July 2011

A Well Tempered Practice Diet - The Metronome

July 22, 2011 19:34

 I have several metronomes:  the good old fashioned Whittner, a smaller version that can fit inside my case, a small electronic  combo tuner/metronome, and the Body Beat.  I must confess though, none of them get used as often as they should.  It is either out of sheer laziness, the need to either have to readjust the tempo frequently, stop it in areas with so many tempo changes or rubato that I don't feel its worth the effort on most days.

When I do use them, I gravitate towards the old fashioned one.  I like the mechanical click over an electronic bleep any day of the week.  I also like watching the pendulum to anticipate the beat to keep the music moving forward.  The disadvantage to it though is focusing on hearing the click or watching the pendulum on pieces that I'm not familiar with.  That is when I use the Body Beat:  nothing to take away my focus from the notes.

Tonight, I pulled out a piece that I haven't worked on in ages.  At the top of the piece, my teacher at the time wrote "TEMPO!".  Remembering how I tended to either rush through triplets or drag my favorite notes too long, I decided to play it through with the old fashioned metronome going.  The piece has no rubato and only a few tempo changes, so I had no excuse.

Things were going quite well and I was becoming quite pleased with the progress I made over the years until I got to the end of the first page and noticed I was a bit behind the beat.  It was noticeable immediately.  So I stopped and played the problem measure again - no issues.  I backtracked a measure and I was behind the beat.  

After going back and forth a few times between the problem measure and the measure leading up to it, I discovered that the half note trill with a turn before the run of 16th notes was the problem.  For some strange reason, the pickup to the problem measure got me thinking in triplets instead of 16th notes.  I took out the trills and the turn, no problem.  Then I added the trill with no turn, still no problems.  When I added the turn, I was behind the beat again.  After a few minutes working the transition, I was consistently back on the beat again.

Without the metronome, I doubt I would had ever noticed the problem to begin with.  I'm still working on that first page...

3 replies


Salamat Jalan Stand Partner

July 14, 2011 19:14

Violists by nature are a very welcoming and friendly group of folks.  When there is a litany of jokes about your beloved instrument that could take hours if not days to tell, violists across the world tend to band together and form relationships that only the bass section can really compete with.

When I first moved to Houston and walked into my first orchestra rehearsal a little over two years ago, a young man with long red curly hair came up to me and welcomed me to the viola section.  Since then, we have become very close friends, stand-partners and roommates. He integrated me into the local amateur music scene quicker than I could blink and eye and soon found myself overwhelmed with the performance opportunities.  All of those opportunities helped me get over my stage fright like nothing else probably could. 

In a few weeks, my friend and stand partner will be moving out of state to complete his masters degree. He is one of the few violists I've found game to experiment with modern works such as Daughtery's Viola Zombies, Bowen's quartet for violas, and Bridge's Lament. But before we part, we have one last musical event  to do together - Interlochen.  When camp is over, on the way back he will stay in Atlanta while I continue to travel back to Houston.

I am going to miss him dearly and wish him Salamat Jalan, which is "good journey" in Malay.  

2 replies


More entries: June 2011

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