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General Strings => Practice/Teaching => Topic started by: Bowlegged on Aug 31, 2020, 05:40:59 AM

Title: Beginners questions, metronome, mute, recording/playback
Post by: Bowlegged on Aug 31, 2020, 05:40:59 AM
I have been playing for about 20 months now and love the versatility of the instrument. Im 75, fairly deaf and have been playing music for yonks. I took up the violin to improve my hearing and I play lots of different stuff and love sitting in sessions with my fiddle. A
 few things have come up for me.
It's recording a good idea or not? How about a metronome? I find them difficult to use, maybe it's because I have played without one for so long on other instruments. I like to wander a little with timing and find it frustrating to play with people who maintain a regular military style of strum. that said I  kinda keep to the tempo. Now to the mute. I use one sometimes when my partner is in earshot, she is a muso, but there is only so much....  I also use a mute when playing along with recordings. I play a bit bolder with the mute, but I feel that is because it covers bad technique like scratching etc, any ideas on that? Lastly I saw a bow straightener on a beginner's violin, which fitted over the strings near the bridge. It was a guide in which to run the bow, about 20mm wide. Seemed a bit over the top to me, anyway, I gave it a go and I jammed my bow a lot, I tend to wander a bit. Phew.
Title: Re: Beginners questions, metronome, mute, recording/playback
Post by: farmerjones on Aug 31, 2020, 02:10:48 PM
Two things about metronomes for straightening out timing.
1. Place the nome in such a place where you can get a good mix, between you and the nome.
2. One can use a nome to help you speed up, or slow down a tune. Since you're just going for remedial timing, don't be afraid to simply set the speed to what you typically play.

P.S. You're trying to internalize a good sense of timing, so a good way to ween away from a nome is to slow the nome down,  playing double time. Then half of that, then half for that. The goal to be dead on after 8, 16, & 32 bars.
Title: Re: Beginners questions, metronome, mute, recording/playback
Post by: Nick2 on Aug 31, 2020, 02:13:33 PM
I'd say a metronome is a good thing to play along with every so often when practicing, but it can be a shock that it seems to get faster and slower! Our perception of time is very strange. When you don't know a piece all that well you might think you're playing at  a constant pace but if you record yourself you realise you are speeding up and slowing down in the difficult bits!.  Personally I find playing along with a recording a more fun , but of course then you might not notice that you are skipping over some of the hard bits!  So maybe learn with a recording and then test yourself by playing solo with a metronome. When you can do it solo and the metronome doesn't seem to be changing speed and you got all the notes , then you're probably there on the tune!   Mutes good when you need to keep noise down for others.  Silent electric violin even better!
Title: Re: Beginners questions, metronome, mute, recording/playback
Post by: farmerjones on Aug 31, 2020, 02:38:02 PM
I'm not a fan of mutes. Reason being, it takes advanced technique to control volume well. Mutes mess with your tone, when you're trying to develop good tone. There's a reason they call it woodshedding. You need a place where you can go and just whail.
Title: Re: Beginners questions, metronome, mute, recording/playback
Post by: Emma on Sep 02, 2020, 04:15:30 PM
Hi Bowlegged! About metronomes. I hate them. They are incredibly helpful. I am a dance musician - I have to be right on the beat, so I do practice with a metronome until I can't stand it any more.
Another tool that might be useful without driving you nuts, is an app for a smartphone called "Live BPM". It doesn't give you a beat, but it reports your bpm as you play. You can see if you are slowing down or speeding up.

I agree with FarmerJones about the mute. You want to be able to hear your tone, and a mute will distort that. You won't get good feedback on your bowing technique if you use a mute.

About the bow-guide - again, I don't think it's going to train you to bow straight. I think it could actually diminish your ability to feel what bowing straight feels like. I could be wrong, but that's my gut feeling. I don't have the straightest bow myself though, so take my opinion with a pinch of salt!
Title: Re: Beginners questions, metronome, mute, recording/playback
Post by: Bowlegged on Sep 02, 2020, 08:26:34 PM
Thank you all, I'll ditch the mute and risk divorce. Using a metronome is the hair shirt to my practice. I find it really easy to keep time with a singer or when playing over a cord progression, so damn the nome, I'll go it alone.
Title: Re: Beginners questions, metronome, mute, recording/playback
Post by: simon on Sep 11, 2020, 11:38:43 AM
About metronomes. I hate them. They are incredibly helpful.

This should be on a T-shirt, Emma.  ;D

I'm very short-sighted and I've worn spectacles for as long as I can remember. I'm not fond of them, and if the thought of lasers or contact lenses going anywhere near my eyeballs didn't give me the screaming heebie jeebies, I'd have been rid of them a long time ago. So I kind of resent my glasses, but then again I love them for the obvious reason that they bring a blurry world of chaos into sharp focus. (Possibly the world looks better with them off these days, but that's another story.)

A lot of musicians probably resent or altogether avoid their metronomes, because the metronome represents the dreariest aspect of practicing, the repetitive, at times robotic grind which is an inevitable part of training all the relevant bits of your body to meet the technical demands of conjuring music out of whatever bizarre assemblage of wood, wire, metal tubes etc the instrument may be. The grind isn't the metronome's fault though, any more than my naff eyes are the fault of my specs. The metronome is there to help you through the grind, organising it and bringing clarity and focus to your practice.

I think one of the great joys of making music is that moment when you realise a piece or passage or phrase you always thought seemed impossibly difficult, is actually within your grasp. In my experience, that moment comes a lot more frequently once you make friends, or at least agree a truce with your metronome, and learn how to (and why) use it.



Title: Re: Beginners questions, metronome, mute, recording/playback
Post by: farmerjones on Sep 12, 2020, 04:02:48 AM
Had a guy with a straight face tell me, he never works with a nome. "Never found one that wasn't defective."

Guess what? His timing wasn't good. Good timing is for the ones that play with you, and listen to you.
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