIAN
On this topic I lean toward agreeing with currawong and Phil. I use the metronome very selectively, usually to establish a tempo. I think the metronome can do more harm than good, especially in beginner students. I find it throws a student off more often than not, and can be a very frustrating device if not properly used. I go more for the natural, organic approach to establishing pulse and rhythm.

Joan



I think the problem can be in sutdents who have to keep adapting to the metronome. If the student gets slightly off the beat and jumps back in time, it can throw the rhythm far worse than if they allow themself a little bit of a liberty. Of course, everyone should have the ability to jump back into time after a minor departure. However, practising this way habitually can conceivably screw things up in a big way. I suppose the key is that if you screw up slightly, you go back and get it right next time. If you don't do so, you just spend the whole time fixing all minor mistakes by compensating with additional rhythmic mistakes. That is absolutely worthless, if it's the regular way of practising. Better to concentrate on internalising a pulse, than to be constantly skipping back and forth without going back to fix it.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/24/09 08:59 PM)
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#1274498 - 09/24/09 09:09 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: PianoKitty]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7304
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Piano Kitty, some here scorn the use of the metronome under any circumstace, which is certainly their option for teaching. Others, like myself, use it periodically to solve problems. I think Phil was reacting to something else, and the metronome was a symptom of a deeper problem. Anyone who has worked with youth orchestras, bands, and choirs knows well that before you depart from a beat, you must first have a beat. This is true for solo musicians as well.

I recall that such greats as Chopin used metronomes far more often than most teachers today. Perhaps we could learn from his example.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1274628 - 09/25/09 01:23 AM Re: Using a metronome [Re: John v.d.Brook]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5421
Loc: Orange County, CA
In the three hours of lessons today, I must have used the metronome 30 times and made 20 adjustments. The students are levels 5, 6, and 10. Guess which student used the metronome the least???

I think all three of these students have already internalized their pulses. They are not the rhythmically-challenged, yet I continue to use the metronome to help them get through their pieces and play their scales (triplets vs. 16th notes).

In my studio, the students who "hate" the metronome are the ones who want to play as fast as possible, the first time through the piece. Those who use the metronome regularly and follow all of my tempo suggestions are the ones who show the most discipline and dedication. They also practice the piano more efficiently.
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#1274630 - 09/25/09 01:29 AM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5421
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
I think the problem can be in sutdents who have to keep adapting to the metronome. If the student gets slightly off the beat and jumps back in time, it can throw the rhythm far worse than if they allow themself a little bit of a liberty. Of course, everyone should have the ability to jump back into time after a minor departure. However, practising this way habitually can conceivably screw things up in a big way. I suppose the key is that if you screw up slightly, you go back and get it right next time. If you don't do so, you just spend the whole time fixing all minor mistakes by compensating with additional rhythmic mistakes. That is absolutely worthless, if it's the regular way of practising. Better to concentrate on internalising a pulse, than to be constantly skipping back and forth without going back to fix it.


My God--I certainly hope you don't use the metronome this way. People who use the metronome like the way you described are truly missing the point.
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#1274818 - 09/25/09 11:02 AM Re: Using a metronome [Re: PianoKitty]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Piano Kitty, some here scorn the use of the metronome under any circumstace, which is certainly their option for teaching. Others, like myself, use it periodically to solve problems. I think Phil was reacting to something else, and the metronome was a symptom of a deeper problem. Anyone who has worked with youth orchestras, bands, and choirs knows well that before you depart from a beat, you must first have a beat. This is true for solo musicians as well.

I recall that such greats as Chopin used metronomes far more often than most teachers today. Perhaps we could learn from his example.


Agree with John completely. I don't "never" use it, just as I don't "always" use it. I use it selectively with students that seem to need it and/benefit from it.

Originally Posted By: PianoKitty
However, some students just cannot seem to follow the beat of the metronome no matter what we do! They *always* play faster than the beat instead of right on the beat, no matter how slow we set it. But if I count out loud for them (1-2-3-4 or whatever the time signature), they always play on beat. Why do some students have such a problem with the metronome's beat, when they can play with no problem along with my steady counting? Does anyone else experience this, and how have you corrected it?


I have had several of these students too. I continue to have them play scales/chords to the beat, for just a few minutes at every lesson. It seems to be a "wall" for some of them. After awhile, they ALL break through that wall, and it's like an ahh-haah moment. All of a sudden they can do it, and there is no turning back. It amazes me how some of these kids can have such great rhythm, but not get the beat of this tool sometimes!
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#1274875 - 09/25/09 12:34 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
It is a far worse situation if the student is truly arrhythmic. An arrhythmic student's body does not move well to music that he is listening to. If moving about the room to music he will not be able to keep a beat or move in time to the music - he is off by being before and after. I first saw this in a Dalcroze class that I hosted for my students and other teachers and their students with Dr. Steven Moore as the facilitator, over 2 days with 6 hours of training. Many students had trouble improvising movement to the music as did a few teachers. One teacher did not come back the second day because she was so noticably out of time moving with the music. This discovery was the very reason why she should have been back the next day and then continuing to find a way to "beat" this problem in the future. She was a vocal teacher and not a pianist at all.

Adj. 1. arrhythmic
lacking a steady rhythm
"an arrhythmic heartbeat"
jerking, jerky
unsteady
subject to change or variation
"her unsteady walk"
"his hand was unsteady as he poured the wine"
"an unsteady voice"

Adj.2. arrhythmic
without regard for rhythm

arrhythmical
unrhythmic, unrhythmical - not rhythmic
irregular in beat or accent

So those who can be helped by simply checking with the metronome to establish a steady beat where the music is complex in rhythm is using essentially as a supportive device.

The ones truly arrhythmic have a very different problem.

I learned to spell rhythm by saying:
Rhythm Has Your Two Hips Moving.

Betty

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#1274879 - 09/25/09 12:40 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Betty Patnude]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11422
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I think that the inability to play with a metronome has more to do with the fact that they're not used to listening to anything apart from themselves. Playing in groups or duets can help this. It takes time in these cases, and as other posters have pointed out, the use of the metronome can be an excellent tool, but not something that the student depends upon for a sense of beat. I use it only for tempo purposes (either helping a student gradually speed up a tempo, or to slow it down for slow practice).
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#1274953 - 09/25/09 02:51 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Morodiene]
Sal_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/08
Posts: 355
Loc: Lacey, WA
To the original question, one idea I got (from this forum) was to turn the metronome on, and just have the student draw a line on a piece of paper every time it beeps. Then you can switch two for every beat (or whatever.) I tried this with a student, and it was amazing to see him start to internalize the beat.

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#1274963 - 09/25/09 03:12 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Sal_]
PianoKitty Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 133
Loc: US
Sal, that's a great idea! I am going to try that for sure. Thanks!

I have tried playing duets with these same students in order to help our rhythm problem, but they always end up 5 measures ahead of me LOL. Duets haven't seemed to help either of them, as much as I try and try to get them to feel the beat. They always want to speed up in certain areas of the pieces. We will just keep working on it!
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#1274991 - 09/25/09 03:47 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: PianoKitty]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Originally Posted By: PianoKitty
Sal, that's a great idea! I am going to try that for sure. Thanks!

I have tried playing duets with these same students in order to help our rhythm problem, but they always end up 5 measures ahead of me LOL. Duets haven't seemed to help either of them, as much as I try and try to get them to feel the beat. They always want to speed up in certain areas of the pieces. We will just keep working on it!


I do another step with my beginners before doing the duet with them. After they play their piece once for me, and it's acceptable, we play it again with me playing exactly what the student is playing but an octave lower. This seems to verify for them that they are playing it as well as the teacher is playing it.

And, if their playing has been "off", this second playing with the teacher, helps them identify where there mistakes are happening. It also helps them identify how they are off compared to the teachers model.

So I think that is a helpful step for the younger beginning students in their first year of lessons. As soon as the student shows you good examples of his practicing the assignment, you can drop this step unless he objects and wants for you to do the melody together before playing the duet.

One of my criteria for finishing a book is that we spend time going through the entire book playing our duets together well before signing off on the book.

Betty

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#1274997 - 09/25/09 03:59 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

I recall that such greats as Chopin used metronomes far more often than most teachers today. Perhaps we could learn from his example.


Ah, but in what sense? Chopin often spoke of how the left hand largely stays in time while the right hand deliberately comes slightly early or late for rubato. So was he using the metronome to teach people to restrict both hands to a square, uninteresting beat- as modern teachers use it? Or was he using to show people how to free up their right hand, while mainting a form of stability underneath it? The two situations would be enormously different.
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#1275071 - 09/25/09 05:36 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
. So was he using the metronome to teach people to restrict both hands to a square, uninteresting beat- as modern teachers use it? Or was he using to show people how to free up their right hand, while mainting a form of stability underneath it? The two situations would be enormously different.


Why do you assume that "modern teachers" are using the metronome is to use an uninteresting beat? Beats are supposed to be steady. Can you imagine a marching band without a metronome, er, I mean a snare cadence to lead it?
The beat is steady, that does not mean that there is not an interesting rhythm going on within.
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#1275115 - 09/25/09 06:48 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
For whatever reasons, some people have a strong, steady, internalized beat.

Others do not. Their "internalized beat" is sloppy, erratic, and usually speeds up, until a difficult passage is encountered, where it slows.

I have often wondered why this is, both regarding myself, and my students.

My unscientific anecdotal observations have yielded that a steady tempo or beat arises from two areas:

First, it is a part of the "ability package" that one brings to the piano. That is comprised of part talent, and part prior learning experience, such as from listening to music, participating in rhythmic activities such as dancing, skiing, etc.

Therefore, I believe that, to some degree, rhythm is learned, and can continue to be learned / improved.

Thus, working with a metronome (or drum machine, for certain kinds of music) provides a perfect beat standard. (Counting is an integral part of this, as is thigh-slapping, clapping hands, etc)

When people practice with a metronome, their playing typically will improve.
The exactness of the metronome instills an exactness in their internal rhythm and muscle memory.

But, like most of what we learn, our humanness will not keep us in that perfection. Instead, we fall away from that standard, either just a bit here and there (rubato-ish) or more = more work is needed.

Regarding the fear that this will result in robot-like playing, I have not found that to be the case.

The folks who play "mechanically" after metronome training are usually the same folks whose playing was unmusical and dull to begin with. Only now it has a more steady beat.

The folks who are musical will still be musical; their playing will inspire, and the ebb and flow of the music will be enhanced because it ebbs and flows from where it should, like a brook or stream, rather than over-running its banks with tempo changes.


Edited by rocket88 (09/25/09 06:51 PM)
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#1275288 - 09/25/09 11:40 PM Re: Using a metronome [Re: rocket88]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3157
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: rocket88
For whatever reasons, some people have a strong, steady, internalized beat.

Others do not. Their "internalized beat" is sloppy, erratic, and usually speeds up, until a difficult passage is encountered, where it slows.



I find myself in agreement with rocket.

I came to piano late in life, after 50, but with 40 years or so playing other instruments in ensembles.

What passes for rubato on piano would likely just be considered sloppy erratic time in a band or orchestra.

It is common for keyboardists to speed up on the easy parts and slow on the hard parts. It is common for sopranos to fall far, far behind the beat as they admire the beauty of the sound they are producing.

The common factor is that they don't notice. The metronome is a harsh and unforgiving spotlight on where the real beat is. I think everybody needs to do enough metronome work to keep their internal pulse calibrated.
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#1275473 - 09/26/09 09:29 AM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: Ebony and Ivory
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
. So was he using the metronome to teach people to restrict both hands to a square, uninteresting beat- as modern teachers use it? Or was he using to show people how to free up their right hand, while mainting a form of stability underneath it? The two situations would be enormously different.


Why do you assume that "modern teachers" are using the metronome is to use an uninteresting beat? Beats are supposed to be steady. Can you imagine a marching band without a metronome, er, I mean a snare cadence to lead it?
The beat is steady, that does not mean that there is not an interesting rhythm going on within.


Did I say that marching bands should not be played in time? On the other hand, can I imagine Chopin being played with both hands landing squarely together on every beat. Yes, I can. Sadly it is usually played this way- instead of with the freedoms he advised.

The point is that there's a difference between using a metronome to synchronise ever note and using it to anchor freedoms. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of many teachers who use a metronome to teach the freedoms required for good Chopin, instead of how to teach people to play squarely. People often use the metronome issue to restrict Chopin players, but I strongly suspect he used it to teach freedoms- not to make his students play more squarely. Are there any documented accounts of how he used the metronome in teaching?

Incidentally, Chopin was described by various people as having frequently employed four beats in bars of his mazurkas. Beats are not always "supposed to be steady" unless you have a very limited view of musical expression.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/26/09 09:33 AM)
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#1275474 - 09/26/09 09:31 AM Re: Using a metronome [Re: TimR]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: rocket88
For whatever reasons, some people have a strong, steady, internalized beat.

Others do not. Their "internalized beat" is sloppy, erratic, and usually speeds up, until a difficult passage is encountered, where it slows.



I find myself in agreement with rocket.

I came to piano late in life, after 50, but with 40 years or so playing other instruments in ensembles.

What passes for rubato on piano would likely just be considered sloppy erratic time in a band or orchestra.


How do you view the rubato used by Stokowski? There's barely a pianist alive who would use a fraction of that rubato. The kind of freedom he employs in the lyrical 2nd subject from the first movement of the Pathetique really is not something that is learned by practising with a metronome.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/26/09 09:35 AM)
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#1275493 - 09/26/09 10:12 AM Re: Using a metronome [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

The point is that there's a difference between using a metronome to synchronise ever note and using it to anchor freedoms.


That is precisely the point...the metronome instills a tempo center from which one plays music.

But it does not necessarily produce mechanical players.

As I said earlier:

"Regarding the fear that this (metronome training) will result in robot-like playing, I have not found that to be the case.

The folks who play "mechanically" after metronome training are usually the same folks whose playing was unmusical to begin with. Only now it has a more steady but mechanical beat, their unmusicality now also affecting the rhythm in a mechanical way. (edited for clarity)

The folks who are musical will still be musical; their playing will inspire, and the ebb and flow of the music will be enhanced because it ebbs and flows from where it should, like a brook or stream, rather than over-running its banks with tempo changes."


Edited by rocket88 (09/26/09 10:21 AM)
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#1275501 - 09/26/09 10:22 AM Re: Using a metronome [Re: rocket88]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
"Regarding the fear that this (metronome training) will result in robot-like playing, I have not found that to be the case.

The folks who play "mechanically" after metronome training are usually the same folks whose playing was unmusical and dull to begin with. Only now it has a more steady beat.

The folks who are musical will still be musical; their playing will inspire, and the ebb and flow of the music will be enhanced because it ebbs and flows from where it should, like a brook or stream, rather than over-running its banks with tempo changes."
[/quote]

It depends how much you use it though. Every pianist needs the capability to go back and forth of a beat in slight fractions. However, have a listen to Stokowski's recording of the Tchaikovsky Pathetique, if you get a chance. The way he eases the tempo so massively has literally zero to do with this style of short-term give and take rubato. It's by far and away the most remarkable rendition of the 2nd subject you could ever hope to hear. Compare also the way Rachmaninoff does enormous rallentandos at the end of a phrase, before returning abruptly to tempo. This has nothing to do with the give and take style of rubato. To attempt to average these things out over a consistent metronome beat would be a ludicrous exercise.

It's important that the idea of adapting to a metronome is not the beginning and end of all. It's simply one way of doing rubato among many that ought to be mastered. Not everything should be related to a metronome.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/26/09 10:26 AM)
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