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CHAPTER II - Uses of the Metronome for Acquiring Skill

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The last chapter described various methods and technique employed by musicians using the metronome to establish agreement among themselves on the measurement and specification of the tempo of music.

This chapter describes various methods and techniques employed by music educators and performing artists for using the metronome in attaining perfect performance of complex rhythmic passages.

Acquiring the Sense of Time Division

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A faculty that all musicians must possess is that of instantly and accurately dividing time beats into 2, 3 or 4 equal parts. Composers of modern music are even demanding division into 5, 7 and 9 parts.

The division of beats into two is usually [see figure 3] accomplished with ease, even by beginning students, by counting "and" between each numbered beat of the metronome. Set the metronome at Quarter Note=60 and count 1 and 2 and, as shown here:

When this counting does not come with ease and precision the metronome speed should be doubled,

[see figure 5] as shown here,

to beat the "ands" also, but the counting should still be 1 and, 2 and, etc., as before. When this is successfully done, and the metronome is turned back to the original slow tempo, the student will usually be able to count the "and," exactly between the numbered beats.

To divide a beat accurately into three equal intervals, as shown in these next two bars, is more difficult. A little practice, with the metronome first set at 60 and then at faster, and finally at slower beats down to 40, is excellent practice. Either count the triplets aloud or beat them [see figure 6] with a pencil.

If difficulty is experienced in maintaining accurately spaced triplets set the metronome at three times the tempo and beat 1 da da, 2 da da etc., as shown here in figure 6; then check, as was described above for division into two. The two dangers to avoid are the tendency toward irregularity and the tendency to beat three sixteenth notes and one sixteenth rest.

Still more difficult is the division of two beats into triplets (true triplets), as shown in these two bars. It is well to set the metronome at 120, as shown in figure 7, and beat the triplets; then to set the metronome at 180 and beat the duplets. Note that one beat of the duplet is coincident with one heat of the triplet, hut that the next heat of the duplet is exactly in the middle of the next two heats of the triplet.

Spontaneous division of beats into quarters is not as difficult as division into triplets. If difficulty is experienced in beating quarter divisions of beats, exercises, like those [see figure 8] previously described for division into two, are used.

Exercises For Sight Reading of Rhythms

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When a fair degree of accuracy in recognition and beating of these divisions is attained the following exercise by Floyd E. Low (or any similar one) may be practiced with the metronome at Quarter Note=60. It is even more difficult and instructive to beat this exercise accurately at Quarter Note=40. [see figure 9]

Turning "Wheels"

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One educator describes "wheels" with the left hand. Uniform circular motion of the hand (and arm) is essential. One "wheel" always represents a quarter note. Two spokes to the wheel beat eighth notes; three spokes beat triplets; four beat sixteenths, and so on. Set the metronome at any appropriate tempo and turn one "wheel" for each beat of the metronome

realvideo example

Learning Complicated Rhythms

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The following procedure is generally employed, with only slight modifications, in learning complicated and tricky rhythms.

(a) Find the shortest note in the passage (but, in general do not choose a note less than a sixteenth).

(b) Assign one metronome beat to it.

(c) Figure how many such beats should be given to all the other notes, and rests.

(d) Start the metronome, at about 60 or 92 with one beat=shortest note. This tempo should be chosen slow enough to permit accurate playing of the rhythm yet fast enough to reveal the rhythmic pattern.

(e) Now Further increase the speed by assigning one metronome beat to two and then to four of the shortest notes. During this process, while acquiring the skill of muscular sequence response, pay particular attention to conform rigidly to the metronome beats.

(f) When performance tempo can be achieved with accuracy of rhythm, introduce the desired shadings and nuances, if they are required in the passage. Examples of this procedure follow.

The Double Dotted Quarter Note

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To play these notes correctly, following the above procedure, we find the sixteenth [see figure 10] note is the shortest and we assign one metronome beat to it. We then figure that the double dotted quarter note should receive seven beats

Starting the metronome at Sixteenth Note=160 we play the double dotted quarter note holding it for seven metronome beats. We then play the sixteenth note holding it for one beat. Then, exactly on the next heat we repeat. This playing must be repeated until precise and accurate coincidence with the metronome beats is achieved. When it is, the metronome speed is gradually increased to Sixteenth Note=208 still counting one beat to a sixteenth note.

Now the metronome is set at 104 (half the last setting) and an eighth note is given one heat (Eighth Note=104, the same tempo). Instead of counting I 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, we count 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. This done, we increase the speed of the metronome to any comfortable practicing tempo, say 160. In this example, and especially at the higher tempos, we must he sure that the sixteenth note is short enough. There is a tendency to make it sound more like an eighth note than a sixteenth.

In practicing this exercise on bowed instruments, it is advisable to play both notes in one measure with a down bow and both notes in the following measure with an up bow, It may be well to point out here so that both the educator and student may [see figure 11] watch it, that even the common dotted quarter followed by an eighth note is often played inaccurately, the dotted quarter being too short and the eighth being held too long. Since this combination of notes (and its relative equivalent: dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth) is the repetitive basic pattern of much "Boogie Woogie" music, such musicians must learn this pattern accurately.

It should be pointed out that when playing "swing" eighth notes, one should not rigidly execute the dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth, but instead play the second attack earlier almost to that of an eighth note triplet where the first two eighths are tied together. It can be helpful to use the metronome to beat out only beats 2 and 4 when developing the feel of swing eighth notes [See figure 12].

Example from Bizet, L'Arlesienne Suite For Orchestra

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In this un poco mento lento passage from this Overture we recognize our old friend, the triplet of three [see figure 13] eighth notes. The shortest notes and the shortest rests are eighths (not counting the triplets). Since There are eight of the shortest notes to a measure, we count eight metronome beats to a measure. We can count 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 or 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, as indicated.

The triplet is counted against the first two heats, being careful to preserve the relations previously described in this chapter. The eighth note follows exactly on the third metronome bear, so that, considering only the beginning of the sound of each note, these first four sounds start at exactly equally spaced intervals. However, the fourth sound (the eighth note) is held for a full metronome beat (whereas the first three beats were held less than a full metronome beat-to be exact, 2/3 beat each). The rest begins exactly at the 4th metronome beat and on the 5th beat it stops, and the pattern is repeated. Each detail should be carefully studied and understood before attempting to practice with the metronome. Learning the pattern by reasoning facilitates eventual accurate performance.

Drum Corps Marching Down the Street

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This familiar melody for the fife with its grace notes affords an excellent example of the application of metronome technique to the interpretation and execution of tricky passages. [see figure 14]

figure 14

By rule (a) mentioned earlier, we find the shortest note to be the sixteenth note. So we assign one beat to it, and, if the rhythm were unfamiliar, we would assign a low setting to it, say Sixteenth Note=92. Then, counting as indicated below the staff (at "beginning"), we could easily execute the passage. The tempo is slow enough to enable full comprehension of each note value (except the two triplets which we shall discuss later).

Users of this method stress the desirability of making haste slowly at this early stage. It is here that the mind, directing the correct note-time values, has time also for simultaneous reflection on the phrasing and dynamics which will be introduced when the rhythm is absolutely understood and under conscious control.

When it is felt that one has a thorough comprehension of the rhythm the metronome is notched up to say Sixteenth Note=104 and then to Sixteenth Note=120. Playing at this still slow tempo tends to fix the muscular sequence and permits more attention to other matters besides rhythm.

At about this point, the metronome is set at Eighth Note=60 and the counting is changed as shown (at "later"), giving eighth notes one metronome beat. This is then worked up to Eighth Note=120 whereupon the metronome is set to Quarter Note=60 and the tempo worked up to concert performance. It is in this stage that muscular coordination, dexterity, and habit formation receive attention for skillful execution. This is the "agility with accuracy" stage. During this stage the metronome is rarely referred to.

Reference has been made to the triplets. The execution of the first triplet should be done according to the technique previously described in this chapter. The second triplet is actually not a triplet but a group of grace notes and, as such, it must take its time value from the preceding note. How this can be done is illustrated in the expanded fragment of the affected notes, which is shown directly below them in figure 14.

figure 14

Since there will be some rapid playing here which must not be fuzzy when brought to concert tempo. it is well to divide this fragment into thirty-second note values for interpretation and study.

In the fragment illustrated in figure 15, the first and second eighth notes will receive four such beats each. The dotted eighth will receive six beats and will be counted as shown.

Figure 15

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Passing over the last sixteenth note for the moment, the accent must fall on the first eighth note in the next measure, and this note must begin to sound exactly at the beginning of that measure. Therefore the time value of the three grace notes preceding it must be taken from the last note of the preceding measure, the sixteenth note. Shortening this note to a thirty-second, we have one thirty-second left in that measure for the grace notes which we move (at least in our mind if not on paper) to the end of the preceding measure, as shown. These three notes are then played in one beat as a triplet, while counting 4, as shown (which is very rapid), and slurred into the accented eighth note beginning the next measure.

Having thus interpreted, analyzed and assigned time values to all the notes, next set the metronome at a slow enough tempo to play the triplets easily and correctly, say Thirty- second Note=circa 92, and work up speed with control of rhythm as described before.

[See figure 15 above]

The ultimate correct performance of the Adagio to this Sonata will be facilitated if the opening measures are analyzed and counted, as shown in this example. Start with the metronome at Sixteenth Note=58, and keep the practice slow, while watching the pedaling, breath pauses, phrasing, crescendos and other expressions. In view of previous explanations, no further explanation of the counting illustrated is necessary, except perhaps to point out that when a thirty-second note is reached (half a metronome beat) the word "and" may be used, as shown, in counting it.

It is important not to advance the tempo too soon. Keep it at Sixteenth Note=58 for several lessons. During this stage we have the best opportunity for studying the nuances. The reason for this is that the mind is not hurried by and burdened with the dominating demands of the complicated rhythm, allowing no time for the other musical demands. When all these demands have been studied and appreciated and performed at the slow tempo, and only then, is it time to increase the tempo by degrees to say Sixteenth Note=72. Having mastered the fundamentals, progress will be rapid now. Change the metronome to Eighth Note=46 and continue up to concert tempo. During this stage the metronome is discarded and expressions are introduced.

Figure 15

Shown below the bar are the notes comprising the turn. The shortest is a sixty-fourth. In terms of the shortest note, the first one is two sixty-fourths, the triplet totals two

sixty-fourths, the dotted note is three sixty-fourths and the final note is one sixty-fourth, totaling eight sixty-fourths. Set the metronome to beat sixty-fourths and count as shown. When the rhythm is correctly played increase the metronome speed; then change the metronome to beat one beat to a thirty-second note, and so on, as previously described in this chapter.

Playing Three Notes Against Four

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At the piano, there are two procedures for playing three notes in the left hand (bass clef) against four in the right hand (treble clef).

In the one procedure, the sense of dividing a time unit into three (and into four) is cultivated as explained under "Acquiring the sense of time division". They are then played, one in each hand, first separately and then together. This method is employed in the procedure later described for the Chopin Fantasie Impromptu Op. 66.

In the other procedure, the time unit is divided into twelve parts, as shown below, the metronome is set to beat twelve heats to a measure, and the notes are played on the beats indicated. [See figure 16]

Figure 16

In this procedure the relations between the beats of the two hands is the most dominating thought. The hands begin together; next (after 3 intervals of time), the treble beats just a short interval (1 interval) before the bass. Two more intervals introduce the treble, the center of the pattern, and two more introduce the bass. This is again followed by the short interval (1 interval) For the treble, and the longest interval (3 intervals), for the beginning of the next measure. These relations to each other are clearly illustrated in figure 16 and can be fixed in reference to each other by concentrating on this relationship (3-1-2-2-1-3) as the metronome beats, starting as slowly as is necessary to comprehend them mentally.

A Specific Plan for Three Piano Compositions

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The following instructions For the study of three piano compositions will serve to illustrate the actual week-to-week procedure employed by Stella K. Nahum of New Haven in teaching piano students. Those who have had no previous musical training are taught the rudiments of music and piano during the first year before using the metronome. The metronome is used by the students principally at home to control their practicing speed in the absence of the teacher. The tempo progressions indicated here are for the average student. The tempo should be advanced depending upon the student's capacity.

S. Heller-Avalanche

The rhythmic pattern obtained by inspection are: Eighth Note Triplet, Quarter Note and Half Note. Count 1, 2, 3 (three counts) for a quarter note; that is, each one of the three notes of the triplet receives one metronome count.

Practice first week Triplet Eighth Note=72 (Practice only at this one slow tempo during the first week)

Practice second week Triplet Eighth Note=72 to 92 (Each intermediate degree such as 76. 80, 84, and 88 must be practiced during this week)

Practice third week Triplet Eighth Note=92 to 138

Practice fourth week Triplet Eighth Note=138 to 168

Practice fifth week Quarter Note=63 (During this week the feeling of three notes to each metronome count is realized. Practice at only one tempo this week)

Practice sixth week Quarter Note=72 to 92 Continue to finished or desired tempo

Ph.. E. Bach Solfeggietto in C. Minor

The rhythmic pattern obtained by inspection are: Sixteenth Notes, Quarter Note, Half Note. Count 1 for a sixteenth note Count 2 for an eighth note Count 4 for a quarter note

Practice first week Sixteenth Note=60 (Practice only at this one slow tempo during the first week)

Practice second week Sixteenth Note=72 to 92 (Practice at each intermediate degree)

Practice third week Sixteenth Note=92 to 152

Practice fourth week Eighth Note=72 (The new feeling of two sixteenths to each metronome count is realized. Practice at only one tempo this week)

Practice fifth week Eighth Note=72 to 126

Practice sixth week Quarter Note=60

Practice seventh week Quarter Note=69 to finished tempo

One assignment may also consist of the following:

First practice Sixteenth Note=92, twice then practice Eighth Note=92, three times then practice Quarter Note=92, four times then practice Quarter Note=92 to 132 finally practice Half Note=60

Chopin-Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. 66

First and third sections.

The rhythmic pattern obtained by inspection is: In Right Hand: Sixteenth Notes In Left Hand: Eighth Note Triplets

Practice each hand alone and separately.

Set metronome at 60 to strike for one note in Right Hand or Left Hand. Continue to practice, progressively, with separate hands, until a tempo of 176 has been attained. At present disregard the fact that later, when put together, the Right Hand will play more rapidly than the Left Hand.

Set metronome at Quarter Note=56. Now begin to acquire the feeling of four notes to each beat when playing the Right Hand and the feeling of three notes to each heat when playing the Left Hand. Continue, with separate hands to Quarter Note=100.

Now put the Hands Together at Quarter Note=100. If the last step has been thoroughly learned each hand will play its own notes smoothly. Increase speed to finished tempo and add nuances.

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Drum Rudiments

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Strokes must be played fast enough to keep both sticks in motion at all times. Practicing too slowly results in errors. A good tempo for the majority of students is approximately 120 strokes per minute. The sticks should be raised 10 to 12 inches high, and it is important that both the right and the left strokes be the same.

When control at this tempo has been mastered the tempo should gradually he increased. Set the metronome at 60 and play two strokes to each beat. Gradually increase the tempo to 240 strokes a minute (120 on metronome). The execution must he even at all tempos before proceeding to the next. Then divide into groups of three, five, seven and nine, alternating (Left and Right) and into four, six and eight non-alternating.

Now add the rebound and double stroke rolls. Set the metronome at 132 and play two single strokes per heat, or 304 single strokes per minute.

Sight Reading Chords

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In teaching chords to students, begin with a simple hymn, count four slow metronome beats to each chord, and have the student name the chords. Gradually increase speed as recognition improves. Then go to more difficult pieces using the same technique.

Add A Part Records

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Playing enjoyably with Add-A-Part records will be facilitated if the tempo of the part is first measured (as described in Chapter 1), and if you first learn to play your part correctly at that tempo. If the record player is adjustable, be sure, when measuring the tempo, that the turntable speed is correct. This can be done by adjusting the speed until the keynote pitch agrees with the piano.

Control of Vibrato

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A beautiful vibrato (not a tremolo, or trill), however produced, is today considered to be an expression of emotion essential to excellent musicianship in most string and wind instruments and in artistic singing. Consisting of pulsations of pitch about the perceived tone, it has two elements. They are

(1) amplitude or extent (expressed as a fraction of a diatonic whole-step) and

(2) frequency or rate (expressed as number of cycles of pitch variation per second). The metronome is used in learning to acquire control of the second element, the frequency.

In controlled artistic vibrato the frequency varies from about 4 to 10 cycles per second. The lower values (say from 4 to 7) are found among instrumentalists; the higher values (from 5 to 10) are found among vocalists. Musicologists are agreed that an artistic vibrato must not be erratically wavering, but must be of controlled uniformity. That is if a slow (or fast) vibrato is required, it should be slow (or fast) when so required.

Speaking generally, slow vibratos express tranquillity; fast vibratos express agitation. Following are some techniques employed in acquiring artistic vibratos:

Vocal Vibrato

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One successful technique employed at the University of Iowa in training singers is (a) listening to the phonograph recordings of celebrated concert and operatic singers, (b) learning, by listening, to recognize the presence or absence of vibrato, its change in extent and rate, (c) learning to tap, or fan, with the hand at the same rate, (d) learning to tap, or fan, four beats to each metronome beat and (e) using the metronome as a standard measure of the rate. Thus, resetting the metronome changes the vibrato beats per second. On this rhythm of 4's the following tabulation applies:

Metronome setting, beats per minute Correspondingvibrato cycles per second
 60   4
  76   5 (circa)
  92   6 (circa)
  104   7 (circa)
  120   8
  138  9 (circa)
 152  10 (circa)

Basis: Sing four vibrato cycles for each metronome beat. *

*Vibrato cycles per second=

(some of these settings are approximated to agree with the standard metronome scale.)

Metronome setting (beats per minute) X 4 (vibrato cycles per beat
(divided by)_____________________________________________________
60 (seconds per minute)

or simply: BPM X 4 / 60

"Panting" exercises (voiceless pulsations) at vibrato frequencies are used in preparation for the actual singing. This technique is used to produce vibratos when they are non-existent, to increase the rate when it was too low, to decrease the rate when it was too high (that is, to complete the range), to train an increase and decrease of rare of vibrato on a single sustained tone and to train in singing one vibrato to each note in rapid chromatic passages in preparation for the portamento.

Instrumental Vibrato

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The same procedure as that for vocal vibrato is used, except that for some instruments (for example violoncello or trombone) relatively heavy masses (the hand or the hand plus the slide) must move at the vibrato rate. Consequently the "natural" rate is low and high rates are often erratic. It is good training to start at a very low rate, often as low as one per second, while the instructor and the student analyze the motion of the fingers, the wrist, the arm, etc. When the motion is correct increase the rate slowly while maintaining the form.

Practice small and large amplitudes in the same manner, also increasing amplitudes and decreasing amplitudes tapering off to nothing. For other instruments or for other "methods~' or "schools" of teaching, the vibrato may be produced by the jaw, the lips, or the fingers but the technique of its acquisition and control by metronome is the same. All amplitudes (or extent), from small to large. should be practiced at the low rates before proceeding to the high rates of vibrato. Simultaneous decrease of amplitude and rate should he practiced to develop tranquil endings.

Rigid Vibrato

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One technique for teaching saxophone vibrato for dancing is based upon a rigid adherence to eight vibrato cycles per second. This invariable frequency can become so implanted in the performer, with sufficient practice, that the vibrato of a saxophone ensemble trained by this method, sounds like that from a single instrument. It possesses the additional characteristic that its exponents can predetermine the time required for playing complete solos for radio programming.

This uniform vibrato rate of eight per second can be attained by setting the metronome at 120 and counting flow vibrato cycles to each metronome beat,


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All successful memory training methods in any field of mental activity consist essentially of three elements:

(1) vivid and comprehensive first impressions,

(2) association with known facts,

(3) repetition and recall.

These elements apply with great force in memorizing music when the metronome techniques just described are employed. With them, a musician's work is often subconsciously memorized, while he or she is unaware of any specific attempt at memorization. The three stages, in their application to memorizing music, are as follows:

(1) The first stage is being well met, while each note and its relation to the others is analyzed as previously described and while the mind has time to concentrate at low metronome speeds on the great number of details to watch such as fingering, pedaling, phrasing, positions or strings on which the notes are played, crescendos, slides, glissandos, and so on. The chances of remembering well are much enhanced when this first stage of learning of musical compositions is done by the slow-start metronome techniques.

(2) Association of the above-named details with each other, and with similar details from one's experience, is possible during the period of slow methodical metronome practice. Under such practice the mind has some time for reflecting on and establishing such associations. Thus the second requirement for memory training is satisfied.

(3) Metronome techniques also fill the third requirement- that of repetition and recall-through the repetition at progressively higher tempos as skill is acquired.

Superficial and unmethodical thinking always leading to poor memorization, is supplanted through metronome techniques by concentrated, deliberate and well ordered mental processes, leading to facile memorizing.


A brief history of the metronome

Following are excerpts, suggestions, and hints abstracted from teachers' notes that have appeared in the past on the use of metronomes:

Mechanical Playing

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The saying that a too-constant employment of absolute time in study is productive of mechanical playing is as ridiculous as it is ungrounded. I have never known a person having either a natural or acquired positive sense of time to have difficulty in executing the most delightfully regular retards and accelerandos; on the other hand an artistic performance of these effects is almost impossible in the hands of a deficient time-keeper.
Warner M. Hawkins, Etude, October, 1908

Leave the Time at Will

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To be an artist one must be able to play in perfect time- slow, fast, or anywhere between. Then one must be able to leave the time at will. This is not the same as having the time leave the player, and that is the effect if one is not able to play with the metronome.
M.L. Carr, Violin World, March, 1896

Faithful and Reliable Ally

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In short, it seems to me that the teacher who refuses to use the metronome refuses a most faithful and reliable ally, and the teacher who does not know its possibilities or who has never thought of applying them to teaching, would do well to begin at once to cultivate them as widely as possible.
M.L. Carr, Violin World, March, 1896

Temperamental Students

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Tempo is so dependent upon the mood of the moment that students, especially those of highly emotional nature, should practice technical exercises and parts of pieces daily with the metronome as a balance wheel to their temperamental extravagances. After control is achieved, they may be taught to introduce intentional retards, accelerandos or rubatos.
M.L. Carr, Violin World, March, 1896

Do Not Watch the pendulum

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Depend upon the ear, not the eye. It is inconvenient and confusing to watch the pendulum.
H. Hamilton, Etude, June, 1911

Avoid Immature Rapidity

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The metronome's virtue is to prevent too rapid playing before it is time for such playing. Increase the speed notch by notch from slow to fast-then repeat. When under control, discard the metronome and put in a dash of color and vitality required to give character to the work.
F. Lincoln, Etude, September, 1919


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Set the metronome at a slow tempo where you can play the piece from memory and then gradually increase speed thus speeding up the process of thinking of music as well as playing it.
Clara M. Nelms, Etude, November, 1923

A Rare Art

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No indeed, it is not unmusicianly to play in perfect time. It is an art that is all too rare.
Ruth L. F. Barnett, Etude, October, 1924

Motion of Pendulum

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I found that by placing the objectionable machine on the floor at my feet, I am not distracted by the motion of the arm of the metronome and I'm not tempted to look at the instrument.
N. G. Abbott, Etude, October, 1924

(Most teachers of music recognize that the click and the wag of the Maelzel Metronome are not in step. The click comes neither at the ends nor at the center of the motion. When the pendulum moves toward the right the click occurs somewhere between the center and the right extreme of the motion, and when the pendulum moves toward the left, the click occurs somewhere between rise center and the left extreme of the motion. The clicks are not in the same place as related to the position of the pendulum. That is why it is confusing to look at or watch the Maelzel-type metronome and advisable only to listen to the heats.)

Pay Attention to the Beats

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However, the student must be careful to understand that keeping steady time means that each note of the exercise must coincide with each note of the metronome, and not simply to play on and on while the metronome keeps on ticking, each at variance with each other. Such practice is valueless.
Eugene F. Marks, Etude, June, 1925

Monitor and Recorder

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Every student will find that the metronome is a most valuable monitor and recorder of his progress.
Eugene F. Marks, Etude, June, 1925

Increase, then Decease, for Relaxation

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Increase metronome tempo notch by notch. When correct speed is attained decrease notch by notch (this relaxes muscles). Then increase again. Repeat until study is mastered.
Lorna H. Gibson, Etude, June. 1929

Playing Artistically

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The objection, sometimes heard, that using a metronome tends to make a player mechanical, is not founded on facts. Indeed, the students who play the most artistically are those who have been the most faithful in the use of their metronome when learning their pieces.
Josephine Menuez, Etude, April, 1932

For Confidence

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Practice the piece above the tempo at which you finally expect to play it.
W.F. Gates, Etude, November, 1939

Bowing Troubles

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Spiccato bowing troubles (on the violin) are often left-hand troubles. Bow grand detache or legato (eight notes to a bow). Increase speed of left-hand fingering. When the required speed has been achieved, only then add the spiccato bowing. Control speed with the metronome. Then being sure of left hand, full attention may be given to the bowing.
H. D. Chapman, The Strad, August, 1943

Builder of Technique

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The metronome is one of the greatest technique builders available to the teacher or the pupil.
LeRoy V. Brant, Etude, February, 1944

Introducing Nuances

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Of course, everyone knows that after a piece has been thoroughly tested and stabilized with the metronome, the necessary rhythmic variations, the accelerandos, the ritardandos, the ad libs, the tempo rubatos may be introduced far more intelligently and artistically.
James Francis Cooke, Etude, April, 1940

Discovering Technical Flaws

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One can, on the other hand, quickly discover the flaws in one's technique, and the particular groups of notes which need the most practice, by attempting technical passages with the metronome set at a quick tempo. Encircle with a pencil the rough spots and those on which you stumble. Then work up gradually as described above.
Unpublished paper of Floyd E. Low, Hibbing, Minn.

Tenseness and Relaxation

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Another very effective way to achieve results is to begin at a tempo of 60, with 3 or 4 notes to the beat, and work gradually slower to a tempo of 40. Then move the metronome to a tempo of 80 and work back to 60. Then jump to 92 and work back to 80. Continue this procedure until the desired tempo can be played with a feeling of relaxation The feeling of reducing one's tempo is conducive to relaxation whereas the feeling of increasing one's tempo is sometimes conducive to "tightening up."
Unpublished paper of Floyd E. Low, Hibbing, Minn.

Bowing Techniques

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For practice of sustained uniform bowing, set the metronome at 60 and draw a sustained tone with the bow for as many seconds as desired. This is much more systematic and accurate than merely "counting" to the required number, To develop a spiccato bow, set the metronome at the required speed and play 1, 2, 3 or 4 notes to each tick with the least possible amount of bow.
Unpublished paper of Floyd E. Low, Hibbing, Minn.

Recording Progress

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The wind instrument player can use the same counting procedure for practicing sustained tones. He can thus keep exact records of his progress. For staccato or tonguing practice, the metronome can again constantly keep him informed of his progress and ability.
Unpublished paper of Floyd E. Low, Hibbing, Minn.

Memorizing Tempos

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The conductor should be so familiar with metronome indications that he knows exactly how fast a speed of 60, 92, 120, etc., is. Since andante, allegro and other adjectives are relative terms and cover a considerable variance in tempos, the young conductor in his study of the work should consult the metronome, practice with it as the authority until he has thoroughly established in his beat the various rates of movement needed. If he cannot at any time establish within very slight deviation any metronome tempo indicated, he needs further practice. It is time well spent for any young conductor to practice many varieties of beats in many different tempos and then test his accuracy with the metronome. Few compositions, other than the military march, move with exact clock-wise regularity. In all good editions, tempo variations or alterations usually are carefully indicated and should he considered always as adjustments of the basic tempo and not as changes.
Carol M. Pitts, Etude, 1944

Analysis and Slow Practice

To attain and maintain violinistic surety, I recommend slow practicing. I believe in taking the music apart note

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for note, correcting as one proceeds and keeping the ear alert to the actual sound of one's own playing.
Mischsa Elman, Etude, 1945

Violin Practicing

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For example, in practicing the violin composition Danse Espagnole, the first review without the music takes between 7 and 10 minutes. The second review should always be done with the music to find memory errors before they appear; and with the metronome to prevent rhythm from getting a chance to become distorted; and without vibrato. By dropping the metronome beat back to 80 for each eighth note beat (Danse Espagnole is written in 3/8), a comfortable slow playing tempo is achieved. Danse Espagnole is particularly tricky for the bow, therefore, in this case, special and continuous thought will go into its every movement.

The object of the second review is-perfection. This includes perfect intonation, rhythm, relaxation, and bow control. Not an unnecessary muscular ripple nor an unwritten sound should be allowed; there should be only one true note going to the next one accurately and rhythmically.

To achieve this is no easy task. It does not mean dropping the tempo and allowing the mind to wander, while fingers perform automatic, and often sloppy, actions. It does mean intense and listening concentration.
Kate Merril Wells, Etude, 1945

Too Fast a Rubato

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Too free a rubato may be helped by going to the other extreme and playing even a Chopin nocturne once with the metronome, as I have heard Heinrich Gebhard illustrate so successfully. Too strict a tempos Yes, but afterward a pupil emerges "keeping shape" and if musical, also with the give and take which his imagination dictates, without overdoing the rubato. Harold Bauer once said that the most impressive performance of "Lohengrin" he ever heard was the time the Boston Symphony played it for rehearsal from beginning to end with the metronome.
Viva Fay Richardson, Etude, 1945

Analysis and Slow Practice

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To learn to play fairly fast is a matter of practicing. Every exercise, providing it is done thoroughly, methodically, and for a long enough time, will "get the pupil" there. But the result will be full of holes, musically speaking, unless it was born of slow playing, for only in slow motion can technical and musical problems be thoroughly analyzed. Just as we see every position in a running jump or a high dive on a slow motion film, so we can build, from this same slow motion, every jump or run on the piano.
Victor I. Seroff, Etude, 1947

Psychology of Memorizing

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In my entire career of 33 years with the Etude I have enthusiastically endorsed the use of the metronome. You see, in addition to being a musician I had training as a psychologist and I know the value of creating what might be called brain tracts or nerve tracts through kinesthetic action by means of accurate multiple repetitions. I know that Czerny, Liszt and almost every really great teacher of the past, has endorsed this process. With my own pupils in performances and in memorizing I used a plan that Czerny used, Liszt used and Leschetizky used. They required 8 or 16 correct repetitions of an exercise before proceeding to the next metronomic speed and were expected to go on until a speed in advance of the performance speed was achieved. Then and only then, after they had learned to draw a perfect circle, they were permitted to make certain changes which brought about expression. At this point I had them get Christiani's Principles of Expression and work out their own conception of expression according to their original ideas, always giving them counsel.
James Francis Cooke, Private Correspondence, 1940

Teaching Vibrato

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Understand, teaching vibrato with the metronome is merely on the science side of musical instruction-the artistic element is arrived at later. This procedure is a boon to the speeding up process of present day instruction.
Max Adkins, Private Correspondence, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Tempos for Practicing at Home

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In this modern age of pedagogy when the best type of teaching is necessarily direct and definite, some form of exact tempo must necessarily be given to the student for correct practicing at home.
Stella K. Nahum, Private Correspondence, New Haven, Conn.

Basic Sense of Time

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I'm very much in favor of the liberal use of metronomes by students of music in order to put their sense of rhythm on a solid basis, not so much with the idea of their holding to a metronomic rhythm in performance, as to giving them a basic sense of time from which they may depart if they so choose. For example, It is important for all musicians to be able at least to maintain an exact rhythm. Most musicians, it seems to me, are deficient in this respect. It is my belief that this deficiency may be corrected to some extent if it is subjected to the corrective influence of a good metronome.
Dean Emeritus, David Stanley Smith, School of Music,
Yale University, Private Correspondence

Overdoing Nuances

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In view of all these tendencies (the deplorable result of overdoing all nuances) nothing seems to be more important for the student than to (first) learn to play without expression. Only the pianist who has learned to play Bach's Chromatic Fantasie or Beethoven's Appasionata in the most rigid way will be able to add that amount of nuances and shades which these works properly require.
Willi Apel, Harvard Dictionary of Music, Expression

Harmonic Dictation

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We use the metronome in the setting of minimum tempos for keyboard drills in harmonic dictation. Playing dictation drills at a strict tempo has been a decided factor in increasing keyboard facility of our theory students.
Glen W. King, Western Reserve Academy,
Private Correspondence, 1947


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In general, the metronome's office in the musician's sphere is to keep the time consciously moving forward at an even rate while the mind, muscles and psychological reflexes have an opportunity consciously to adapt their functions to this uniform passage of time. The tempo is slow during the first stages. If difficulties arise, due to mental, muscular or psychological characteristics, that would otherwise take additional time to overcome or to conquer. the beat of the metronome is the unfailing pedagogue to point out the aberration. During repetition of the attempt and final conquest of the difficulty, correct habits are formed and the subconscious mind gradually takes over control at increasingly rapid tempo. When the deliberate nuances are introduced, the result is a smooth artistic performance free of blur and fuzziness


In addition to those specifically mentioned in the text, we are indebted to the following musicians, music educators, musicologists and publications for various information contained in this book:

Complicated Rhythms, Examples of piano technique, Stella K. Nahum, New Haven, Conn.
Counting Wheels, Effa Ellis Perfield, New York, N.Y.
Drums, Robert W. Buggert, Philadelphia, Pa. Harvard Dictionary of Music, WiIli Apel, Cambridge, Mass
Ritards and Accelerandos, Mildred Perry Ek, Portland, Ore. Rhythmic Patterns, Floyd E. Low, Hibbing, Minn.
Roller Skating Music, Maurice Grudin, Paterson, NJ.
Saxophone Vibrato, Milt Werner, New York, N.Y.
Spotting Chords, Marie Matthews, Phdadelphia, Pa.
Tempo Memory, P. L. Schneider, East Cleveland, Ohio
The Etude, James Francis Cooke, Editor, Philadelphia, Pa.
The Etude Music Magazine, Philadelphia, Pa.
The Vibrato, Carl F. Seashore, Arnold H. Wagner, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
Vibrato, Max Adkins, Pittsburgh, Pa

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