Evil Metronome

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
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.
Hahaha... Harry, I love it ... and I am certainely not a "Jedi sight reader" :)

Unlike some...



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
Absolutely, and I think that a mix of both in terms of reference is the best balance for me.

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.
+1

I never used a click or a metronome live, sometimes to count off songs in band practice, yes, but the metronome remains for my own practice.

It's better to play with good swingin' records I find.
I don't know if it's better, but it's a challenge to reproduce the feel, swing and emotions of a great record.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Jeff's got a point to a certain extent, but he takes it to far. That's sort of how Jeff is in general, though.
How about this for an extra character in The Big Bang Theory?

Jeff, the virtuoso bassist from the music faculty who plays instrumental fusion that no one listens to, has appalling dress sense, a copper's moustache, and is ideologically opposed to click tracks and abhors musicians with poor technique.

He fights with Sheldon because he'd see Sheldon as an artless stick insect while Sheldon would hold him in contempt because, to him, the arts are almost as intellectually naff as sociology.

Seriously, Jeff (the real Jeff :) is a larger than life character who cuts through with his contempt for (other people's) convention. There are tons of people in forums discussing his ideas. He likes to poke exactly into sore spots ... and its easy to immediately put up the shields when "the unthinkable" is raised.

I'm glad people like him are around. Telling orthodoxy to take a jump is a time-honoured pastime. At first orthodoxy fights back but it always gradually gets the point and absorbs the new idea as part of its meme pool.


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).
I think I see where Abe and you are going here.

The social context ... the search for perfection and purity ... eliminate all flaws ... Hitler and Mao. Perfection is great as long as it takes a back seat to humanness.I'm heartened by the popularity of the White Stripes and Black Keys, how people are still appreciating gutbucket appeal. The looseness gives the music a relaxed and informal feel - it invites you in.

Less happy with the increasing treatment of art music as "a wank". What's with this dumbing down? Plenty of art music transcends metronome time though the mastery of the performers (an effect raw bands try to echo with intuition). In the end it's all about the effect of a song - how it makes you feel.

On the other hand, to cut through you have to have a standard. Where do you draw the line? Could you forgive a funk band for wobbly tempo and occasional groove malfunction if they were spirited and inventive? Do you close your ears once a player makes a totally non pro "dealbreaking error"?
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
- 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.
Thanks for sharing DMACC--sounds like you and I went through a similar "rehab" program. ;-)
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
I think I see where Abe and you are going here.

The social context ... the search for perfection and purity ... eliminate all flaws ... Hitler and Mao. Perfection is great as long as it takes a back seat to humanness.
Yep, with a dose of evolutionary theory thrown in for good measure. And I am with you all the way on the latter my friend--I'll take humanness over perfection any day.

In the end it's all about the effect of a song - how it makes you feel.
:)
 

Numberless

Platinum Member
There are ways of using a metronome that also help develop your inner sense of timing. For example dmacc mentioned having just one click for various mesures. You can also feel it as 2&4 or as upbeats.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Yep, with a dose of evolutionary theory thrown in for good measure.
Do you mean in mating or dominance? The dark side haha. Underneath the soul of every noble sensitive artist lies a gene pulling the strings with just one thing in mind. I mean, commonsense surely tells us that enormous precision is simply not necessary to make a glorious, soothing, exciting, fun or challenging noise.

I think there must be an evolutionary advantage to playing the hell out of the drums - be it lots of notes or powerful notes. That crazy stuff is what most people love about drummers - or fear, depending which side of the bandstand you're on :)
 
P

plangentmusic

Guest
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I have spoken personally to Jeff about this. The problem is in what he's trying to say.

True, playing with a metronome won't necessarily give you good time. In fact, some people can learn to depend on the click.

HOWEVER........

The metronome is a REFERENCE and Jeff himself will use a reference in his teaching. He'll often snap his fingers to show where the student is going out of time.

WELL...WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?!?!?

I do think this has gone on so long that he can't back down and continues to say the same thing almost in an effort to draw attention to his methods.

Having said that, the guy is perhaps the most talented bass guitarist alive. But that doesn't mean what's right for him is right for everyone. I'll bet all the great drummers that he gets to play with have practiced to a metronome!



.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I read this in an interview Jeff did years ago and I'm sorry to say, I have to agree. I think what Jeff was really talking about though was taking it slow and out of time in the beginning when you're initially learning a piece of music. Through repetition and cognization of the rhythms being played, can you then apply those 'in time' in future situations because you've seen them before, which is why, as you become a better player, you can have the metronome going while you execute. But yes, in the beginning of playing something you've never seen, you won't be able to do it in time. So I interpreted what he said as to be applied in the very beginning of learning a piece of music. I think the reason people have a problem with what Jeff is saying is because it sounds like he saying this should apply to every piece of new music you get - when in reality, if you read enough music, you're going to see patterns and phrases that you've read before. So if you're familiar with enough of what you're reading, then sure, attempt it with a metronome. But I'm sure if you were being hit with phrases and notes you've never played before, then yes, take it out of time and work it up to something in time. I believe your musical knowledge builds on every new piece you get to read and play, so there will be things you immediately recognize in later pieces, which you would be able to practice with a metronome right off the bat.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Bo, I'm wondering what's to stop a player slowing the met to a point where they can play it, when learning?
Absolutely nothing wrong with that either. And that's the beauty of this whole music business - however you gotta get where you're goin', that's the way you take. In education circles, what Jeff says may be ruffling alot of feathers, and that's ok. The reason people get so bent is because they're under this impression that there are rules to follow to begin with - when we know for a fact that rock 'n' roll is all about breaking all the rules, remember?

Jeff touting how he lives with making music isn't too far from someone talking about his favorite religion or favorite political stance and how everybody should follow. The point is, you can do whatever you want. The end result is whether or not you get to make your music for an extremely gracious and paying audience. I think Jeff has done that (I know, now I hear the education people rumbling that it isn't about making money or empty platitudes...). To a point I get to make money doing what I do, so that makes me somewhat qualified to say what I think works for others, right? So I do sometimes, and Jeff does, and Todd Bishop does, and Andy, Grea, Bermuda....we all do. But you're free to stop listening, or if you try it and it doesn't work, then stop doing it. Life is too short to feel like you're wasting time.

And it took me a long time to let that go, and when I stopped teaching drum students, it was like a heavy weight was lifted! People are smart enough to guide themselves. So I let them go. I play happier, and I hope everyone else just figures it out however they do.

This weekend I'm off to play for my drum corps horns again, and in the drum corps arena, I must be the strangest thing they've ever seen. I've heard things like "that's refreshing" to "omg theose guys groove {which you never hear at a drum corps show}". Again, that's how I get there and I'm not pandering to what people think I should be doing. I do what I want to do, that's why I'm there.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
The reason people get so bent is because they're under this impression that there are rules to follow to begin with - when we know for a fact that rock 'n' roll is all about breaking all the rules, remember?
I agree with this, and I think most of the gnashing of teeth in discussions about music - from the musician and audience sides alike - can be attributed to this truth.

If you want to win arguments by proving you're right, music is the wrong gig for you. Better to take up mathematics or something.
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
The point is, you can do whatever you want. The end result is whether or not you get to make your music for an extremely gracious and paying audience. I think Jeff has done that (I know, now I hear the education people rumbling that it isn't about making money or empty platitudes...). To a point I get to make money doing what I do, so that makes me somewhat qualified to say what I think works for others, right? So I do sometimes, and Jeff does, and Todd Bishop does, and Andy, Grea, Bermuda....we all do. But you're free to stop listening, or if you try it and it doesn't work, then stop doing it. Life is too short to feel like you're wasting time.

And it took me a long time to let that go, and when I stopped teaching drum students, it was like a heavy weight was lifted! People are smart enough to guide themselves. So I let them go. I play happier, and I hope everyone else just figures it out however they do.

This weekend I'm off to play for my drum corps horns again, and in the drum corps arena, I must be the strangest thing they've ever seen. I've heard things like "that's refreshing" to "omg theose guys groove {which you never hear at a drum corps show}". Again, that's how I get there and I'm not pandering to what people think I should be doing. I do what I want to do, that's why I'm there.
Speak it brother! And, thanks for telling us some about your getting out from under that damn weight--glad to hear that it left you in a happier space.

I'll be going to the local DCI show tomorrow--reliving some memories and digging the current state of the art. I'm happy to hear this adventure is going well for you (Freelancers, right?). Nothing like doing what you do best and having people dig it while also having the time of your life!
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I read this in an interview Jeff did years ago and I'm sorry to say, I have to agree. I think what Jeff was really talking about though was taking it slow and out of time in the beginning when you're initially learning a piece of music. Through repetition and cognization of the rhythms being played, can you then apply those 'in time' in future situations because you've seen them before, which is why, as you become a better player, you can have the metronome going while you execute. But yes, in the beginning of playing something you've never seen, you won't be able to do it in time. So I interpreted what he said as to be applied in the very beginning of learning a piece of music. I think the reason people have a problem with what Jeff is saying is because it sounds like he saying this should apply to every piece of new music you get - when in reality, if you read enough music, you're going to see patterns and phrases that you've read before. So if you're familiar with enough of what you're reading, then sure, attempt it with a metronome. But I'm sure if you were being hit with phrases and notes you've never played before, then yes, take it out of time and work it up to something in time. I believe your musical knowledge builds on every new piece you get to read and play, so there will be things you immediately recognize in later pieces, which you would be able to practice with a metronome right off the bat.
Yes, that seems to be what he's saying, and I think you and he are right-- or at least, that is one way of doing it. That part isn't really controversial-- though I think maybe his way is more useful with prewritten stuff on a tonal instrument than with the drums. I usually only let students take things totally out of time as he does in the video as a last resort-- mainly because in drumming if you lose the rhythm you've lost the primary concept. Instead I try to learn the thing roughly in time but slowly, or in time and in fragments-- like adding a couple of notes at a time. But I kind of wish he'd dedicate more energy to expanding on that rather than arguing this dogmatic anti-metronome thing, where I don't actually know what he's trying to say.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Yes, that seems to be what he's saying, and I think you and he are right-- or at least, that is one way of doing it. That part isn't really controversial-- though I think maybe his way is more useful with prewritten stuff on a tonal instrument than with the drums. I usually only let students take things totally out of time as he does in the video as a last resort-- mainly because in drumming if you lose the rhythm you've lost the primary concept. Instead I try to learn the thing roughly in time but slowly, or in time and in fragments-- like adding a couple of notes at a time. But I kind of wish he'd dedicate more energy to expanding on that rather than arguing this dogmatic anti-metronome thing, where I don't actually know what he's trying to say.
The article I read him going off on this was from a magazine back in '94 or so, so he's been adhering to this idea for quite some time - possibly even before that article too. I can see how what he says would bend alot of percussion folks, 'cause that's our whole thing: time. It probably does work for melodic instruments better where whole notes are actually whole notes, etc.,...

But yeah, I think it's ok to slow down when you run into a passage that you've never seen before when you first start working on a piece of music. Heck, the last time I played with a concert band, I went through the music quickly and circled the parts that I couldn't read right off the bat, and then concentrated on those in the first few seconds before the conductor starts the piece, so that's another way too. There are so many ways to tackle new music, his is not the only way, but it seems to make more sense to me. I figure, I'm just seeing it for the first time in the comfort of my studio or what not, no point in getting stressed out about it. In fact, Jeff used the analogy that learning a piece of new music while the metronome is going is like walking a tight rope while someone down on the ground keeps hitting you with a whip while you're going across. For some reason that image stuck in my head all this time.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
... I kind of wish he'd dedicate more energy to expanding on that rather than arguing this dogmatic anti-metronome thing, where I don't actually know what he's trying to say.
Seems that objections to metronomes are always about not sacrificing focus on expression and lyricism for precision. If a player's timing variations are disorienting their bandmates then obviously the smart thing to do is tidy up with a metronome and/or sharpen up listening skills.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
Seems that objections to metronomes are always about not sacrificing focus on expression and lyricism for precision. If a player's timing variations are disorienting their bandmates then obviously the smart thing to do is tidy up with a metronome and/or sharpen up listening skills.
When we're practicing to the metronome long enough, it becomes a second nature, once you're comfortable with it, you can practice without sacrifying expressions, feel and emotions.

For me, it's important to practice in equal measure with and without a metronome as well as playing along to records, it doesn't makes you perfect, but it helps you to reach that reference point in your timing.

And I agree that listening skills is as important as good timing, and a good listen while playing can be as efficient as a metronome sometimes.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
And I agree that listening skills is as important as good timing, and a good listen while playing can be as efficient as a metronome sometimes.
There's a heap of musicians, including percussionists, around the world with great time throughout history who have never used metronomes. That's all about ears and feel that people develop easily in strong rhythmic cultures eg. Africa and South America.

Maybe metronomes are especially helpful when you come from a less intuitive culture without great rhythmic traditions? Just throwing it out there ...
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
There's a heap of musicians, including percussionists, around the world with great time throughout history who have never used metronomes. That's all about ears and feel that people develop easily in strong rhythmic cultures eg. Africa and South America.

Maybe metronomes are especially helpful when you come from a less intuitive culture without great rhythmic traditions? Just throwing it out there ...
Absolutely, in certain culture, it's almost part of your DNA.

I, for one do not come from such culture, I needed/need a metronome to develop/maintain a good time on the kit.

There's a difference between being able to clap your hands to the pulse of a song (as per the cameraman in Jeff's clip), it's another story on an instrument, coordinations, independance and adrelanine can easily get in the way of the tempo.
 
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