Has anyone ever told you to use the metronome when practicing recorder? Perhaps you tried it, but found it stressful, or difficult? It’s a common thing, particularly if you’re less experienced or you’ve just never tried using one before. But using a metronome when practicing recorder really can make a difference to your playing. Here’s why.
My recorder quartet has been playing for a while, and one of the pieces in our repertoire is ‘Pina ya Phala’ by Soren Sieg. Sieg writes wonderful trios and quartets inspired by African rhythms, so they are full of syncopation and notes occurring just off the beat. We’ve played this piece for a while, and feel fairly familiar with it.
Pina ya Phala is actually a trio, and while I stay on the tenor line, the treble line is played by two quartet members, depending on who is around and available. Last night at rehearsal, Tim, who hasn’t played it so much, found it difficult to count the 15 bars before his entry. He said that Ellen and I were adding in extra quaver beats that made it hard to count.
We were a little affronted, but got out the metronome and played the movement again.
And Tim was right. Darn!
Sometimes, especially with pieces that have syncopation or irregular time signatures, it can be tempting to add in extra notes. Or maybe you speed up during the faster passages, and wallow around in the beauty of the slower melodic lines (like me!). It is at points like these that using the metronome when practicing recorder can be really handy.
- The metronome doesn’t lie. You find out all the spots where your tempo is off;
- It takes away the added mental process of having to keep time, so you can concentrate on playing what is in front of you. You are effectively outsourcing counting to an external device;
- Fast passages can become easier because you are less likely to rush, and therefore have more time.
So have a go at playing through your piece with a metronome, using the following tips:
- LEARN THE NOTES FIRST! There’s no point discouraging yourself trying to keep in time playing something you don’t know properly;
- Pick a sensible speed. Sometimes people choose tempo that is too fast, break down in the fast sections, and then beat themselves up for not being able to keep up. The metronome is there to help you learn a good even tempo; it isn’t a stick!
- Don’t beat your foot. Typically you’ll beat time with your foot at the (variable) speed you usually use, and get out of time with the metronome. That just leads to confusion. Let the gadget do the work.
Do you use a metronome when you practice? How does it help you? And if you don’t give it a go, and let me know if it helps!
Photograph of metronome by Jennifer Mackerras