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Learning to use a Metronome

Bum

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I have looked on the Forums here for hints on learning to practice with a Metronome and have not found any at this point. I have taken lessons many years ago, but am now learning by watching videos and reading music, (so-so). My skill level is not real high, but I am enjoying playing the accordion again. The metronome has been recommended to me, I have tried my phone and my laptop as a metronome, but find it not very easy to get in sync. I just bought an electronic metronome which I will start using when the dermatologist is done cutting bad stuff off of my hands. Are there any tricks or hints that may be helpful? I speed up as I am playing. Thank You, the Bum
 

jozz

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hi Bum,

couple of tips that might help:
  • playing to the click mostly requires practice beyond practicing the part in itself, so first master the part without
  • focus on the rythm, not the click
  • setup your metronome properly, you might find just on the 1 perfect for you, or 1 and 3 for 6/8 and so on. maybe you want all ticks..
but most of all: keep at it

i need at least 5 or 6 practice runs before i am 'in sync'
 
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losthobos

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I have a soundbremmer metronome that makes no noise but vibrates... I wear round ankle and lightly tap foot along with pulse. Phone controls tempo and you can add accents to beats and swing or triplet feel the eights...
Can't recommend enough... The sound of the click used to annoy me tremendously...
 

Valski

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I have looked on the Forums here for hints on learning to practice with a Metronome and have not found any at this point. I have taken lessons many years ago, but am now learning by watching videos and reading music, (so-so). My skill level is not real high, but I am enjoying playing the accordion again. The metronome has been recommended to me, I have tried my phone and my laptop as a metronome, but find it not very easy to get in sync. I just bought an electronic metronome which I will start using when the dermatologist is done cutting bad stuff off of my hands. Are there any tricks or hints that may be helpful? I speed up as I am playing. Thank You, the Bum
I can't say that I use an actual metronome. Because I play an electronic accordion and I use the Roland Bk7m for a backing track which gives me a steady beat and it's more fun than a metronome. I also own a mechanical wind up metronome which works well but is very boring. Using one method or the other helps me to keep greater control over my playing so by all means use something.
 
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NickC

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I will use a metronome for tricky passages. I start at about half speed, then play through while increasing the tempo by one or two clicks.
I definitely speed up when I play. When I play along to a recording, I try to note the 'feel' of the piece played in tempo and then try to duplicate that feel when I'm playing solo. This also helps with phrasing and dynamics.
 

Lucio76

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...so first master the part without
Maybe it's a legit suggestion for more advanced accordionists but I still disagree.
In my experience, the metronome, especially when I need to learn a difficult piece, forces me to play slower than I would play without it. It's inevitable, without metronome I will speed up till a mistake happen.

Our brain is very good at memorizing especially the first attempts so if you play slowly without making any mistake, you will memorize it correctly but if you make a mistake, your brain will memorize the mistake itself. This is why sometimes mistakes happen on the same measure over and over even if it's a very simple measure.

So, if the goal is to develop the muscle memory to play a piece, my suggestion is to focus on the notes and on the speed of the metronome which should be so slow that you can't make a mistake.

If the goal is to learn to play on a backing track or improve your timing, then I agree with all you said.
 

dan

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Some metronomes use a high pitch on the downbeat. That’s the opposite of most stradella bass patterns so I lose my place. I do better with a drum track or setting it to beat one beat per measure
 
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Lucio76

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I do better with a drum track or setting it to beat one beat per measure
Take a look at my collection of rhythms that can be used as a metronome:
https://accordionchords.com/playing-along-with-groove-scribe-rhythms/

It is a large selection of the most common drum grooves that can be set as desired.
I also like to play on a drum track instead of the metronome, it's so much more fun!

P.S.: In GrooveScribe you can set also just the metronome and set the low pitch click on the downbeat. It's an amazing app!
 

Ric46

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Maybe it's a legit suggestion for more advanced accordionists but I still disagree.
In my experience, the metronome, especially when I need to learn a difficult piece, forces me to play slower than I would play without it. It's inevitable, without metronome I will speed up till a mistake happen.

Our brain is very good at memorizing especially the first attempts so if you play slowly without making any mistake, you will memorize it correctly but if you make a mistake, your brain will memorize the mistake itself. This is why sometimes mistakes happen on the same measure over and over even if it's a very simple measure.

So, if the goal is to develop the muscle memory to play a piece, my suggestion is to focus on the notes and on the speed of the metronome which should be so slow that you can't make a mistake.

If the goal is to learn to play on a backing track or improve your timing, then I agree with all you said.
I totally agree. Learn a song and then add a metronome, for me, it's not the best way. You explained why... Metronome is a very good friend, don't fight with it.
 

jozz

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Partially (dis)agree.

Ok, the question is likely from a beginner point of view, but I'm reasonably confident that anyone who tends to speed up, as a first step, can or should first work more towards controlling the piece. Myself included. Ultimately, to get on tempo (fast or slow).

Control can be about speed, but as much or about slow, steady and fluent.

I see the metronome as the second step in that process, namely to stay on tempo throughout.

Control does not rule out my accidental mistakes, but for the most part I will stay on tempo easier when I know what's coming. Especially when I have certain rythm cues ingrained.

That being said, I fully understand the suggestion about trying it out for learning.

Different people, different methods and all.
 

Jim2010

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It can be useful to practice keeping time away from your instrument. If your metronome is small enough, you can put it in your pocket, go for a walk, and TRY to keep time with it, taping your fingers together or making some other physical movement. It isn't that easy to get every beat exactly right. Of course, walking with your metronome isn't a necessity. You can sit with it and tap your finger(s) on a table. You also can make up little finger independence exercises to go along with it. Be very patient and practice, practice, practice. When you start getting good at keeping time, you can add your instrument. As others have mentioned, practicing slowly is very important.
 
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TomBR

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A very simple point - playing with a metronome is hard! (Especially to start with.)
It takes practice.
(I don't do it as often as I should!)

Some people try it, find it is hard, and give up. They blame the metronome for being unmusical and impossible to play with!
 
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Bum

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Thank You All, for your input and thoughts. I get the idea of learning the song first, then working on the timing. Never thought or realized that there are metronomes that only vibrate. Interesting. I have the same electronic metronome in the video. To me, it was hard to use a metronome and I did give up a couple of times. Will have to work and stick with it. Thanks Again
 

Scuromondo

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I have little doubt that learning to work with a metronome is an important skill to improve playing, and especially critical when playing with other musicians.

And yet, I have to think that if there was a sort of “Hirarchy of Needs” established for accordionists, the metronome would probably not fall near the base of the triangle. That is, while the metronome might be necessary in order to get “to the next level,” at my level of playing (and age) I’m still struggling with my basic “Physiological Needs” (to paraphrase Maslow’s terminology) so being tasked with working on “Self-Actualization” is not yet in my field of view! 😉
 

JerryPH

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My teacher at the music conservatory was hard core against metronomes for all but one case, and that was to be rigorously used with exercises. He told me to never play a song using a metronome, not even when practicing, unless you want to learn how to be a drum machine and suck away passages where speed changes could add to the feeling of a musical piece. Now, over the years that is the only way that I used a metronome and I found it useful as a tool to give me a predictable and consistent known speed, and there I can say that I did find a strong aid.

I have also been playing with arrangers for decades which do have that fixed beat and never change and find that I can most easily follow the set speed without much thought, but I definitely know that I am making speed changes without them.

I'm struggling a lot trying to slowly get back in the flow with Free Bass and found that generally speaking, using an online metronome is helping me more than hurting. I have a real electric metronome downstairs, but that one I have not used yet.

Try it, use it and keep it if it works for you... stop using it if it takes away instead of adding. :)
 

JeffJetton

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Are there any tricks or hints that may be helpful?

The thing about playing with a metronome is that it is largely about attention training.

I have no doubt that, if you were to just play one single note with one finger (or just tap the top of your accordion), over and over again in time with a metronome, you could do it pretty well. Or at least get quickly to the point where you were doing it well.

What's really going on is that you are playing the note, judging where that note falls in relationship with the "click" of the metronome, then adjusting things accordingly if need be. There's a continuous feedback loop of observing and adjusting, observing and adjusting.

In fact, I feel that when you practice with a metronome, that's the skill you're building most of all. You're not learning to play "like a robot"... you're honing the ability to play along with an external reference. A metronome is very precise of course, but that's not the point. Even if it slowly sped up or slowed down, you should still be able to play along with it. It's the same skill used when playing with other people, which is why I always say that if you can't play with a metronome, there's little hope of being able to play with others (at least not without annoying them).

Anyway, when you then try to play an actual tune, your brain has a lot more to pay attention to! Like a computer chip, you only have so many "processor cycles" to spare at any given moment, and you can easily use them up trying to worry about your right hand fingers, your left hand fingers, the bellows, etc. Next thing you know, there aren't any cycles being devoted to the metronome--you've completely stopped paying attention to it, and you're likely waaaay off by that point.

One solution is to play things that don't require as much attention, freeing up more of your attention for the metronome. Simple tunes. Scales and other exercises. Just the right-hand part of a tune, or just the left-hand part.

Another is to play slower. That gives you more "processor cycles per beat", giving you more time to divide your attention between playing and observing/adjusting against the metronome. (If you're playing so slow that you don't have frequent enough clicks to observe and adjust, just double the tempo of the clicks so that they're playing on, for example, eighth notes rather than quarter notes.)
 

losthobos

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Quick tip.... Don't get the metronome out till you've learnt the piece you wish to practice...
Learn first... Practice next...
Practice does not make perfect... Practice makes permanent....
So if you practice something learnt badly you only teach your muscle memory bad interpretations... 😉
 

Lucio76

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Quick tip.... Don't get the metronome out till you've learnt the piece you wish to practice...
Learn first... Practice next...
Practice does not make perfect... Practice makes permanent....
So if you practice something learnt badly you only teach your muscle memory bad interpretations... 😉
In my experience as a teacher, this is the best way to learn badly a piece.
The metronome should be used to force you to play slowly (at the beginning) and to speed up the performance (after you've learned to play it).

Maybe we should make a distinction:
if you can play a piece reading at first sight, you probably don't need to practice it with a metronome because it's a relatively simple piece.
If you want to play something more complex, there's no way...the metronome should be used from the beginning otherwise it will take a very long time to correct all the mistakes learned playing too fast.

I don't want to convince anyone but as I said, this is what I've seen in many years of teaching and playing with others musicians.

A metronome is a tool that makes possible "the impossible". It's should be used to practice something that is beyond our skills. For example, I'm not a pianist, my left hand doesn't work smoothly on a horizontal keyboard and my right hand is not very confident on the piano but thanks to the metronome I learned to play difficult stuff that I thought was impossible to learn.



Slow and bad performance but I'm not a pianist, for my skills this is a miracle and it would be impossible without the metronome.

Anyway, everyone has his method and his ideas. I'm just reporting my experience.
 

losthobos

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By "learn" i meant conceptualise the movement... Understand the chordal progression completely along with the fingerings needed, before playing either with a metronome or without.... 😉
 

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