Evil Metronome

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
Abe!

Great to "see" you man!

So, I dig what he's saying about rhythm/tempo being a social achievement (my words, not his) and I like thinking about locating these things in community and in culture. In a way, a band or group of musicians playing together constitutes a culture that supports players embodying, feeling and expressing the time in particular ways. I find these kinds of understandings fascinating and full of possibilities for us to experience ourselves musically in ways that are rich and satisfying.

But I gather that here, Jeff is offering up an impassioned critique of music education that just doesn't resonate with me. His theme seems to be "the metronome will cause problems if used while you are learning" but, as I understand it, we humans have enormous capacity to conceptualize the things we learn in a multitude of ways. His seems a naive conclusion given the complexity and variety of human social processes.

Personally, I've used and use the metronome in certain ways that have been useful. I see it as a tool. Like most tools, it has limitations and doesn't do everything (like teach you how to make yourself available to a socially constructed groove) but I don't get how these limitations would compel someone to make a video warning musicians that it will be their ruin.

Come to think of it, I've heard that if you use a metronome too much you will get hairy palms, go blind, develop psychosis...
 
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Anon La Ply

Renegade
That cameraman did a great job clapping 5 without rehearsal!

Do you use a met, Abe? I do about half the time but I'm a russian and trying not to be. First thought is that a musician with JB's skill is not someone I'm going to argue with.

I also admire the way he gets out there and says non PC things with no fear. His moustache is visual proof of how little he worries about what people think of him - legend :)
 
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aydee

Platinum Member
..

This is why I keep coming back to DW.. to read responses like Jason's and Grea's.

Jason, this is kind of your area and I'd love to hear more from you on this, but isnt there a fascination for symmetry and order amonsgst us humans?

I get the bit about it being a tool ( Grea, the only time I use it is ocassionally in practice to work out oddly phrased fills - ), but the notion that 'if its quantized, its good' is debatable, I think.

I think the recording process has made it larger than life and it seems to have seeped into our musical conciousness as the God particle... or something..

Grea, so what do you think of his moustace?


...
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
Where's larryace's reply? ...I'm sure we'll be in for some interesting reading, to say the least :)

Jeff made some good point, you have to know what you want to pratice with a metronome, it is once you have sufficiently develop an aspect of drumming that you'll use a metronome, when you're coocking a recipe, you have to have all the ingredients, if you have to rush to the shop to buy what's missing while the onions are frying in the pan, it's certainely a recipe for disaster, lol.

A metronome has it's limitations, it cannot teach feel, textures, styles, emotions while playing a groove or a fill, but it's an important tool to develop a good timing, with any instruments.

I disagree with Jeff in regards of use of a metronome or click in rock music, it has been used extensively for the last 25 years at least.

The metronome made an appearence in 1815, if it was detrimental to the music, or how to help to make music, it would have disapeared a long time ago.

Some interesting reading about the metronome here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metronome

I'll keep practicing with a metronome :)
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
Here's what I take from it based on my experience....

Agreed that when first shedding a piece of written learning music it is much easier to avoid using a click. Once the written piece is internalized however, a my belief is working with a click is beneficial to developing steady time.

I also think that some people do rely too heavily on working with a click that states the continual quarter note pulse. It is not until someone breaks away from that stated quarter note click and brings the stated click to a whole note or wider span of time such as the 1st beat of every 2 or 4 measures where someones internalized time is truly tested.

Indeed, developing a metronomic pulse does not allow music groove and does not let the music breathe and as a result the time feel can feel stiff and lacking. Yes, it's important to play in time but within that time, there needs to be a sense of push and pull within the context of the music. I believe there needs to be a balance of developing a solid steady pulse within the context of a click but allowing the ebbs and flows of the human element of the music. Again, to me, the test of this is not having the quarter note pulse stated but to spread it out over a given set of measures. Preferably only playing the 1st click of 2 or 4 measures..

I was extremely guilty of doing this after years of working with a stated quarter note click until I hooked up with a master teacher/player who took the necessary time to help me unwind it all.

I also agree with the video clip that some of the greatest drummers and musicians never once sat with a click.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
I get the bit about it being a tool ( Grea, the only time I use it is ocassionally in practice to work out oddly phrased fills - ), but the notion that 'if its quantized, its good' is debatable, I think.

I think the recording process has made it larger than life and it seems to have seeped into our musical consciousness as the God particle... or something..

Grea, so what do you think of his moustache?
I think his moustache makes him look like an eccentric cop :)

Ideally each person decides for themselves what mix of science and intuition is right for them. I think there's a touch of old school new school involved here, though.

Seems to me that oldies (including me) are hoping that the tasty organic qualities of music they value continue to be appreciated by the next gen, but it doesn't seem to be going our way. It sure didn't go the way my parents hoped.

How unclicked and old hat is this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSw_Azab-oo

Awesome :)
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
..Jason, this is kind of your area and I'd love to hear more from you on this, but isnt there a fascination for symmetry and order amonsgst us humans?
Yep. For example, studies on physical attraction show a preference for symmetry and balance in facial characteristics. But I suspect a lot of this is culturally bound to particular historical and cultural contexts and I'm very interested in the ways the politics of these contexts shape our understandings of time and groove. I think your example of the ubiquity of click tracks in contemporary recording is spot on with this notion. Again, I understand the usefulness of this practice but it's not without its consequences (e.g., the impact on musical consciousness that you spoke of).

Music is often based "on an agreed upon pulse". Using a metronome standardizes the agreement while limiting the possibilities.
Yes and I really dig how this agreement can be renegotiated by players who make themselves available to shaping a collective pulse in the midst of musical contexts (though I'm not so interested in "over-thinking" it, the way I am doing here ;-).
I was extremely guilty of doing this after years of working with a stated quarter note click until I hooked up with a master teacher/player who took the necessary time to help me unwind it all.
Thanks for sharing--I can certainly plead "guilty" to having done this too. ;-(

If you don't mind, could you share some about how your teacher helped you "unwind" this? Thanks!

Seems to me that oldies (including me) are hoping that the tasty organic qualities of music they value continue to be appreciated by the next gen, but it doesn't seem to be going our way. It sure didn't go the way my parents hoped.
Didn't go the way my parents hoped either. Of course, the traditions they wanted to sustain were old and stale while the ones I value are hip and fresh. ;-)

Speaking of which, I've got to start working on my 'stache. ;-)
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
I think, for the most part, what Jeff's "getting at" ..... has very little to do with the drummer. The drummer IS the metronome. For any of the "melodic" instruments, they follow the drummer, and, if no drummer is available, then they have Mr. Metronome, to rely on. And if they don't wanna follow a click, so be it.​
And sure, when you're learning a piece of music, you don't just start off full speed with a metronome (unless you're a Jedi sight-reader). And if you are a "Jedi sight reader", then you simply walk into the room, nail the piece, and go home. You're probably waaaaay past playing to a metronome.​
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I'd say Jeff doesn't know music history from a hole in the wall.

His claim that symphonic musicians, and early rock and rollers, etc, all never used a metronome is so off the mark and shows a complete lack of knowledge.

Metronome's have been around since the 16th century, and have been common since 1814.

Trying to claim all these great composers and musicians didn't use metronomes in practice is just a flat out lie.

Now, we can easily agree modern music over relies on everything being metronome perfect, and feel is too often tossed out the window in favor of lining up everything perfect to the grid, but that is a different argument than the one he is presenting.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
If Jeff's argument is that using a metronome somehow curtails development of your inner clock, then, IMO, to a degree, he may have a point. Even if we regard that as true, then to hone your inner clock you need a reference point to work from. Maybe that reference point is as basic as the music feeling right, or maybe it's a metronome. Either way, you need that reference. I think Jeff makes assumptions based on his own experiences, & then makes the big mistake of believing they apply to everyone.

I don't use a metronome, but you can probably tell that ;) ;) ;)
 

double_G

Silver Member
i think in general, he is wrong. too black & white thinking...there are many shades of grey here.

metronomes can only help if you use them as a training tool, not a performance tool (crutch). i use them to build muscle memory -- even subdivisions, tempo placement (behind, middle, on-top). we are developing our nervous system & demanding we respond to near perfection, like an athlete. same with training tempos, if we only play 60, 80, & 120 (bad example but imagine only 10 tempos)...later in playing situations, you will always be slowing down or speeding up to your comfort zone tempo. this alone is a great reason to use a metronome & play all sorts of odd, crazy fast or slow tempos when rehearsing. RE: tempo / feel - how many composers use a metronome marking to tell performers what tempo is best to capture the essence of what they were trying to achieve in the music? And how about using a metronome to decide which tempo is best for a song? Many tunes will play better on a piano at one tempo, but rush the lyrics / melody for the vocalist at that same tempo.

it seems that the incredible drummers (who train w/ metronomes) i admire negate all of Berlin's beefs w/ the metronome. just Steve Smith & Steve Jordan alone destroy this black & white thinking.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I made some comments on that video a while back-- I guess they still hold up. He's kind of argued himself into a corner in which metronomes = bad, even as he admits that they are a legitimate tool. I don't really agree with dispensing with the rhythm when learning something new-- you could just as well start by learning the rhythm correctly and getting the notes later-- the rhythm is just as much "the thing" as the pitches are. But there's good information there, I just don't agree with his conclusion.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I like to practice to a metronome a lot, but I hate playing music to one. It always sounds stale to me when things are too perfectly timed and the whole tune is slaved to a machine's sense of perfect time.
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
I like what Ed Shaugnessy had to say about using a metronome. I got this off an interview on his DVD... "Basic good time is still never called accurately 'metronomic time.' It's just basic good time. And that's why I personally don't endorse constantly practicing with a metronome. I think it's okay to kinda time your exercises, maybe time a particularly hard piece with a metronome. You know to stay steady, but some people almost have the idea that they'd better have a metronomic click when they play and I think this is a mistake. They don't get enough independence of self. It's better to play with good swingin' records I find."
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
Best line from that page: “Similarly, musicians ought to distinguish between (1) the sort of timing that results from dull, slavish obedience to the ticking of a soulless machine, and (2) that noble swing”
Indeed – which is what my teacher emphasized.


Thanks for sharing--I can certainly plead "guilty" to having done this too. ;-(

If you don't mind, could you share some about how your teacher helped you "unwind" this? Thanks!

- Started without practicing to a click for a few months whatsoever, turned it completely off.
- Play along to Jimmy Cobb, Philly Joe Jones and Elvin Jones
- Resume the click with it only stating the click on the 1st click of each measure then spreading it out sometimes not until the 1st click of every 4th measure.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
The other criticisms from that Wikipedia page don't really hold up:

... this series of even, perfectly quantized, 16th notes, is no more evocative of samba, than a metronome would be. In fact, this representation neglects what makes up the samba essence in the first place — the swing![27]
—Understanding the Samba Groove by Pedro Batista
Swing in samba, like swing in jazz, happens within the beat-- it's not incompatible with metronome use. The quote isn't inaccurate, though-- the 16th notes he's talking about are of course within the beat.


The metronome has no real musical value. I repeat, the metronome has no value whatsoever as an aid to any action or performance that is musical in intention. [...] refer by analogy to the sister art of drawing. Graphic artists understand well enough the essential and generic difference that exists between mechanically-aided drawing on the one hand and freehand on the other. Similarly, musicians ought to distinguish between (1) the sort of timing that results from dull, slavish obedience to the ticking of a soulless machine, and (2) that noble swing and perfect control of pulsation which comes into our playing after years of practice in treating and training the sense of time as a free, creative human faculty.[30]
—The Amateur String Quartet by James Brown III
Yes, visual artists understand the difference, but that does not mean they don't use mechanical aids, because they certainly do. And yes, dull, slavish obedience = bad.

[...] using the metronome as a constant guide to ramp up the speed or to keep the rhythm. This is one of the worst abuses of the metronome. [...] If over used, it can lead to loss of your internal rhythm, loss of musicality, and bio-physical difficulties from over-exposure to rigid repetition[31]
—Fundamentals of Piano Practice by Chuan C. Chang
Misuse of the metronome = bad.

A good performance is so full of these minute retardations and accelerations that hardly two measures will occupy exactly the same time. It is notorious that to play with the metronome is to play mechanically - the reason being, of course, that we are then playing by the measure, or rather by the beat, instead of by the phrase. A keen musical instinct revolts at playing even a single measure with the metronome: mathematical exactitude gives us a dead body in place of the living musical organism with its ebb and flow of rhythmical energy. It may therefore be suggested, in conclusion, that the use of the metronome, even to determine the average rate of speed, is dangerous.[32]
—Daniel Gregory Mason
Written for organists in 1909.

What is musical rhythm? Perhaps it is the difference between a performance that is stiff and metronomic in its strict adherence to the beat, and a performance that flows with elasticity and flexibility that emanates from the music itself. A rhythmically musical performance seems to take its cues from stylistic considerations, tempo, phrasing, and harmonic structure, as well as form. Sometimes we may not be exactly sure what makes a piece sound rhythmically musical, but we know it when we hear it.
It should not surprise us that some children do not know instinctively how to play musically. Many youngsters are surrounded by popular music that is rigid and inflexible in its rhythm, characterized by a relentless beat that is often synthesized or computerized. Even some CDs and MIDI disks especially designed for use with piano teaching materials can encourage students to be overly metronomic in their playing. In general, our students may not be familiar with the idea of subtle nuances of tempo, and may need help understanding this.[33]
—Jennifer Merry
She continues:

"Of course, the ability to play metronomically is necessary, and it is an important skill in its own right."
 
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