Why Use A Metronome?
Using a metronome to keep the beat while you practice can benefit your playing in many ways. The most important reason is that its always right. Musicians, even the best musicians, playing alone or in ensembles, vary in tempo while they play.
While its often stylistcially acceptable in performance, most practice should be done in strict time. It ensures equal ability in multiple topics all over the horn. This article outlines some things you can do with a metronome while practicing to make you a better musician.
Practice at a Tempo Out of your Comfort Zone
Good listening skills are something musicians strive for their whole careers. Adapting to others’ tempo is an important part of ear training. Playing faster or slower than you normally do will teach you to listen and adapt to what others are doing. In this case, it’s a machine you are adapting to, but these skills translate well to ensemble playing, and especially following section leaders.
Set the Metronome to NOT Play on Every Beat
Get bored quickly with metronome practice? This is an easy way to mix things up, and test that you are maintaing your tempo without having to rely on a machine to keep the beat.
Jazz musicians, try to practice with the beat on 2 and 4, which is where the hi-hats would be in a swing beat. Do this for your scales and etudes, not just when practicing a tune. Classical musicians can try the metronome only on beat 1. Practice the same topic over and over with the metronome on random beat settings to keep you on your toes.
Use the Metronome to Help you Gain Speed
Brass musicians can especially benefit from metronome use when doing tonguing and lip slurring excercises. Try to go through your normal etude books, one excercise or page at a time, gradually increasing the tempo. It takes some serious practice time, but the result is well worth the effort. I write the tempo and date directly in the book to keep track of them. Tech savvy musicians can keep a spreadsheet of the excercise and tempo as they go along.
Try A Different Metronome
Lastly, find a metronome that works well for you. There are countless free apps for cell phones, computers, and other devices that give you great features and a variety of sounds to choose. There are also many sites online that have free metronomes or drum loops at any tempo.