"Let's try doing this in time, a little more evenly," I said to my seven-year-old student as I removed the lid of the metronome and flipped the arm into motion.
I started explaining what to do next: play the note on every other beat, with a beat of rest in between. Slightly complicated, but this little one was already a pretty adept musician, from a family of musicians, so I was pretty sure she'd understand. I took another breath to explain more, when I noticed that she was no longer listening.
"I...I thought it was just a decoration," she stammered, staring at metronome. Tick. Tick. Tick...
Ah, my big, old-fashioned mechanical metronome. I didn't realize that this fairly new student of mine had not seen it in motion yet. And apparently, she'd never seen a mechanical metronome, ever!
"I didn't know it was some kind of a machine," she continued, wide eyes still fixed on the swinging arm, "a machine that - how does it work?"
Okay change of plans, my little "play on the beat" lesson was not going to happen at this very moment, for sure!
I explained to her that the metronome keeps an even beat. First you wind it up, then the weight on the arm of the metronome helps keep it in motion. I placed the weight low on the arm, to show her how fast it can tick. Then I placed it has high is it could go, to show her how slow it could beat. I even demonstrated my particular Wittner metronome's crazy bell, which gives a startling DING every set number of beats when you activate it.
Of course, there's an app for all that, as well as countless varieties of electronic and battery-run metronomes that will fit right in your case.
But for elegance of design, connection to history, and even dependability -- I'll take the big, old-fashioned metronome any day. When the batteries run out, the electricity goes off and the Internet goes down, that little wooden box will keep ticking!
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