Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to talk about two essential tools that every musician should utilize. You practice hard to improve your playing. Is there any device that can help you with your practicing? There are two tools that are absolutely essential, and I’m sure you’re already familiar with them. But I’m going to tell you how you can make the best use of them.
The first tool is the Mighty Metronome!
Love it or hate it, the metronome really is essential in your practice. Why is the metronome so important? You might think that if you have a good sense of rhythm, you don’t need a metronome anymore. Maybe you even practice while tapping your foot, so you think you’ve got it covered. First of all, on the piano, you need to use your feet for the pedals. Not only that, but tapping your foot is distracting for the audience. Now, there are certain styles of music where tapping your foot is accepted and maybe even beneficial. In hard-driving jazz, you’ll see great players tapping their feet because it’s such highly energetic, rhythmically oriented music. But in classical music, this really takes away from the experience. Also, you want to have an internal clock. There are also nuances of tempo such as the use of rubato.
The metronome can help you get particularly difficult passages up to speed.
If you have a tough section and you want to get it up to speed, working with the metronome doing progressively faster metronome speeds is a great technique. You can also use the metronome to check your work to make sure you’re playing everything at the same speed. Maybe you worked really hard on a difficult passage that you never could get fast enough, but you don’t even realize that now you are overcompensating. Now you’re playing that section faster than the rest of the piece! None of us has a perfect clock in our heads. This is why the metronome is absolutely essential.
Is it better to use a physical metronome or an app on your phone?
Metronome apps are great in some respects, although there are some that default to having an accented beat. I have a pet peeve about these accented beats. Why? First of all, it’s completely unnecessary. If you don’t know where the first beat of the measure is, you better check your score! But worse than that, it wastes your practice time because you have to wait for the accented beat every time you start playing. So find an app that doesn’t have an accented beat, or one that can be turned off. A little hack you can use if your metronome doesn’t have that feature is to set your time signature with the top number being one. If you’re in 1/4 or 1/8, every beat will be accented because there is only one beat in each measure. Metronome apps can go slower and faster than an old-school metronome. But you generally never need to go below 42 or above 208. If you need it to be faster, you can just set the metronome at half the speed and achieve the same thing. There is one benefit to using a metronome app, which is that you can tap in the tempo. This is valuable for quickly setting the proper speed on your metronome.
When practicing using progressively faster metronome speeds, a physical metronome has a major advantage.
Digital metronomes always seem to have all the numbers. So if you’re at 60, the next number is 61, then 62, 63, etc. On physical metronomes, they go from 60, 63, 66, to 69, etc. And most importantly, if you’re at 120, it doesn’t go to 123; it goes to 126, which is double 63. So it’s progressive in a logical fashion. If anyone knows of a metronome app that has the real speeds of a physical metronome, let us know in the comments here at LivingPianos.com and YouTube!
The second tool that is essential for musicians is an audio or video recording device.
If you’ve never recorded yourself playing your instrument, you owe it to yourself. You will learn so much! Think about the first time you ever recorded yourself talking; it probably sounded strange when you listened back. Well, guess what? When you hear a recording of yourself playing the piano, you will learn so much about the way you sound. I was talking to one of my students the other day. I told him to exaggerate the dynamics because, when you are playing, you are only two feet from the piano. You don’t hear it the same way a listener in the room is going to hear it. So he played for his girlfriend and exaggerated the dynamics to the point that he thought it was grotesque, but she said it sounded absolutely beautiful. So you could put your recording device across the room to hear what your playing sounds like to somebody listening to you.
Recording yourself is a great way to practice performing, because the first time you play for people, you may get nervous.
Recording yourself gives you a little try out before performing for an audience. You can listen back, and with a pencil, you can mark places on the score the sections you need to work on. You will be amazed at how much perspective this gives you!
So these are the two indispensable devices for musicians: the recorder and the metronome. I hope this has been helpful for you! Let me know your thoughts about these tools in the comments here at LivingPianos.com and YouTube. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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For premium videos and exclusive content, you can join my Living Pianos Patreon channel! www.Patreon.com/RobertEstrinContact me if you are interested in private lessons. I have many resources for you! Robert@LivingPianos.com