I love tools! Tools allow a musician to build their talent base and sound better. There are many tools we can learn to use that will make you a better musician when you use them the right way. A metronome is one of them.
The metronome is a small box that gives you the beat or tempo for a song. If a song has a listed tempo or speed, a metronome will tell you how fast the song is to be played. Often, this tempo will need to be worked towards, practicing at slower tempos and eventually reaching the desired tempo.
A metronome can be an invaluable tool for practice for any musician.
The idea is to start off at a tempo that you can play the song or selection at, and then slowly move the tempo faster to get it up to the intended speed, but the key word is slowly.
Too many musicians attempt to speed up to tempo in a few minutes, but often a difficult passage can take weeks to move up, if done correctly. The idea is to teach your fingers where they need to go first. That's what you do when you are practicing. You are teaching your fingers what the sequence of notes is. You also need to remember good finger technique and stay close, without hammering the keys so the sound remains smooth and musical.
A metronome can really assist in learning difficult passages of music, but also helps when preparing for performance of any song.
I have seen students play fast through the "boring" parts and then slow down, way below tempo, for the hard parts, and actually think they just practiced the song. What they did was practice playing music with NO meter or tempo. They actually hurt themselves more than helped themselves by making permanent, bad counting.
Timing is an important part of music too. Think about this: You can play all the right notes, but if you play them at the wrong time, it sounds like you played all wrong notes.
My favorite metronome is the Korg KDM-2 digital, long battery life, loud with volume control, good visual tempo lights on top and tap in tempo options. Korg thought the KDM-2 through nicely, and this metronome has all the features you will really ever need.
Another favorite is the small Seiko DM50L metronome. I love the compact size and ability to clip it to a music stand so it can be heard and seen right where you need it to be. If you need to move your music supplies around a lot when rehearsing, this little metronome might work better for your needs.
There are a number of inexpensive little metronomes available today and the important features are pretty basic. Can you read it and see it? Is it really easy to use? I like volume control on the audible click with the option of loud, because a saxophone is pretty loud. I really appreciate the blinking light option and prefer it to be colored and bright to see.
Beyond that, the extras just cover more bases and make the metronome more useful in a greater variety of musical settings. The bottom line is: timing matters—tempo is important! A metronome can be a very helpful tool in learning new music, working on difficult musical passages, and preparation for performance of your music.
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Los Angeles based freelance saxophonist Greg Vail is among the most versatile woodwind players on the west coast. His work in jazz, pop and contemporary gospel music spans over 30-years. Greg maintains an active digital presence at www.gregvail.com.
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