What Does Jeff Berlin Have Against Metronomes?

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

  1. PhatBasstard

    PhatBasstard Spector Dissector Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2002
    Las Vegas, NV.
    Another proponent for the "Dumbing Down of America" as it were.
    Why learn how to add 2 + 2 ?
    We have calculators now!!!
    :scowl: :scowl: :rollno: :meh:
  2. PhatBasstard

    PhatBasstard Spector Dissector Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2002
    Las Vegas, NV.
    Not quite a bullseye,
    but more on point than most. ;)
  3. Tomass


    Nov 1, 2005
    what ever happened to tapping the foot, use ur bodys inbuilt metronome. I still tap even if there is a drummer around
  4. Garry Goodman

    Garry Goodman

    Feb 26, 2003

    Maybe it was the wind up type? If you don't validate your time with an electronic metronome, you are just guessing. I took an intense course that took me two years to learn how to use, interact with and learn to love a metronome.
    I haven't read what he said, but if you do not learn how to properly interact with a metronome, you can never truly have solid time, record with a click track,play with a drum machine or create "the pocket" with other musicians.

    You need to play every rhythmic figure at every metronome marking to truly play it perfectly. I will glad sit down with Jeff or anyone and demonstrate how indispensible an electronic metronome is to knowing how to "play in the pocket" and create the "magic carpet" and the endless
    groove. The metronome also helps you to learn how to feel space, such as whole notes at 40 bpm and rests.

    i can't imagine anyone not using a metronome unless they haven't learned how to use it. As usual, just my opinion.
  5. PhatBasstard

    PhatBasstard Spector Dissector Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2002
    Las Vegas, NV.
    Hi Garry,
    Great respect for you and your playing, and although I don't totally agree or disagree with what you've said here, you (like many others here) are still missing Berlin's point.

    Trying to learn a new (and presumably challenging) piece of music "in time" with a metronome is counter productive to "getting it under your fingers" first.

    I don't think practicing/learning how to groove "in time" (i.e. playing a groove you can already play) is his problem with a metronome (although Jeff is not big on practicing things you can already play anyway ;) ).
  6. Garry Goodman

    Garry Goodman

    Feb 26, 2003
    I feel that when we play anything in "real time" , a click is a must. That includes improv and playing things perhaps we've never played before. I see the point in your post. But why would anyone trying to work out fingering or any other non-real time process turn on a metronome to begin with?
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    The way I read it - Jeff Berlin is saying that the metronome can be a reference - but it's not going to give you good time and enable you to play with others - which is the overall aim , especially in Jazz.

    There are other ways to internalise good time and I have encountered many of these at Jazz Summerschool - I suppose Jeff is saying that it's better to spend time on these, rather than just having that metronome as some kind of "crutch" , which when taken away (as it will be when you play live) could just mean you fall over, if you have no strategies for drawing on an internal sense of time!
  8. That's the way I interpret what he is saying also, and it makes sense to me. Also, Jeff tends to enjoy being controversial from other things I've read, and from some of the things I've heard him say at clinics, so I'm sure part of his reason for the tone of that article was to generate this type of discussion in the bass playing community!
  9. Garry Goodman

    Garry Goodman

    Feb 26, 2003
    I see your point here. Crutch....I don't get that part. The courses I took were developed by Chic Corea and Jamie Faunt. The idea of using a digital clock source such as an electronic metronome, is to allow you to learn to include that click in your awareness as you play. In order to play with the metronome, you have to pay attention to it, listen to it and consider it as you create what you are playing.

    Certainty with rhythm and time depends on how the player creates them.
    A pocket is created out of mutual agreement and playing rhythms accurately requires you play them in time. The metronome itself is innocent, it is how we interact with it that helps us play well. You can't do push ups without the ground underneath you.

    How can one learn to create triplets evenly without having a " measuring stick" to keep things on track. Once you have created 3 minutes of perfectly even triplets, you can play them without the metronome.

    It is a valuable tool, not a crutch. You interact with it,and once you can do that,you can play with anyone and know you have an excellent sense of time. As a producer, I will hire a player who can play with a click over one that hasn't learned to play with one.
    31HZ likes this.
  10. +1 Gary... remember... based on the thread originators question, we are trying to interpret why Jeff doesn't like the metronome as a tool. While I understand what he's saying, and it makes a certain amount of sense to me, that doesn't mean I agree with it:D

    Again, from remembering Jeff's columns in Bass Player a number of years ago, and from sitting through one of his clinics (where at half way through I wasn't sure if I wanted to worship him or punch him in the nose:D ), I think he loves to be controversial and 'shake things up' in the education community. What better way to generate buzz for his approach than taking on the holy grails of practicing.... 'learning a figure slow first and then speed up', 'practice with a metronome', 'learn to read music'. At some point or another, I remember Jeff disagreeing with all of those!

  11. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    The current ad doesn't phrase it like he did years ago, which was don't practice with a metronome untill you've got it under your fingers.

    The current ad says "stay away from metronomes" and "don't let your teacher fool you into practicing with a metronome", which is complete BS in my opinion. How will you learn to play in time if you don't practice in time?
  12. PhatBasstard

    PhatBasstard Spector Dissector Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2002
    Las Vegas, NV.
    I think that is exactly his point.
    But we all know there are players out there who try to learn things "up to speed", screw up because they can't finger it properly yet, get frustrated, start over. Again and again and again.

    And Pacman is correct. His quote is not worded in the same way as it was in interviews of the past, however, this could be as much the ad agency that put this together as Berlin himself.
  13. Loads of good points for and against here - and for the record I have increasingly found a great respect for JB's playing - he is awesome and a great musician. One thing that amazed me was that a great British bassist - Mike Mondesir - who I took a lesson with earlier this year, said he'd like to get together with JB for him to assess his playing - and point out his weaknesses etc - Mike has played with Jan Hammer, John McLaughlin and Whitney Houston among many others - so JB obviously has massive respect among his peers - and Mike's timing is incredible - so there you go.

    All I would say is I would agree that you should try and internalise your time and not rely on anything other than yourself for it - my ultimate example of this would be seeing Michael Brecker play a completely 'solo' sax gig a couple of years ago at Cheltenham Jazz festival. Even though it was a bit hard going with just the sax, not once did you feel like he lost the pulse - the timing was all implied through accents in the phrases he played etc - you could still feel / hear the time in the silences he left.

    One of the best things I think you can try with a metronome is playing a walking line but the the beat accenting the 2 and 4 in the bar - if you haven't already tried this it's bloody hard. It's also less about playing stuff perfectly 'in time' but more about getting your bass lines and solos to swing. Another good one as already mentioned is slowing the beat right down so you just accent either the 1, 2, 3, or 4 in a bar - again internalising more and more your own sense of timing.

    I did a jazz gig recently and I hate it when the whole band stops on the bass solo - but they did anyway...and so I was left to play on my own and so I sang all my lines just to keep the continuity of phrasing and time there - and it worked - but I really do prefer having some 'noises' to play off ;)

    I'll also add that when you're in the studio playing to a click is not uncommon - so actually getting used to playing to a metronomic beat is actually a skill in itself - I agree that trying to play stuff in time before you know the notes is counterproductive - but then again once you know them, playing them at different 'strict' tempos is bound to push you in other directions - as someone said earlier - life is not all black and white - there are many shades of grey - just do whatever works for you.


  14. That's not his point. At best, it's a side-note to his point.

    I was around here when this came up in Jeff's forum (over and over again). His claim was that a metronome cannot help one improve their sense of time. Period. He has many arguments against metronomes. He claimed he could even prove that metronomes can't help you improve your time. However, he would never fess up to as to what that proof was. You had to go to one of his clinics. I wrote numerous responses to his posts in his forum rebutting his arguments against metronomes, tablature (though I conceded some of his arguments), extended range basses and fretless basses. He never responded to a single one of my posts. I wish his forum was archived.

    I was a big fan of Jeff's music ever since I first heard him. He was one of my inspirations to play Bach (in a Guitar Player article where he actually does say to play it with a metronome).

    After hearing some of the crap he said in his forum and elsewhere, I lost my respect for him (as have many). To tell people not to use metronomes at all for anything is irresponsible and wrong.

    Believing everything Jeff says because he is an authority in music is a fallacy. Even the most brilliant people sometimes have views that are wrong.

    I don't think anybody ever claimed that one should use a metronome when learning a new piece. However, there are numerous exercise books that can and should be played with a metronome.

    Additionally, being able to play well with a metronome will not necessarily make you play like one. It will make you play better at whatever time you do play in though.

    - Dave
  15. I'm not sure who ever said in the first place that a person needed to use a metronome while working out a new piece. I've never read it or heard it yet is appears to be one of the major arguments (a straw man argument, at that) against metronomes.

    I think that there are plenty of exercises and simpler pieces that can be sight-read with a metronome. If one can learn a new piece with a metronome, more power to them. I don't think that anyone is saying they have to use one.

    I never use one when working out new pieces. I rarely even use them when practicing my pieces. However, I know that in cases when I did practice them with a metronome, I noticed a significant improvement in my playing. I really need to use a metronome more. It's not always fun to use a metronome and many beginning students are turned off to them as I originally was. It was only after getting rejected at numerous auditions because my time wasn't so good that I realized that I needed to do something. I eventually did and now I have a band with one of the best drummers in the Bay Area.

    Anyway, the last thing a beginning bassist needs to hear is someone telling them not to use a metronome. It's among the more ridiculous things I've heard about music.

    Haha. Nice.

    You have to know the rules before you can break them. Same goes for time.

    - Dave
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I was around at the same time and although I can't remember all the details, I was definitely on Jeff's "side" in this infamous argument.

    However, I think it all centres around the sentence of yours, I have quoted.

    I don't believe this is exactly what Jeff was saying - so I am pretty sure it was : a metronome can't give you good time.

    So I think this (version of the statement) is true and more and more Jazz educators in the UK are coming round to this point of view - i.e. it's not enough to point students to a metronome, say : "practice with this" and let them get on with it!

    So in the last few weeks I was at a Jazz Summerschool run by many of the best Jazz pros in the UK - in fact the course leader won the award for services to UK Jazz education, this year.

    So - each day for two weeks, the course started with a warm-up which was basically about getting an internal sense of time and how to agree that with a group of people - how to feel a pulse.

    OK - if you are playing solo pieces all the time - this might not come up - but for the majority of bass players it is much more important to feel a common pulse and work with other people to make great music - rather than saying - you're all wrong - this is what my metronome tells me....

    Anyway - the feeling I get from Jazz educators is that time comes from within and is agreed collectively - a metronome can be a reference - but is not going to give anybody a good sense of time - this is down to you and how you work on it.
  17. I used pretty much the exact phrasing "a metronome cannot help one improve their sense of time" in his forum describing his position. If that's not what he meant, he had numerous opportunities to correct me. He never did. Nor did he ever address any of the arguments I made that supported my stance that regular practice with a metronome can help improve one's sense of time. Which, is the primary reason to use a metronome when practicing.

    If anybody can find a single other music teacher that believes what Jeff believes about metronomes, I'd like to know. So far, Jeff is the only music teacher I've ever heard tell people not to use a metronome.

    Besides, as I've said many times in the past, it's easy enough to prove whether or not metronomes can help improve your time. Time can be measured. Players can be recorded playing before and after practicing with a metronome and their timing compared. I've done it. I know for a fact that when I've been practicing with a metronome that my timing improves.

    - Dave
  18. Well, unfortunately, most people don't have an ensemble of musicians to practice their scales with to develop a good sense of time with them.

    Developing a sense of time with other musicians is a different discipline anyway. Certainly, practicing with a metronome can help by teaching the player how to listen to an external time reference. That's partially what it's about anyway, how to listen. After a while, not only does one's natural sense of time improve but their ability to listen to others when playing also improves.

    I think the facts still stand and are easily proveable. When used correctly and regularly, practicing with a metronome will help most people improve their sense of time and their ability to keep in time with others. Until I heard Jeff's views, I thought this was all common and agreed upon knowledge.

    - Dave
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well this is one of the reasons, I really like going to Jazz Summerschool; as a lot of my preconceptions are challenged and in a practical way, that has an impact on playing with other people - which is what I'm really interested in! :)

    I'm always finding new approaches and ideas and when you have the chance to test these and interact with people, it's really different to just reading about stuff in books or on forums like this.
  20. maybe it was all those Bruford albums he played on in his early days. No metronome could cope with that. But I am sure he did some internal counting.
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