My youngest daughter, Halle, has her eye on my metronome… she swipes it every chance she gets. And then we find her in her bedroom where she’s dancing to the swinging pendulum… grooving away as though it is music. But this love affair with the metronome is often short-lived for piano kids. And before long it’s something they dread using, then hate using… then stop using.
4 Tips For Metronome Use With Piano Kids
Piano Kids Need to Know What those Ticks Mean: Setting a metronome to tick away incessantly in the background while your piano students play, without having them understand what each tick means, will do nothing but annoy them and eventually cause them to simply tune it out. Instead, practice having them match one tick per note, then two ticks per note, then four, and so on. But don’t just match note to tick. March, tap, clap, nod… those ticks need to become ingrained so that they become meaningful (and therefore listened to). This way, once you go to use the metronome to set a tempo, you can effectively explain where each tick should fall in each measure as they understand this “matching” concept.
Piano Kids Need to Know How to Use the Metronome Themselves: If you want your piano kids to use the metronome, they need to learn how to use it themselves. Discuss tempo markings and how they translate to the metronome – show your piano kids how to set an appropriate tempo for what you’d like them to use the metronome for. Make markings on their sheet music for the first few bars to show where each “tick” should fall when matched correctly. Have them make markings on their page for where each “tick” should fall. This will ensure that the metronome at home isn’t a) dusty and un-used or b) mis-used and causing bad habits.
Piano Kids Need “Catch-Up” or “Fall-Back” Techniques: One of the most frustrating aspects of a metronome is that it doesn’t wait for you (and it also doesn’t speed up to catch you!). Kids who are used to playing with rhythmic freedom are likely to be annoyed by this fact… but if they are taught to pause and count one measure before hopping back in, or to adjust their speed as needed “on the fly” then they’re much more likely to gain some benefit from their use of the metronome.
Piano Kids Need to Build an Internal Metronome: One of my favourite things to do to help my piano kids build their internal metronome is to reach over and pinch the pendulum of my metronome (yup, I’m old school… I have a non-digital one!) I hold it still for a few lines as they play and then let it go again. It’s a good way to give them the moments of silence they need to learn to hear their “inner metronome”.
To Tick or Not To Tick…
While using a metronome can certainly help piano kids to develop a great sense of underlying beat and rhythmic accuracy, it’s also important to give them ample opportunities to play without the metronome. Nothing squashes self-expression more quickly than a metronome… and that self-expression feeds motivation and enjoyment. However, armed with a good understanding of how a metronome works and how to use it effectively, your piano kids will learn to groove to the ticks once again… just like Halle.