The Science of Tapping your FootNovember 9, 2009 at 5:41 am | Posted in Musicianship, Practicing, Private Lessons | 1 Comment
Tags: expression, metronome, tapping
Recently through YouTube and some musical newsgroup posts, I have noticed an alarming disregard for the value of practicing with a metronome. One such post said something to the effect of “tapping your foot is much better than using a mechanical source.” Another gave a very opinionated view that if one practices with a metronome, then they are disregarding the most important aspect of music: expression.
This blog is to help my students and any others who might be interested in refining their skills a s a musician. That being said, I fell that these posts about the “detriment” of using a metronome are quite alarming. Metronome practice, much like tuner practice, is an essential and beneficial process in which the musician refines their perception against something reliable and constant.
The first comment, that foot-tapping gives a better or “more human” source or that it is an “alternate method” is very misleading. Yes, after years of practice with a metronome, and in playing with groups, foot-tapping can offer a creative way to facilitate better rhythmic coordination and accuracy. However, it is simply that, a coordination exercise. It does not provide comparative synchronization practice needed to solidify the internal clock response necessary for group playing.
After mastering the basics with the metronome: pitch, tone, intonation, rhythm, dynamics and articulations, the student should then use the metronome as a calibration device against which to create expressive manipulations of the beat without sacrificing the groove of the piece. As an advanced player, you must be able to express contour, direction, phrasing, ritardando and accelerando within the confines of the groove to effectively captivate your audience.