What Does Jeff Berlin Have Against Metronomes?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jasper383, Jul 27, 2006.

  1. tbone0813

    tbone0813 The faithless say farewell when the road darkens.

    Aug 6, 2005
    Grand Prairie, TX.
    I read an article with Jeff in Bassics where he said Americans are getting too lazy, and that he essentially despises metronomes. My instructor has me practicing with drum sequences through Acid Pro & Stylus RMX. I use a different style each time I practice (i.e. samba, swing, rock, etc...). He really doesn't want me using a metronome, but I cheat sometimes. I say use what helps you get better. That's the goal anyway, right? :cool:
  2. steve66


    Sep 17, 2005
    South Florida
    Just like everything you read. Take what you can get from it. Jeff Berlin has some serious credibility and he is a awesome musician. He is entitled to his opinion and it may be 100% true.

    When I was studying music in college in the 1980's, my percussion teacher told me, "Dont get caught up in the metronome (click track).". It will ruin you". Then I pointed to the metronome sitting on his desk!. It is only important to know for example what 60, 80, 100, 120 beats per minute sounds like. I didnt know what he was taking about. When he started clapping 60 BPM with his hands, then it came to me. I set my metronome to 60 bpm and just clapped and clapped, until I knew what 60 bpm sounded like. About a week later of just clapping practice, I was able to apply this to the drumset. I counted off 1 bar of 4/4 and we recorded the drums for 16 measures. We then looked to see what how my timing was. When we sync'd my beat with a preset beat, I was playing at an average of 60 bpm. Eventually, he told me to stop using the click track metronome and start using an old fashioned swing arm one like the one on his desk. Since I knew what 60 bpm sounded like, I didnt need to focus on hearing the click. He also expained with the swing arm metronome, you see the arm swing which is really the time, you know its there but tend to focus on it alot less.

    Maybe Jeff was tryng to get that message across.
    31HZ likes this.
  3. John Webb

    John Webb Guest

    Apr 20, 2006
    ..........it's that incessant ticking...........
  4. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    There are lots of aids, machines, tools etc. available to all of us. Why then are some players clearly more accomplished?
    IMO it's because a tool do not replace raw talent and the work ethic it takes to develop that talent. A metronome provides an absolute source of even time. It doesn't lie, it makes no judgements, it doesn't swing, it doesn't groove. It allows you to make judgements about all of these things as they pertain to your own playing. Music is not a machine or a computer or a tuner, it's an human artistic expression. Tools can help you develop certain aspects of your musical palet but in the end you, and only you, teach yourself through your decisions and choices and the time you devote to this endevour.

    Use what ever works for you with all due respect to Jeff Berlin. Jeff does!
  5. spindizzy


    Apr 12, 2004
    Triple +1 for Dbassmon!
  6. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    IMHO, using a metronome is a multi-step process:

    It's a good idea to learn new tunes and work out new lines without a metronome BECAUSE the process involves a lot of stop and start; it doesn't matter what the tempo is, or whether I can maintain a consistent beat if I haven't yet figured out the note choices and fingerings.

    After I've picked apart the rudiments of a progression, phrase, song-segment, lick, etc., I like to play it s-l-o-w-l-y and deliberately in order to help assure that when it's time to play it at tempo, I am able to play as musically as possible.

    It is only after I have reached this point that I employ a metronome - and I start by playing at a slow and consistent tempo (for reasons cited above) before playing full speed.

    If nothing else (as a guitar player eluded to in an earlier post), playing with a metronome get's you used to listening to something other than yourself - which is absolutely essential when playing with others.

    A metronome is a useful tool if you have your brain wrapped around the core concepts involving its use. But, it can be more of a hindrance than a help if you don't have a well-thought-out strategy for its use.
  7. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    That's pretty ludicrous, IMO. There's nothing that tuning with your ear will give you that tuning with a tuner won't, except maybe a poorly tuned instrument. It's as much a fundamental skill as the ability to read a sundial is fundamental to knowing what time it is; technology has moved past that and it is no longer a fundamental. Not to mention you need a quiet room or a bored audience if you want to tune by ear.

    He shouldn't be so vocally decisive when deciding what a fundamental of music should be if his ideas of fundamentals don't account for modern technology. It used to be a fundamental to know which leaves to pick out so we wouldn't get poison ivy when wiping our rear ends, but I'm sure Mr. Berlin goes for the Charmin just like the rest of us do.
  8. PhatBasstard

    PhatBasstard Spector Dissector Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2002
    Las Vegas, NV.
    For one, I've always seemed to have heard/felt time/meter discrepancies like a person with "perfect pitch" hears even minor pitch discrepancies. Even on classic recordings that were later revealed (in interviews) not to be recorded with a click, with drummers considered to be tops in the field.

    Two, over 29 years of pro playing, I keep getting told this from players (some even famous-I'll name a few names if you like) that are much better musicians than I will ever be.

    Three, I never seem to have any trouble playing live or laying down tracks in the studio even if there is no drum track and/or I don't have a click (to the relative amazment of many a engineer, artist or producer) .

    Four, when I sit in on drums (my former instrument...which I've lost most of my chops for :eyebrow: ) at various jams, I've earned the nickname "The Machine" (not for chops.....probably not for groove either :help:) for this very reason. Many, many players tell me my time/meter is "unshakable".

    I believe everybody is born with this ability (like "perfect pitch") to a certain level and I have simply been blessed with a high level of it. I remember hearing/feeling this when listening to music as a child before ever picking up an instrument seriously.

    I also believe you can improve this ability to a certain point by practicing with time keeping devices (with stuff you can already play, of course). Much like ear training to develop better "relative pitch".
    31HZ likes this.
  9. PhatBasstard

    PhatBasstard Spector Dissector Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2002
    Las Vegas, NV.
    Totally disagree.

    His point was that the electronic tuner has become such a crutch to so many young players that they can't tune by ear.

    I use an electronic tuner for convenience, onstage for a quick mid-song check, and for intonating my instruments when performing setups.

    I, however, can tune by ear (quite well thank you :smug: ) in the event I don't have a tuner available.

    That's the point.
    31HZ likes this.
  10. jim777

    jim777 Tarantula Lobbyist

    Aug 7, 2006
    South Jersey
    I learned to play without tuners and metronomes, and back then metronome money would have meant new strings as well. Now I have a tuner in a pedal, and it's certainly convenient for when I'm playing plugged in, but I wouldn't use it otherwise.
    I also now have an Alesis drum machine which is a load of fun to play with, so while not a metronome it is certainly metronome like. Great fun to play with that, and a synth or two playing some sequences of chords. So, like the general feeling seems to be, I didn't rely on tuners or metronomes when I started playing in the early 70's, but they're convenient when your old band mates live far away and the kids are asleep!

    Hey Jerry Peek! You Rock, nice to see you here. I remember that Pilot 5 string with tremolo you used to play in the The Steve Morse Band, those were fine basses.


  11. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Yes, and that point is completely moot now since technology has made it faster and more accurate to tune a different way. It's no more a crutch than a grocery store is a crutch to so many people because they can't fashion their own spears and hunt their food themselves.

    Perhaps his point behind not using electric tuners is a backwards way of teaching you to tell if your intonation is correct or not. Being able to hear if you're sharp or flat is a useful skill- necessary in many cases- but certainly not one that can only be earned through tuning your instrument by ear. Using a tuner to get an accurate tuning will give you a much better reference point from the get-go as a mean of teaching what is and is not flat or sharp. And once you have the ability to tell if you're flat or not, there's still no advantage to tuning by ear unless your gig bag doesn't have room for a tiny metal box.
  12. s.m.80808


    May 5, 2006

    I actually agree with phatbastard on this just because I have been in situations with people who could not tune by ear and didn't have their tuner handy.

    It isn't bad to use a tuner, but tuning by ear does help develop your ear. If anything, I tune to a reference note. But for doing intonation and such a digital tuner is a great tool.

    Being able to tune to a stable reference pitch is a valuable thing, especially if you want to transcribe music and have to tune up or down a few cents to match or if you have to play with a pianist who is playing on a piano that hasn't been tuned for a while or if one string went out of tune in the middle of a song and u need to make a quick adjustment or etc etc. Relying solely on a tuner would make these things a lot harder.
  13. PhatBasstard

    PhatBasstard Spector Dissector Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2002
    Las Vegas, NV.
    Wow. You're really pushing the envelope with these "analogies" of yours. You should go into politics.

    If the store is closed, you're not socially looked down upon for not having your "spear" at the ready.

    However, if you forget your tuner at home and can't tune for the gig without it...
    ...that's just sad.

    And that is the point.

    How's your ear Bryan? :smug:
  14. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    If you find it sad and look down on a musician who can't tune his instrument without a tuner, that's great for you. I'm sure there are classical musicians who look down on you for needing amplifiers and cords in order to play your instrument for others to hear You obviously didn't understood my grocery store analogy- the point was that we have grown accustomed to that modern technology and we are not looked down upon for relying on it. It being closed for a day would have nothing to do with the analogy because it was based on how we rely on it for modern existence and it is not considered a crutch. People get it in their heads that what they consider a basic skill is the right way, forgetting that every generation that has passed before had another set of what they considered basic skills that time and technology has rendered defunct.

    My ear's fine by the way, not that that has anything to do with the subject.
  15. west*coast*bass

    west*coast*bass Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2003
    Agoura Hills, CA
    Jeff Berlin is, simply put, a man with an opinion. He is not the leader of all things bass. He is a player and a teacher, period. His opinions differ from hundreds of other teachers out there, why is his opinion so well regarded?

    I have read many articles written by Jeff Berlin and I can agree with some and not others. Just the same, I can agree with PhatB and Bryan at the same time. We should know how to tune up without an aid just in case we need to, but we also should take advantage of all the technology there is out there to lend a hand. If using a metronome helps some players hone in their "time", what is the harm? Yes, some have it and some don't, a metronome won't cure bad time and it won't hurt good time.

    A tuner, however, can cure all that ails an audience...
  16. Haha. That he does.

    He used to have a forum here but started a big flamewar against him when he made some kind of claim that he was the first to record slap bass or something like that. I think he basically just quit TalkBass and erased his whole forum with all of my well-thought-out rebuttals to his numerous controversial claims.

    His stance on metronomes is bunk. We should all be practicing with them.

    - Dave
  17. There is a very good reason to learn new pieces with a metronome. That is; if you ever want to have a snowball's chance of becoming a pro session bassist, you need to be accustomed to being handed a chart and a click and being told to play it. That will happen someday and the player that comes through it without choking will be more likely to be hired back than the guy who complains that Jeff Berlin told him not to learn with a metronome.

    That's not to say that one has to always learn new pieces with a metronome but one should do so where possible.

    That's also not to say that I do it. I just know that if I had the discipline, I would.

    - Dave
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I was just at Jazz Summerschool for two weeks recently and every morning there was a "warm-up" session for all players , which was run by Dave Hassell, who is a great percussionist/Jazz pro, who has studied all types of percussion cultures.

    Basically, the sessions were all about developing your own inner sense of time - without any external aids - doing things like controlling your breathing - but also feeling that time, across the whole group of people.

    So obviously, there is the point that you realise that it is possible for a large group of people to feel the same time - but also realise that that time breathes - so you have to play together and hear the pulse of the music.

    In these sessions, we subdivided the beat and felt where every beat was, in say a bar of 10/4 - but this was easy when doing it as a group, feeling the pulse naturally and subdividing it by using your breathing - very difficult to describe or get across in words - you just have to do it...?

    I think this is the kind of thing that would be very difficult if you used a metronome on your own - also, the idea of Jazz (any music really?) is to play together - not say - well you're off and I'm sticking to this mechanical beat...?
  19. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Hmmmm... if i forget my tuner then i tune off the guitarists g string.

    if there is a keyboard/piano player, i tune off the keys, not off the tuner.

    who the hell cares how you tune your bass? what good is all of this nonsense of someone plays like complete crap?:confused:

    grow up.
  20. PhatBasstard

    PhatBasstard Spector Dissector Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2002
    Las Vegas, NV.
    Not the same thing.
    Being called to come in and be creative on your instrument or read down something (both probably well within your established playing ability already...and there may not be a click anyway) on a "session" is not the same as trying to learn something that may be currently beyond your playing ability, say a Bach Cello Suite. Wasting time trying to play it in time with a metronome right away when you should be worrying about "getting it under your fingers" first.

    That's the point.

    Still too many "apples and oranges" analogies on this subject.
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