Practice Tips & Tricks: Metronome

Before you groan & go back to browsing Facebook or checking your email, hear me out. Metronomes don't have to be drudgery. They don't have to make your piano kid rage-y. They can be do-able, and they are definitely effective for those of us who struggle with pacing (sometimes this is me too, y'all). If you've had metronome related meltdowns, I know you're probably reading along and feeling pretty skeptical that this might actually work with your kid, but metronomes have seen some fun developments in recent years that make them a little more kid-friendly, a maybe even a little more hip. 

So first up, let me tell you about some of my favorite metronome app: 

Super Metronome Groove Box Available on iTunes & Amazon for Android
If you want something that's going to give you fun drum beats to play along with, this is the app you want. It's not free, but it does have a lite version you can download to try out. The full version has LOTS of beat options. You can set a tempo & choose from a number of styles to accompany your piece. Instead of feeling like you're playing with a metronome, you'll feel like your playing with a band - or at least a drummer.

Be it an awesome drum beat, or a traditional metronome, knowing how to work it into practice makes all the difference in how successful your piano kid will be in using it. So what's the secret to using a metronome?
  • Play slower. And I really mean to play slower. The majority of piano students when I give this instruction will try the piece at more or less exactly the same speed they had just played. So I have to stop them, and count them in at the speed I actually want them to play. Our brains like to hear music at the speed we're used to, especially if it's a familiar piece we're learning. But to be able to catch where we are missing tempo, we often need to play slow enough to actually hear the different parts. Then we can fix the trouble spots. Piano kids may need assistance in tracking their music on the page at a slower tempo or counting aloud. Gradually increase the speed each practice session as they master the slower speed until they're successfully able to play it at the intended speed.
  • Don't drill over & over, especially if it's frustrating. If you miss a beat, it's ok. When kids are first playing with the metronome, I recommend to try it once in a home practice session. Then try the piece without a metronome. If it goes ok, try it with the metronome again the next day. 
  • Don't force perfection the first time you try a metronome. It's ok to miss beats when we're practicing, that's how we learn. Don't start the whole piece over. We can make a note to work on those parts and keep going at the next measure. If you notice a part that is difficult every time, try it in isolation 3 times paying attention to fingerings & timing, then put it into the rest of the piece again. 
  • Gamify it. If you read last week's post, you saw our easy-to-implement games with the dice & coins. Those can be used with metronome practiceas well. Use a dice to choose which section you'll try with the metronome today, or collect a coin each time you try the whole piece with the metronome. How many coins can you collect before your next lesson? Even these itty bitty incentives can help take the 'ugh!' out of practicing with a metronome. 
 And stay tuned for next week, when I'll be sharing my most favorite new practice tool in the studio this year!