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Proper Metronome Use?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by wishface, Aug 28, 2012.

  1. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    (Also posted elsewhere, so don't get deja vu :) )

    Lately when I practice with said device I start at between 75-80bpm playing, for example a scale. What I do is (try to) play whole notes, half notes, triplets and quarter notes. Once i run through the exercise a couple of times at each, or as best I can, I increase the tempo to about 100bpm. This takes enough time to fill a good 30-45 minutes of practice. Anything more would tire my arm out.

    Is this a good wasy to use a metronome? The purpose of these exercises is to build up speed and dexterity while playing melodic exercises (ie scales). Is this the right way to do this? If not what should I do.
  2. carlis


    Dec 28, 2005
    I believe this (or similar) exercise has been recommended by Norm Stockton and other talented bassists. You can go from there and incorporate some other techniques (string crossing, slapping/plucking, etc.) as well.

    While increasing slowly with the tempo, I also suggest you go the opposite way -- to practice at a tempo of 60, 50, 40 ...

    After you feel really comfortable with all of those slow speeds, you can go even further with "skipped" beats. Some metronome applications for smart phones allow you to practice with randomly skipped beats or bar(s) at a fixed tempo (Google it).

    Victor Wooten noted that when he was at home, his metronome was set at a tempo of 40 and made a sound only at the first downbeat of every four bars (equivalent to a tempo of TEN) -- and he just walked, talked and fiddled around as usual, but would try to "catch" those downbeats as possible as he could, from time to time.

    Hope this helps.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I find this to be a great exercise.

  4. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    I'd the 'nome is clicking every beat, I think metronome practice is pretty much pointless. It's far better to use it to check your own timing rather than to supply you time. Set it to 40 BPM, count each click as 2 the 4, then play the same exercises at 80 BPM. That forces you to put 1 and 3 in the right place with reliance on the machine. Just like real life.

  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    To try to answer the original question, there are basically a couple of uses for the metronome. One is as a "pressure cooker" type device, which you can use in conjunction with scale and arpeggio work to help highlight areas that you need to work on - fingering, position shifts, plucking/picking issues, even internalising what it is you are working (the notes of the scale/chord/piece you are working on). If something is easy at quarternote=60 bpm, but falls apart at qnote=72bpm, then you need to start figuring out what went wrong where. Is it right hand or left hand? Is it the fingering? do you need to look at a different fingering? Are you solid on what notes you are going for and where they are on the fingerboard? That kind of thing. This also helps in practicing for performance, you can work on the part you have learned slowly to internalise your fingering, shifting and notes and then slowly up the metronome until you get to performance speed, along the way noting and working on any difficulties brought to light by the increase in tempo.
    The second use is for helping to develop a solid timefeel. There are a number of exercises that have you improvising both lines and solos with a number of imposed parameters (one of which I have described in the thread REALLY Learning a Tune, which you can find stickied on the DB side under the Music Theory forum) in order to to develop a visceral response to improvising against a rhythmic constant. You learn how you physically feel when you push or pull against that constant, so that you can recognize it and deal with it when you are in a musical "conversation" on the bandstand. This is much the same way you use a keyboard for ear training so that you can hear and recognize intervals, triads and chords. You aren't trying to "memorize" anything, you are working on getting an aural event to have meaning for you.
    Even the most vehement of metronome "deniers", Jeff Berlin, both in the "chicken dance" video and in exchanges here on this site has said, when talking about how "you can't learn time from a metronome" says that "oh well that's just ear training" or "you're just using it like a drummer" and then returns to the theme of not using a metronome when trying to learn a piece of music. But learning a piece of music and working on steady time are two different things, as much as learning a piece of music and expecting that the exercise of sitting at a piano and singing 4 part chords in all inversions and in open and closed positions will be the proper approach.
    As he says in the above mentioned video, to paraphrase, Gary Burton is an accomplished veteran musician and if he wants to use a metronome to help with his timefeel, [Jeff] isn't going to argue with him. So maybe it is something you can use to help get you to the point where you are "an accomplished veteran musician"...
  6. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    The metronome is the best $10 one can spend.

    Try doing scales as fast as you can without a metronome. Then do it again with - you'll soon see how much fudging you do!

    I had never thought to slow the thing down - good idea. I usually warm up doing scales 8th notes ~190 then bump it up by 10 bpm at a whack. I usually end up ~ 230 before it's time to move on...
  7. Bass Mentor

    Bass Mentor

    Apr 30, 2012
    Nashville Tennessee
    endorsing artist: Lava Cable, E&O Mari, Rupert Neve Designs
    Golden:) Yes the metronome on 2 and 4---!! I've had students who had not used this concept before even tho' they were doing gigs....I had them think of it like '' a drummer's snare'' when they used the 'nome.....and it right away was evident where they were grooving or not grooving......This is much more real world....
    awesome advice:bassist:
  8. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    That's part of the reason I use a metronome. I know that without it I'd fudge.

    However, the exercises involving halving the speed: while i udnerstand that concept, in all honesty they convince me more that Jeff Berlin was actually right.

    I'm using a metronome to play and increase speed correctly without fudging. So really this is a question about developing speed and dexterity.
  9. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Thing is, even if you can rip a two octave scale ascending and descending at 180 BPM with the metronome clicking every beat, but you can't with it only giving two or one beat of each measure, you have bad time.

  10. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    I remember a great Ed Friedland Article in Bass Player about 20 years ago that dealt with this. Here are the exercises as I Remember them.

    Start out with the metronome at about 80bpm with the click as 8th notes play a one octave C Major Scale as quarter notes. Once you get that down slow the metronome to 40bpm and think of the click as quarter notes every day speed up the metronome one mark (usually 2bpm until you hit 60bpm then 3bpm until you hit 72bpm etc.) When you hit eighth notes at 160bpm and quarter notes at 80bpm then use the click on just one and three. once you get the hang of that try just on two and four. Once you get that worked up to 80bpm try the click just on the one, then just on the two, then just on the three, then just on the four. When you get that worked up to 80bpm set the metronome back on 40bpm and put the click on just the one of every other bar (AKA 32nd notes) then just on the 2 of every other bar, then just the 3 of every other bar etc. you get the picture.

    Stay Brown,
    Rev J

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