Let the Metronome Be Your Friend
May I suggest that the metronome can be a friend?
Just as the stopwatch rewards the swimmer or the runner by showing how they have improved, the metronome should measure a student’s progress. The metronome should not be used to show the student that he or she has learned the piece of music in such a way that they are not playing or cannot play it at a consistent tempo. The metronome should be used at the beginning, from the time that the student first begins to work on a piece.
Begin slowly, virtually playing in slow motion, with the metronome. If the student cannot play a measure in time with the metronome, slow the metronome down to the point where the student can play it. The metronome must meet the student’s level, not the reverse. Then play the measure again several times at the very slow speed until it is easy. Gradually increase the speed, probably only by a couple of beats per minute, and try it again. If the student cannot play it at the new speed, go back to the previous speed and try it again several times. Continue to repeat this process until the student is fully confident playing what used to be a difficult at dazzling new speed.
The metronome becomes a measure of success, not failure. It is the help-mate that if used properly can give a student tremendous technique. Whether practicing scales or exercises or a sonata, early work with the metronome should build confidence. Remember, the metronome can be your friend!
Every music student has heard his or her teacher say, “Use the metronome!” How often the metronome seems like the cruel judge, the unsympathetic counter, seeming to speed up at every difficult section and slow down at the easier ones. Many people have often wanted to throw the metronome across the room, or at least, put it away and pretend that it doesn’t exist.
Think of the stopwatch. For the aspiring athlete, it marks the sign of progress. Last week you could run the 100-yard dash in 20 seconds; the next week in 19.5 seconds. You feel good? Right? You are improving.
Bonnie Ward Simon, BA, MA, M.Ed, M.Phil.,
President of Maestro Classics