Lesson Focus: Coordinate with the Metronome
Find the music for Caprice No. 1 HERE.
Hello and welcome to our first Green Banana Etude Series! Thanks so much for visiting this post. This series is intended to walk you through all 26 of the Little Caprices by Anderson. The idea is to focus on learning practice techniques and musical fundamentals in small, bite sized etudes. It’s been a lot of fun putting all this together and I am hopefully it will prove useful to many flutists in the future. Let’ jump into the first lesson shall we?
Let me start by saying that the metronome is your friend. Your seriously good friend who can help you learn to play stuff in half the time with twice the accuracy. I’m not even kidding about this at all. The only catch is that you actually have to nurture the relationship and learn how to get the metronomes benefits. I have noticed that most students seem to have a serious fundamental aversion to the metronome that I too once suffered from. Some find it hugely challenging to coordinate with and others seem to think that they don’t need it. Let me be clear, you need it. We all need it. Practicing something like this study without using it is a total waste of time. Trust me, I have wasted a LOT of my own time…
This study is a good one for learning to befriend the metronome. The rhythm is simple and unchanged from the beginning to the end. I am going to break it down to the very basics so that those who have never really understood how to practice with the metronome can start to reap the rewards.
STEP 1: Understand the rhythm.
If you don’t understand the rhythm in a mathematical sense you cannot even begin to play accurately with the metronome. Learning the notes without concern for the rhythm means you have to learn the thing twice. This is a real time waster! It is important that you can actually count and know where in the bar each note lies. This study is in 4/4 or C (common time). This means that there are 4 beats in each bar. The eighth notes each receive half a beat. You would count it as outlined below;
STEP 2: Choose a starting tempo at the smallest subdivision you need to keep time and play the notes.
This is important. In a nutshell, don’t play it faster than you can play it correctly. Never has someone played something with mistakes enough times that they disappear, it just doesn’t work like that. If you have not successfully played with the metronome before or if the study seems very difficult set the metronome to beat in eighth notes. All this means is that you will play each note in the study at the same time as the metronome clicks. You don’t need a fancy metronome to do this, just pick a speed that works where you can play correctly. This will be slower than you think.
STEP 3: Slowly increase the speed, keeping the accuracy of the notes and rhythms.
When you can play through the study at the first speed and subdivision you selected it is time to increase the speed a little bit. Avoid the urge to simply start trying to play it fast. Just as we are unable to use quantum physics to beam ourselves from one location to another we simply cannot jump from one speed to a much faster speed without covering the speeds that occur in between. Learning to play faster is a linear process. DON’T SKIP IT!
STEP 4: When the speed reaches as organic point where the metronome seems to be overheating it’s time to drop the subdivision.
This is the point where you notice that the metronome is clicking pretty fast. Time to reduce the speed to ½ of what you are doing and use the metronome to mark the quarter notes. The clicks will occur only on beats 1, 2, 3 and 4. The eighth notes now fit in between the clicks. Resist the urge to do this faster than you were playing with the subdivision. Although the speed is the same, the dropping of the subdivision definitely feels different and it is important that you are able to practice coordinating the big beats with the metronome and perfectly placing that eighth note in between the big beats. This is a new skill. It is harder than playing with the metronome beating the eighth note so make sure you give yourself the time and patience to master it.
STEP 5: Continue increasing the speed by small increments until you reach your goal. (quarter note = 116 in this case)
Make sure you are being realistic when you increase the speed. The goal is NO MISTAKES or maybe 98% correct. More mistakes than this mean you are playing TOO FAST and you are wasting your time. It is perfectly fine for the progression of speed to occur over several days or even weeks. In fact it is preferable because you are likely doing very focused work that will get a huge result. This includes the articulations and dynamics…. more on those in a later study but I just wanted to put that out there. There is absolutely no shame in playing slowly. Most of my practice time consists of playing slowly because that is how you play fast brilliantly and cleanly. If you are playing very slowly it is a very good thing, do it more!
Practicing this way saves oodles of time. Yes I said it – OODLES! No more learning the piece twice (first the notes, then the rhythm) and no more learning with tons of mistakes that never seem to go away. The nice thing is that if you bring all of the accuracy from the slow speeds to the faster ones, it stays accurate. Give it a try and ask questions in the comments. Happy practicing everyone!
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