Posted by pcfive on Friday, June 14, 2013
Well I am still working on metronome practice, every day. I have been practicing bg banjo for about 5 years, but less than a year of metronome. It still is not easy, but always getting better.
It is hard to get a sense of rhythm while playing with a metronome. Sometimes it's hard to hear it, especially at faster speeds. But it does keep getting easier, although it seems to be taking forever.
Especially in recent months, I think I made progress. I have not been posting any recordings lately though, but I think I will.
I feel that I might be practicing a little differently than other beginner/intermediates. I don't know if most spend as much time drilling with the metronome as I do (over an hour every day). I do this because I am pretty obsessed with the idea of precision and accuracy. That is what I decided I want most of all to achieve.
But why? Because I feel that makes it easier to play what I want and have it sound good. Not easy, but easier. Having good control over the picks is a fundamental basic, at least that's what I feel.
And, I think, speed is related to precision. Although so far no one at BHO has agreed with me on any of this. That's ok, I could be wrong but then again maybe not.
The more precisely you can hit the strings, I believe, the easier it is to play fast. Not that you want to play too fast, but just fast enough.
I looked at the back of my metronome for the first time yesterday -- I have owned it for many years -- and it says allegro is 120 to 168 beats per minute. I used to think 168 was impossibly fast, but my metronome says it's just allegro.
Now, bg banjo does have a lot more notes per measure than most other instruments and styles. So 168 is not that easy, but not impossible either.
Maybe there are better uses of my practice time than striving for precision with the metronome. And some would probably say I am getting nowhere.
But I have noticed continual progress.
Even though, at times, I can hardly even play at all. Don't know why that is. But other times I think it sounds not too bad, even pretty good. I have to admit there are times when I am making exactly the kind of sound I want. Now, if only I could do that all the time!
Anyway, progress not perfection, as they say. As long as I am going forward I know I will get somewhere. Not sure where, but somewhere.
Sunday, June 16, 2013 @6:21:01 AM
pcfive: I admire your persistence! playing with a metronome can be a bit boring.
You have been playing since 2009 (?) so you probably have a good collection of tunes memorized. Have you considered some of the other tools available to you?
Here's what I do. First, if I am learning from TAB - I use TablEdit. You can slow the tune down and play along. The real tune has become your timing reference. Second, I use Amazing Slowdowner. Playing along with the real music adds another dimension to your practice.
I have developed a good collection of bluegrass tunes in iTunes. I checked out the key of many of the tunes, and made playlists that contain the songs in one key (G for example) and then I selected the ones that I want to practice and make them five stars. I do as quick sort on the stars and I play along with the songs - backup mostly, but there are some that I can play breaks in. This really helps your timing and backup playing. Great practice.
I also use the metronome occasionally. There are songs that just need the extra focus on timing! Example - I'm working on Dill Pickle Rag - I can do the first part pretty good, but the second part gives me fits and I slow down when I get to it. So I use the metronome to slow my playing down in the first part and speed me up in the second.
The bottom line is for you to use all of the tools available to you - get familiar with all of them. A teacher is also one of the tools. I am not fortunate to have one, but I find that I am able to progress pretty good as I have covered above.
I hope this helps. Let me know if you need clarification.
Sunday, June 16, 2013 @6:31:33 AM
Thanks Wayne. It sounds like you have a good system.
I go through different phases in my practice routine. For the past 7 or so months I have been doing metronome practice for at least an hour every day. I practice more than an hour, usually, but the first hour is always metronome.
I do not find it boring, because I like to focus on every note and try to make each one perfect. I spend about 20 or 30 minutes at 100 bpm, which is slow. That is what I consider the most valuable part of my practice. Then I increase the speed, until at the end of the hour it might be 150 or so.
Aside from that, I jam whenever possible. And I learn songs by ear and/or from tabs.
Yesterday I tried using an online drum machine, and I find out it is much easier to stay with than a metronome, at faster speeds. I have noticed I can barely hear my metronome at fast speeds, even with headphones. I can hear it when it's slow, but not fast.
So if I want to practice playing fast, I should probably use a drum machine. And drum machines give you a better sense of rhythm, in general, so I should use it. It kind of bothers me to use a drum machine, since there are no drums in bluegrass. But I guess it's ok.
Sunday, June 16, 2013 @8:14:00 AM
I think there might be one word of caution here. Mind you, I am also a beginner pretty much, but I spend time reading a lot of the posts here on BHO.
I think perfect timing isn't always what you are looking for. There is a sense to the music where very slightly off time is preferred. I think I recall a post/string of messages where JD's playing was being discussed, and he does this on some songs. I think that is why you get a better sense with the drum machine - you are hearing a bit of that. Terms like attack are used - you've probably read about players 'driving' the music - that's where they are hitting notes just a very small fraction of a note ahead of time. It takes a long time to develop these kinds of methods and skills. I would be afraid that sticking too close to the metronome might slow down your ability to get there.
I think we all strive to emulate the great players. Playing the notes perfectly is one part of that - but the other part that we need to figure out is that hard to define ability to 'feel' the music, and my sense is that when you get there you are not playing notes in perfect tempo, but adding in those minute time variations that make the tune sound special.
Isn't the banjo world wonderful?
Sunday, June 16, 2013 @10:09:47 AM
Yes that may be true. But I think maybe it's ok if I try to get perfect timing and precision, for now. Then later on, if I ever get to be good, I could work on those subtleties.
What I want, for now, is to get control over my fingers (mainly right hand), so playing can feel almost effortless. I think that has to come before you learn expressiveness.
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