The Great Metronome Debate

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by IamGroot, May 14, 2018.

  1. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    First off, this thread is not about bashing any bass players.

    I am just trying to understand a reasoning why metronomes dont help players learn good time. I have read the arguments.and watched the videos against metronomes, but I don't get it. If someone can summarize that argument convincingly, I would like to hear it.

    Btw, I use the metronome pretty much daily, especially when learning tricky pieces. I am a big believer in the gnome.
  2. I think metronomes help beginners with steady time. Once you are a novice, they are most helpful for learning fast passages slowly and increasing the tempo.

    But the reason I don’t think they help live gigging musicians, is because tempo is an ebb and flow between musicians. And something every ensemble player learns playing with others.

    By the time you are an expert, if you can’t keep a steady internal rhythm, then you’re no expert.
    violinoscar, Afc70, Hypocrite and 8 others like this.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    smogg and HolmeBass like this.
  4. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    Those Metro Gnomes really cause a lot of havoc around where I live.:)

    And, they're always late so I know they don't keep good time.
  5. jchrisk1


    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    Because JB said so, that's why.

    Just kidding. Really. Even though I do agree with JB, I have no problem with people deciding whether or not they choose to use one.

    For myself, I have never owned or used one. When I'm having trouble with a piece of music, I find that I have trouble because I don't really know the part well enough to execute it correctly. Most always it's a technique issue for me. Once that gets sorted out, usually through subdividing the rhythm, no more timing issues.

    Just my experiences.

    It should be interesting to see if this thread can go on in civilized fashion, without JB telling everyone they're wrong.
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  6. ba55i5t


    May 24, 2006
    TLDR any threads:

    Playing with a metronome is performance, not learning.
    jchrisk1 and Sneakyfish like this.
  7. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Metronomes establish tempo ... Period. Rhythm and timing are something different, and are what one does within the constraints of the tempo. I.e.; playing a syncopated Latin line over a steady tick-tock at 120 bpm.
  8. Sneakyfish


    Jan 24, 2014
    London, UK
    I rarely use one, but not too proud to admit when I need the help.

    Like the man said: The 'nome is just a good piece of reference material, it is you who do the actual learning.

    Like the man said: A metronome simply creates a metric framework.

    Good time, to me, is the ability to work within any framework (mechanical or biological) with intent and precision. But a 'nome cannot teach you that.

    I guess that it's better to have a reliable internal framework to work with. But a 'nome can't teach you that either.

    The 'nome can however, give you an example of metrically regular pulsing. And from this example it's possible to branch out into any rhythmic study with a guaranteed accuracy. The 'nome can do that.

    One real problem here is dependency I feel. People are afraid of being reliant on 'nomes. Now while I agree that you should be able to play tightly without a 'nome. You should also recognise when a 'nome is going to help you to improve your own internal time and not be too proud to switch one on.

    A "good" musician owns and carries a metronome, but is never reliant on it to play. A mature person recognises when they need help and when they can manage without.

    I question the metronome still though.
    If good time is metric regularity, then why don't I "feel a deep groove" from a 'nome or from time-aligned drums?
    Why does my musical mind switch off when i hear these things?
    If good time is metric regularity, why to people complain that Neil Peart of Rush is 'too perfect'?
    If good time is in fact an ability to control exactly how much 'drift' you play with and not mechanical regularity, then what is the metronome for? A ball park figure?
    Starla84 and red_rhino like this.
  9. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Metronome is a tool, period. If you know HOW to use it instead of fighting it, you'll gain something for sure. It's link to a musician like a carpenter with his/her hammer :p

    I should have said : the relationship between a carpenter and a ruler ;-)
    Last edited: May 14, 2018
  10. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    if you're experienced: you probably don't need an argument about the subject to influence what you already know = you use your metronome/click track as a tool to get on with the job (recording, learning, practicing, yada yada). those who claim that they have such good time that they don't need a tempo reference (now and then) simply are not playing the same things that the more experienced players are called upon to play. (a heap see, but only a few know!)

    FWIW, and just for the record: jeff berlin is jeff berlin. JB = james brown. :D
  11. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    N.B. I use the metronome any time I can. I have been doing it for decades!
    And I can not find any (!) detrimental effects to my musicianship!

    I can only (!) see this thread started by a knowledgeable musician as a troll to purposely incite “empty emotional battles” going nowhere (!), changing Nothing (!), providing Zero musical values!
    Therefore, I can only reply with sarcasm/sarcastic humor! Only!

    Nothing personal, just humor!

    If you are a playing musician and have that kind of question about the metronome, if you need some “celestial” proof about the use of the metronome, here is my answer.
    Don’t you ever touch the metronome!
    It’s baaaad! Forget about it.
    If you are playing in some school band with all those proudly exposed sheets of notes, or in any other similar (it could be unionized) band environment with all those regular asynchronous and asymmetrical ebbs and flows of other musicians - you don’t need any metronome ever.
    If you are a good gigging musician who only (still) plays in a “ebb and then flow” band - you don’t need a metronome.
    Just don’t touch or think about it!
    Also, I have noticed a rebellious offspring from the great bass player’s - J B’s anti-metronome ideology.
    “Using the metronome is good when you are a beginner, and only later you should stop using it.”
    I would like to facilitate that rebellious confusion - “make” some synthesis between JB’s , “At the beginning - don’t even think about the metronome” and “Use the metronome only at the beginning” by diplomatically suggesting the following,
    Just don’t bother with that metronome at all, just play and enjoy.
    Also, when you are a gigging musician - you don’t need to exercise any more.
    Just play and enjoy.
    Now I conclude my comic relief post.
  12. jchrisk1


    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    Funny thing, when I use my hammer, it's in time also. Whack e and a Whack e and a...
  13. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Metronomes aren't about learning time, but rather about learning technique.

    We all have good internal time, otherwise we wouldn't be attracted to music (most people walk at a steady tempo). But, if we don't know the neck, or are playing a phrase that challenges our technique, our time will suffer.

    As we learn a part we can slow down, repeat a couple notes, 'fix' mistakes, or speed up out of boredom. Now and again, I'll check myself with scales I know well to make sure I'm not going faster and faster. Or sometimes (most of my playing is in theater pit orchestras) I'll have a phrase that needs to be at a certain tempo, and I'll need to check that I can play at that speed as I practice.
  14. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Just don’t use the metronome and you will get “un-confused”.
    Once again - There’s No debate about the metronome.
    It’s only your excuse to not practice but participate in an emotional trolling thread that provides 0 Zero musical value.
    Even ten (paid for) minutes spent with Jeff Berlin is thousand times more valuable than numerous pro - metronome comments at TB!
    Have doubts about the metronome - don’t you ever use or even think about it.
    Just play and exercise, and enjoy what you are doing.
    You are a musician only when you play.
    You are a commentator when you comment.
    I truly don’t recommend playing and commenting at the same time.
    It’s up to you to choose if you want to be a musician or a commentator, but...
    There is no (great) debate about the metronome!
    Just don’t think or use one.
    It’s all about what you like/love doing and the musical requirements established either by you, your vision, your ideology and/or your gigging conditions.
    Sneakyfish likes this.
  15. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I find it strange that some people say they've never used one, but they don't need one and/or it's not helpful. It would be interesting to know how many of them actually record themselves and listen back to their playing.

    Given the significant number of people who claim that a metronome has helped them, it's just asinine to say that they aren't helpful. They might not help everyone, but they clearly help a lot of players.

    Over my 45+ years of playing I've studied with three members of the National Symphony Orchestra, two members of the President's Marine Band, attended Peabody Conservatory and North Carolina School of the Arts (not all at once :D). Every single instructor has used and had me use a metronome. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don't see any actual evidence that they aren't helpful.
  16. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I really can't summarize that argument convincingly.
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  17. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I think the confusion comes from different ideas about what "good time" means.
    Some simply think "good time" means accurate tempo (which a metronome can help diagnose)
    Some think "good time" means ...something else (whatever it is, ) which metronomes cannot teach.
  18. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    ... and you or anyone else does not need to prove anything.
    There is nothing to prove for the “true believers” and/or for the “true non-believers”.
    Find a comparison from bloody religious wars. So many religions to fight and so few religions to live in peace.
    Has anybody proved anything?
    Sneakyfish likes this.
  19. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    There is no convincing argument. There is only opinion, often put forth by those so convinced of their own awesomeness that they cannot imagine that one size does not fit all when it comes to learning.
  20. Getting in late..... I welcome some one keeping the beat for me. We have a drummer and I do rely upon John to set and maintain the basic beat. When John is not there and I am the beat master, I'm not uncomfortable with that responsibility, but, do miss the drummer's steady beat.

    I am the beat master so seldom that I do question that I'm not speeding up. No one has called me to task on this, so I hope for the best. I get the tempo from the lead vocalists and the time signature shown on the sheet music. Our music is mostly 4/4 with some 3/4 and 5/8 being used on some of the songs.

    We did play one Sunday with a metronome beat in our earbuds, it helped, but, I much prefer the drum track. Plus it was a delay changing the beat for each song...

    My point; it helps to have something to follow, however, be ready to provide that beat, if called upon.
    Last edited: May 14, 2018
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