A metronome is a clock, but is basically useless until students learn how to count.

As a piano teacher I have great experience with counting, and many would doubt that it is right at the core of music of almost any description. Ask yourself, what is the thing that gives movement to melody, that gives coordination to harmony--usually the right hand and the left hand, respectively.

I tell my older students music is timed durations of sound and silence, and the way to time them is by counting--to become one's own clock. In my own history, I never really liked to use the metronome, because se it never seemed to work: when I used it the beat was never steady; it would always speed up or slow down, and, as a student, I never understood.

As a teacher, the answer is quite clear: it was not the metronome that was changing tempo, it was me!

Until one's own clock works--until one can count, out loud, realiably, audibly--one will never be able to calibrate one's own time sense. If one's own time sense is not constant, how can it synchronize with anything external?

And the counting out loud bit, this is also hard for the student, regardless of age. I hear it everyday, the beats that are swallowed--sometimes literally as the student swallows because of nervousness, or dry throat, or figuratively, when a beat just mysteriously disappears. Or the student will complain that counting is confusing.

Pedagogy tells us that the problem is not the counting, but the student's sense of the beat, and if there is confusion while counting, the confusion is at a deep level.

Silent counting does not much assist in alleviating this very real problem for students, for what is not heard, but thought, is caught up in the same inadequate time sense, and mental processes that are at the root of the problem.

When students, or their parents say they will use the metronome, I discourage them; too often have I witnessed the spectacle of such a machine clicking the beat merrily, will the student plays on, making the same errors of time, oblivious.

It is often a substantial emotional hurdle for the student, and the family, but progress, particularly in baroque music, like that of J.S. Bach, where the beat is paramount, is not possible.

So, I console students and family with the thought that all of us, students, parents, and teachers have been going through this since there have been keyboards, even before the piano was invented.

As a hardware solution to a software, or maybe wetware problem, metronomes have been around virtually as long as has the piano--almost as long as the delusion that machines can replace parts of people, and that what is left will still work.

Metronomes, however, do have some uses. They remember best what 100 beats a minute is, though I, and many students do, but it is a good reminder of how fast a piece actually is. And for the advanced student, it is an excellant tool to assist in the acceleration of playing--when the student can reliably calibrate his own internal clock.

So:

Count out loud, loudly!

The Metronome is one of the most unusual attacks from the popular animé/cartoon series and video game, Pokémon, having a totally random effect each time it is used.

In the Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow games, the Metronome performs one TM attack at random. In Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal, Metronome performs any attack at random, not just TMs.

Clefairy learns metronome naturally at Level 31 and Mew learns it at Level 30. Metronome can be taught to the following Pokémon using TM35 (found on Cinnibar Island): Clefairy, Clefable, Poliwhirl, Abra, Kadabra, Alakazam, Geodude, Graveller, Golem, Gengar, Drowzee, Hypno, Chansey, Mr.Mime, Jynx, Electabuzz, Magmar, Snorlax, Mewtwo, Mew and all fighting type Pokémon.

As seen in a number of episodes of the animé/cartoon series, "just about anything can happen" when the Metronome is performed. In this case, the usage of the Metronome is not specifically limited to a specific named attack - in one episode, Togepi manages a huge explosion of some kind by way of this attack, although which attack this actually was isn't entirely clear.

Pokémon seen in the series to use the Metronome include Togepi, Clefairy and Drowzee.

Metronomes are universally used nowadays. At some point, almost every musician has tried to stick to the strict tempo dictated by its insistent ticks.

The History of the Metronome

The basis for creating accurate time-keepers was discovered in the late 16th century by Galileo Galilei. He was in church one day, and noticed that the incense burners used in the service swung backwards and forwards at the same rate, no matter how vigorous their movement was. He went on to conduct a number of experiments and concluded that pendulums are isochronous, i.e., a pendulum oscillates at the same frequency no matter what its amplitude is.

Originally, this idea was used to create various clock designs, but in 1696, Etieune Loulie modified these rudimentary designs to create a pendulum-based metronome. It was far from ideal, as it had no escapement mechanism, which meant its oscillations quickly died, and the pendulum would have to be restarted. Also, to get the low tempos required, the pendulum was prohibitively large, and changing tempos meant putting more or less weight on the end of the shaft, which was very inconvenient.

The first major design improvement to the metronome came in 1812, when Dietrich Winkel created a metronome with a new kind of pendulum. It had weights on both ends of the shaft and was pivoted around the midpoint, unlike previous designs which had used conventional pendulums. This meant that the shaft of the pendulum could be much smaller and low tempos were still easy to obtain; metronomes were no longer the size of grandfather clocks.

However, unfortunately Winkel didn't capitalise on his revolutionary idea, and Johann Nepenuk Maelzel took the idea and patented it. It was a design classic, and has been in production ever since.

Although many weird and wonderful metronome designs followed over the next century, the basic idea remained unchanged, except for the advent of miniture models and wind-up systems. Some of the stranger ideas attempted to recreate an actual conductor with a baton, or allowed the metronome to change tempo, time signature or even create dynamic events such as rubato through the use of punched cards with a metronome `program' on.

However, it was electricity that changed metronomes forever in the 1930s. Electrically-powered mechanical designs, such as the Franz model of 1938, beat out the time by powering a striking baton, while metronomes using a relaxation oscillator circuit are still very popular today (it is this method that famous metronome manufacturers such as Metrotone, Cadenzia and Wittner mainly use). Even later, in the 1970s, the proliferation of cheap, fast microchips meant that digital metronomes could be produced. Not only did these boast features such as unbeatable accuracy, they were also able to create tuning notes, adjust to different time signatures and were much smaller and more robust than anything that had been produced before. It is metronomes like these that most people are used to today. New features continue to be added, such as graphical displays and novel audio samples, but in the end, they don't really do anything more than the original models produced three centuries ago.


Sources:
Franz Manufacturing Company - <http://www.franzmfg.com/>

Yes I agree, that it is all too easy to play along with a metronome without playing in time with it. The thing is to listen carefully, and try to play so exactly in time that your note merges with the metronome beat. When you get it right the metronome sound can be heard to merge and may even vanish so that it seems to skip a beat. Then you have to do that on every beat.

To help with this musicians can use my Bounce Metronome Pro which has conductor visuals. With the bouncing ball, drum stick or conductor's baton, then you can see the exact moment of the beat before it happens - and play exactly along with it. That way you can also play rhythms with swing and other irregular beat patterns. You can use it for all sorts of rhythms including polyrhythms etc.

It's here:

Bounce Metronome Software

and comes with a free fully unlocked 30 day test drive.

I've got a page about staying in time with a metronome here:
How to sing and play in time

Screen shot of the drum stick visuals: Drum stick 3o4 metronome

Any comments or suggestions very welcome.

Robert

Met"ro*nome (?), n. [Gr. measure + distribute, assign: cf. F. métronome, It. metronomo.]

An instrument consisting of a short pendulum with a sliding weight. It is set in motion by clockwork, and serves to measure time in music.

 

© Webster 1913.

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