"The right note played late is now a wrong note."
Many musicians have heard a teacher or conductor make this remark, but it can't be stressed enough how important this is. Music is art made with sound operating within time. Obviously this doesn't mean that music must exclusively have a steady beat, but the difference between music and the cacophony of the universe is the deliberate placement of sound within time by a performer or group.
But enough pretense, the real topic today is why YOU should be incorporating a metronome in your practice routine. Not only is metronome practice important, but it may be beneficial to use a dedicated metronome instead of a smartphone or tablet app.
Here are three of the biggest benefits from utilizing metronomes in your practice:
- Improved Accuracy: Even if you've been told you have "great timing" and "natural rhythm" it is still something you should always measure and improve. You would never try to build a carpentry project without a tape measure and say, "It will be fine, I can just eyeball it." If you want your internal sense of time to improve, you have to train it.
- Cleaner Subdivisions: Many newer metronomes have functions to turn on and off different subdivisions of note values, even allowing you to hear only the inner parts of the measure. You can truly elevate your metronome game and your internal sense of timing by practicing with silent downbeats and force your ear to not rely on the obvious "1".
- Efficient Tempo Practice: If a piece of music has a numbered tempo marking, why on earth wouldn't you practice with a metronome? More importantly, if you are trying to gradually work on getting a section up to performance tempo, you should work at documented increases of the tempo so you know where your progress is headed. If you go to the gym and lift but don't track the weight or reps, how do you know what you are doing?
Smartphone and tablets can provide cheap or free metronome apps; so you're already set to succeed, right? Not necessarily! Consider the reality of good practice behavior with your phone in reach, or the potential for random notifications during a productive session. A dedicated metronome provides benefits to your discipline and focus during musical practice.
- Convenient: Small, portable metronomes can easily be kept in your instrument case or music portfolio.
- Easy-To-Use: Simple button layouts provide a super fast learning curve to get on with making music.
- Single Purpose: No ads, no paywalls, no notifications from your email or social media, no requests for app store reviews! Stay focused and get better results from your practice with the help of a metronome.
However you choose to measure your improvement, a metronome is an indispensable tool for any musician (not just drummers).