Q: What do you think about Jeff Berlin’s approach to teaching music, specifically: no metronomes?
A: Uh oh… This could mean trouble!
Here’s my spin on it:
I think different things and methods work for different people. I disagree with Jeff’s statements that metronomes are bad for everyone. I think he has a bit of a habit of speaking in broad strokes, and life is not that dichotomous.
True, music is fluid and doesn’t adhere to strict meter. But one also has to have the ability to control their internal clock and have good time. Practicing with a click has given me and countless others better control over our ability to adhere to a tempo when we need to, while also increasing our ability to control slight shifts in tempo when we need to. It can also help shine a light on tendencies we have with tempo with regard to certain feels.
I know a lot of drummers who would benefit from practicing to a metronome, simply because it would highlight some of their bad habits – like speeding up on fills, slowing down slow tempos or speeding up on fast tempos and so on. A click can let you know that you aren’t playing in time when you thought that you were, thus bettering your understanding of your musical tendencies.
On the other hand, I also know a lot of drummers who came up in the drum core and have incredible time and technique, but play so precisely and stiff that it’s rarely musical to my ears.
Playing music in real time, with real people, means that the time is going to ebb and flow and it is up to us to be aware of the music and ebb and flow with it.
Time in music is fluid. But I believe that most of us benefit from a more rigid style of practice.
I do also believe that it is important to practice without a metronome too. Working through changes, for example, can often be better explored without any time at all.
The trick is to use the metronome to work on time and ditch it when time doesn’t matter as much. Personally, I love and will continue to use my metronome but there is no one answer for everybody.
Here goes… Readers, I’d love to hear your take. Share you thoughts in the comments.
Photo by Paco Vila