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Thread: [Piano/Keyboard] Some Questions about Timing and Metronomes

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    [Piano/Keyboard] Some Questions about Timing and Metronomes

    I'm new to playing Piano/Keyboard as an instrument (normally I just used it as a tool with electronic music) and I have some questions about timing.

    1) Is it better to tap your foot or use a metronome?

    I find that if I tap my foot, even if it's in time with the notes I play I'm inclined to speed up and slow down randomly and lose coordination. Is there anything rhythmic you gain from tapping your foot that you can't get from a metronome?

    2) Is sticking to a metronome always a good idea?

    I like using a metronome but sometimes it feels as though the speed that is correct for my pace is too slow for the song that I'm learning and makes it indecipherable to play. Should I speed up for the sake of the song and compromise the precision of the timing? Or is it better to just stick thoroughly with the metronome and keep practicing and practicing the same song until I can build the speed up and get the song perfect? I want to be thorough but I don't want to waste lots of time on one very basic song if it's not going to even pay off.

    3) Are these exercises I made up good or will they build bad habits?

    Basically what I've been doing to practice my timing is to play the same 1 bar loop over and over again using both hands at the same time (the left 2 octaves down from the right) along with a metronome until I am basically in a trance and I end up doing this for a good 30 minutes or so. I plan on extending this to 2 bars and obviously speeding the pace up until I have it nailed. Is this a good practice exercise or will this reinforce some bad habits? Should I be this focused on timing at this early stage or is it okay to get it done roughly and then keep moving forward?

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    Quote Originally Posted by FluffyClouds View Post

    1) Is it better to tap your foot or use a metronome?

    I find that if I tap my foot, even if it's in time with the notes I play I'm inclined to speed up and slow down randomly and lose coordination.
    Sure, the whole point of using a metronome is that it provides a rock-solid external beat - something your foot is, at this point, probably unable to do - why not do both, tapping along with the metronome?

    Quote Originally Posted by FluffyClouds View Post
    2) Is sticking to a metronome always a good idea?

    I like using a metronome but sometimes it feels as though the speed that is correct for my pace is too slow for the song that I'm learning and makes it indecipherable to play.
    If you can't play something correctly slowly, you're unlikely to be able to play it correctly fast - as a beginner of course you might have to take things quite slowly at times, and if you're finding things just too difficult you might want to work on some easier material to build up your chops and confidence.

    Quote Originally Posted by FluffyClouds View Post
    3) Are these exercises I made up good or will they build bad habits?

    Should I be this focused on timing at this early stage or is it okay to get it done roughly and then keep moving forward?
    I'm not a piano player, and don't know about your specific exercises, but I think it's a good idea to identify weak spots in your playing and make up your own exercises based on them - and I would say you should ALWAYS be focused on timing...the simplest thing played with perfect timing will always, ALWAYS sound better than anything played with poor timing.

    Hope this helps!

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    Thanks for your reply!

    Actually weirdly enough so far I can play better fast than I can slowly. If the music is too slow I tend to zone out between the beats and miss playing along with the metronome. Imagine if you stepped on an escalator that for some reason was going awkwardly slower than you're used to, you'd probably find yourself awkwardly stepping off it despite it being slower and (in theory) easier, that's kind of what it feels like for me to play something slower than fast.

    A good example of this is the first exercise of the book I have, a 2 handed 5 finger rendition of 'When The Saints Go Marching In' (Easiest piano piece in the world) and I'm having trouble with it. It makes me feel terrible to be stuck at such an easy level.

    If I play this at anything below 80bpm then I make mistakes much more. I have to pretend I'm not playing the song or my mind will remember it as being faster in my head and will get thrown off by the comparative slowness.

    One thing that's also bugging me about this tune is the fact that there are plenty of 4 beat (or taps) bars where you let the note hold for four beats or foot taps and then play on the start of the next bar. Really simple, but there's one awkward part with a 3 beat rest instead of 4 (You play on the fourth) and it throws my rhythm off. Is this meant to be like this? The music is written this way but it just seems to break the pattern of the song, maybe years of listening to Techno has ruined me but my brain freezes up when the 4/4 gets thrown out of the window for a second and I have to adapt, it feels like the music I'm playing is untidy somehow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FluffyClouds View Post
    Actually weirdly enough so far I can play better fast than I can slowly.
    I agree that it can be surprisingly difficult to play slowly - BUT when you play fast, is your timing, tone, etc. correct, or is it "sloppy"? If the latter, you aren't doing yourself any favors by speeding up.

    Quote Originally Posted by FluffyClouds View Post
    A good example of this is the first exercise of the book I have, a 2 handed 5 finger rendition of 'When The Saints Go Marching In' (Easiest piano piece in the world) and I'm having trouble with it. It makes me feel terrible to be stuck at such an easy level.
    Perhaps it isn't as "easy" as you thought

    Learning to play piano well is something that takes YEARS of hard work, not days or weeks - you are where you are, and are not alone, most everyone who has ever learned to play an instrument knows the feeling well.

    Quote Originally Posted by FluffyClouds View Post
    One thing that's also bugging me about this tune is the fact that there are plenty of 4 beat (or taps) bars where you let the note hold for four beats or foot taps and then play on the start of the next bar. Really simple, but there's one awkward part with a 3 beat rest instead of 4 (You play on the fourth) and it throws my rhythm off. Is this meant to be like this? The music is written this way but it just seems to break the pattern of the song
    There's a possibility you're reading it incorrectly - but assuming that's not the case, and it's from a competent source, it may be an intentional rhythmic break or "surprise" you're having a hard time hearing/feeling right now, which will probably make more sense when you're able to play the piece in a more relaxed manner at tempo (is there a recording that goes along with the sheet music you can listen to by any chance?)

    Hope this helps again!
    Last edited by walternewton; 03-31-2015 at 05:38 AM.

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    Metronomes can be extremely annoying to playing along with but I truly recommend you using one. If you tap your foot to the music you may actually be speeding up or slowing down without realising. So definitely practice your timing with the metronome. I think the exercise you are doing is good. It sounds like you are a patient student! :-)

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