Meri’s Musical Musings

Learning to Embrace, and even love, the metronome

Posted on: November 5, 2015

I admit, I used to hate, despise, and avoid using the metronome as much as possible. But in recent years, I have learned to love and embrace it.

With some of the repertoire I am doing for recitals and some orchestral excerpts, a metronome has proven to be an absolute necessity to play the rhythms correctly and with correct tempos (one orchestral excerpt I discovered I was playing it way too fast!), especially since some of those pieces have quite a variety of time signatures.

For example, take the clarinet alone movement of Quartet for the End of Time, the L’abime d’oiseaux movement. A significant portion of it is eighth note = 44 beats per minute. However, within those sections, there are quite a few off-beat, syncopated, sixteenth notes. To learn the correct timing of all the notes in this super slow section, I set the metronome to sixteenth note = 88.

The orchestral execerpts of Stravinsky mix time signatures a lot, especially Le Sacre du Printemps. I set the metronome beats at the beat being generally the shortest note value in the music at a slow to very slow tempo.

Another way I use the metronome that I have learned to love is to correct bad habits in playing technical elements over the years of playing instruments on both clarinet and piano. With a Scales practice helper app on my smartphone, the paid version, since I need 3 octaves for some scales on clarinet and 4 on piano, with the free version only covering 2 octaves, I have improved my scales and other technical skills significantly over the past few months. They’re not near the point as to how well I could play them in a rigourous music program in my high school music program, but I see progress at least weekly.

Finally, I have learned to love the metronome in playing modal passages, and passages that are not quite fully the expected pattern, such as in Saint-Saens’ Clarinet Sonata, 4th movement which he sometimes inserts a minor third in the middle of a chromatic scale, or Alexander Borodin in Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor, particularly near the end which he ends the sequence of chromatic scales with a series of major seconds, not the minor seconds as would be in a normal chromatic scale.

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  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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