What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

What Verdi, Brahams and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Criticism of metronome use: (Source Wikipedia)
A metronome only provides a fixed, rigid, relentless pulse; therefore any metronome markings on sheet music cannot accurately communicate the pulse, swing, or groove of music: The pulse is often not regular;[30] e.g. in accelerando, rallentando; or in musical expression as in phrasing (rubato, etc.).
Some argue that a metronomic performance stands in conflict with an expressive culturally-aware performance of music, so that a metronome is in this respect a very limited tool. Even such highly rhythmical musical forms as Samba, if performed in correct cultural style, cannot be captured with the beats of a metronome.[31][32]
A style of performance that is unfailingly regular rhythmically may be criticized as being "metronomic."
Many notable composers, including Felix Mendelssohn, Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi and Johannes Brahms, have criticised the use of the metronome.[33]
Quotations[edit source | editbeta]
… this series of even, perfectly quantized, 16th notes, is no more evocative of samba, than a metronome would be. In fact, this representation neglects what makes up the samba essence in the first place — the swing![31]
—Understanding the Samba Groove by Pedro Batista
The metronome has no real musical value. I repeat, the metronome has no value whatsoever as an aid to any action or performance that is musical in intention. […] refer by analogy to the sister art of drawing. Graphic artists understand well enough the essential and generic difference that exists between mechanically-aided drawing on the one hand and freehand on the other. Similarly, musicians ought to distinguish between (1) the sort of timing that results from dull, slavish obedience to the ticking of a soulless machine, and (2) that noble swing and perfect control of pulsation which comes into our playing after years of practice in treating and training the sense of time as a free, creative human faculty.[34]
—The Amateur String Quartet by James Brown III

"The metronome may lead to stilted (overly formal - rigid - like walking on stilts) playing and shouldn’t be used in Irish Traditional Music." A noted Cork Master Fiddler and Teacher

"Ditch the Metronome" A little known and untalented player who doesn’t even live in Ireland named Tom Connelly. Also, in this day of great apps, one can simply delete it from the iPhone. There goes $1.98 (US)

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

I use the metronome all the time. I set it at a tempo completely unrelated to the tune I am about to play, then I turn on the TV and start the dishwasher. It’s perfect training for playing through distractions in a noisy pub surrounded by poor percussionistas.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

"A noted Cork Master Fiddler and Teacher"

Who dat?

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

That would be a friend and my esteemed teacher and wouldn’t
violate his trust by entering him into the debate. I have enjoyed
your posts. Sorry can not answer.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

if you ask me, its take your iPhone, electronic tuner, laptop, android apps, and your whole computer for that matter and just throw it in the creek, you don’t need any of that to play a fiddle or a banjo

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Indeed. The line in the song Roseville Fair is "and we danced all night/to the fiddle and the banjo".

Not "and we danced all night/to the metronome".

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"That would be a friend and my esteemed teacher and wouldn’t
violate his trust by entering him into the debate."

I thought you just did, when you used a quote allegedly from him….

I’ve never used one, and I always thought I never needed one, until I listened to recordings that speeded up slightly as the tune went on. I have a click-track on my recording software and MAY resort to using that as a guide. It’s not slavish adherence though, and after forty years of playing folk without one I still reckon I don’t have the right to mark people down as inferior if they want to use one to perfect their playing.

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nothing wrong with a metronome. I have a pendulum one. Those old fashioned ones are alot better than the electric clicking machines they sell today. Same goes for a tuning fork. That’s all you need. no batteries, no plugs, no USB cables.

You don’t have to like metronomes, (hell, nobody likes metronomes) but you really should be able to play with one. If you can’t, I’d say that indicates a problem

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Quoting somebody who has the same opinion as yourself is not really a good way to advance an argument.
It matters little what other people say unless they are right.

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I guess I’m still wondering what Verdi, Brahms and Wagner think of the metronome. From the above quote I gather they criticized it and it has something to do with the number 33?

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Yes, but what do dead horses think about baseball bats?

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"Wagner’s music is better than it sounds." — Mark Twain

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That’s a step up from flogging, Cheeky Elf!

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Verdi and Wagner composed for the opera in previous centuries. If they were alive today, they’d be scoring films (hello click tracks!) or they’d likely be laying things down with an eye toward post production and synchronization via a DAW. For live shows, they may well want to synchronize the lighting.

I’ve seen a trend in recent years going to very small "orchestras" for stage shows, as well, supplemented by either prerecorded or synthesized tracks - also done to a click track.

Going up to the mega-production Irish music shows, I don’t know if Riverdance or Flatley’s shows or Celtic Women do much in the way of light synching, but it’s quite common for laser shows. At a minimum, piping a click track to a drummer is *very* common in production-type shows in a professional setting, and then they have god-knows-what synched up to that pulse. There is a difference between the skill set that a casual hobbyist needs to have vs. the skill set of a dedicated Irish musician who doesn’t do much else, and the skill set that a professional studio /stage/production musician must have. Increasingly, the ability to play with a click track is becoming more important for players in the latter category.

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What does Kevin Burke think of metronomes, anyway?

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True, Tom. Flogging leads to a very stilted corpse, whereas with a good piece of wood you can really get in there and focus on the micro-rhythms.

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"whereas with a good piece of wood you can really get in there"

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I’ve never used a metronome. I’ve always taken the view that they’re fine for setting a tempo but if they’re being used to help correct a timing or a tempo problem then they’re a bit like headache tablets; better to find out and fix whatever’s causing the headache. For a metronome, better to fix the timing or tempo problem at its source. Maybe a metronome might help there, I guess I’ve been lucky I’ve always had a strong sense of rhythm. Incidentally a lot of tempo and timing problems occur by playing too fast to begin with. When I say I’ve never used a metronome I guess tapping your foot is a type of metronome.

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Since I can’t seem to focus much on work, I decided to take an informal survey of accomplished players in whatever style who I’ve admired, and see what the’ve said, pro or con, about the use of metronomes.

Jazz guitarist Adam Rafferty ably makes the case against metronomes:
http://adamrafferty.me/2008/02/27/dont-use-a-metronome/

But Mark O’Connor - not an Irish player but no stranger at all to either studio settings, orchestral settings, or swing/jazz, pulls out a metronome when he goes to the woodshed now, as he describes here: http://www.allthingsstrings.com/layout/set/print/News/Comment-Opinion/Mark-O-Connor-Revisits-the-Fundamentals

Jascha Heifetz carried a pocket metronome around. (But what does he know?) I did not know that about him before I googled "Heifetz metronome," but in watching videos of master classes, he was strict about time, and would tap his pencil loudly on his desk as his student was playing if he began to lose it.

Joshua Bell wants his next violin case to have a built-in metronome! http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323528404578455242113346634.html?mod=WSJ_article_comments#articleTabs%3Dcomments

More as I find them!

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

A metronome is an excellent device for training you to play with a metronome. If you really want to play music, play with human beings. Human beings possess all the musical faults that make music so good.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

"A metronome only provides a fixed, rigid, relentless pulse; therefore any metronome markings on sheet music cannot accurately communicate the pulse, swing, or groove of music: The pulse is often not regular;[30] e.g. in accelerando, rallentando; or in musical expression as in phrasing (rubato, etc.)."

While it is true that the pulse, or tempo, of actual music may vary, and the fixed pulse of the metronome will diverge from the music at that point, the swing or groove of the music takes place between the individual clicks of the metronome, properly set, making it a non-issue. I am assuming one click per three eighth notes of a jig, or four sixteenth notes of a reel, for example.

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There’s a great story in Earl Scrugg’s banjo book-it’s been years since I read it so I may be fudging some details-about how when he wwas six years old and his sister was seven,he was first learning the banjo and she the guitar. They would practice tunes by standing in front of their house and starting to play.Then he would turn right and she would turn left and they would walk around the house in opposite directions,still playing. The idea was when they met up they would still be together,at the same place in the tune. If you can do that you don’t need a metronome.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Please recall that Verdi, Brahms, and Wagner are all Romantic era composers whose music frequently was filled with all sorts of little rhythmic shifts. Of course they didn’t like the metronome, it flew in the face of their musical style.

The Earl Scruggs story illustrates the other side of the equation in another style.

The fact the Beethoven used one is enough for me.

In sum: a great tool properly used and a terrible tool badly applied.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Interesting comment about the Romantic era composers, cboody - and I agree. Go back to the Baroque era and I can’t even imagine Bach being played along with a metronome. Well, I could, but what I’d regard as good Bach playing tends to push the boundaries slightly but keep to a secure sense of overall speed, as opposed to being rigid.

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Does not being able to play in time with a metronome indicate a problem ? If so in what other ways would it manifest itself ? What options are there to fix the problem ?

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

There’s a great story in Earl Scrugg’s banjo book-it’s been years since I read it so I may be fudging some details-about how when he wwas six years old and his sister was seven,he was first learning the banjo and she the guitar. They would practice tunes by standing in front of their house and starting to play.Then he would turn right and she would turn left and they would walk around the house in opposite directions,still playing. The idea was when they met up they would still be together,at the same place in the tune. If you can do that you don’t need a metronom"
not much good if you are an only child.

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Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

David50-yes I would say not being able to play to a metronome indicates a problem.The trick is to play with a metronome without playing like a metronome.Lee Ryan’s book The Natural Classical Guitar has a chapter with prana yoga based breathing exercises combined with rhythmic walking,much like Earl Scruggs. I have used these with some severely rhythmically handicapped students to good effect.
Jason-I understand the technological necessity of using click tracks in the situations you described but the thought of using one in any traditional music performance seems antithetical to the whole idea IMHO(and a little nauseating,to be honest)
Ben-sounds like my band after one too many.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Who said anything about using one in a traditional music performance? If you read what I posted I was very careful to delineate between the skill sets required of the casual player, of the focused tradhead, and of the working professional studio and touring musician who don’t limit themselves to trad settings.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

[*Does not being able to play in time with a metronome indicate a problem ? If so in what other ways would it manifest itself ? What options are there to fix the problem ?*]

A little problem, yes, but I think it is just unfamiliarity with using a metronome. Same with some (often very good musicians) who end up in a recoding studio for the first time, and take a bit of time getting used to playing to a click track.

The reasons for being able to play to a click track in a studio are obvious, or they should be.

Metronome is slightly different, in that its use covers beginners through to experienced and competent musicians.

It’s a tried and tested tool, and the most obvious use for beginners it to help them keep time, while learning to play their tunes and also building up control and comfort with their instrument - in other words, an external reference to keep them right while they are multi-tasking.

I think that’s the bit that many people miss when there’s a mention of a metronome.

There’s also the other use too - a competent and experienced player (of any kind of music) whose timing is pretty good, and may want to keep it that way - or even improve - so we have the metronome / drum track / click track or whatever, and playing 4/8/16 notes between each click. So long as he’s bang on the click every time, there’s all the room in the world for swing, pulse, lilt, lift, dynamics, beat, whatever you want to call it, between the clicks.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

5stringfool, I take it you didn’t wait for the synchronism. Can’t blame you there.

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Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Discussions of metronomes on the Mustard Board have become as predictable as a metronome.

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Ben-just watched the whole video. I don’t understand how it works,but it’s the opposite of entropy-does this mean that music disproves the Third Law of Thermodynamics?

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Sorry -Second Law

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It’s the platform the metronomes are on - > >
http://www.itsokaytobesmart.com/post/32359485898/32-metronomes-in-sync

"When the arm of any metronome hits the side, it exerts a force on the blue platform. Normally friction would make that unnoticeable. But this platform is special. It’s set up on rollers so that it can move from side to side.

When any two metronome arms hit, their forces on the platform either cancel out or add together, depending on how out of or in sync they are. Any arms that are out of sync will experience a force in the opposite direction that inches them closer to the pack.

Eventually all 32 arms find the same rhythm and sync up. This is the most I’ve ever seen at once. (That’s a challenge, by the way. Get on it.)"

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Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Steve Shaw "A metronome is an excellent device for training you to play with a metronome. If you really want to play music, play with human beings. Human beings possess all the musical faults that make music so good."

Marvelous Steve. Thanks.

Mark Harmer "Go back to the Baroque era and I can’t even imagine Bach being played along with a metronome. "

Pardon me while I become a bit of a pedant: The metronome was invented somewhere around 1800 (you google it..). It did not exist in Bach;s time 🙂 That said, instrumental music in the Baroque (leaving out the dance music for the moment) is essentially based on two opposing principles: improvisation (often very free) and counterpoint in which compositional techniques and to a great degree tempo are quite rigid. Bach would have hated a metronome for the former, but might have loved it for the latter. I do know that those teaching the contrapuntal pieces certainly approve of using it…at least most do.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

>>"Ben-just watched the whole video. I don’t understand how it works,but it’s the opposite of entropy-does this mean that music disproves the Third Law of Thermodynamics?"

And I was wondering - does it only happen with female metronomes?

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

"not much good if you are an only child."

Easy:- You start by standing in front of a mirror. Walk round the house and, when you get back to the mirror, if you and your reflection are at the same bit, you don’t need a metronome.
Tried it, and I got nine out of ten (my reflection tripped up on the carpet once).

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Is it that slow a Monday that this chestnut discussion got marched out?

Or is someone being cruel? Or has a bad sense of humor?

I am with Just Nutter Eejit on this one. Turn on television sports or one of those awful Fox News conservative talk shows where neanderthal politicians shout at each other, a performance of the NY Philharmonic or the Met on the stereo in the other room, and a metronome going. Great aids in learning to play in pubs…or as part of learning to play in the pit band at church where the hired gun backer instrumentalists show up and have no clue what the are playing (this leads to another perennial Mustard Board chestnut- Spots….spots is spots?), what pace a tune is done in and don’t care as long as they envelope has legal tender in it.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

I think it’s simply that this board is the wrong place to ask a question about, or discuss, metronomes at all.

It’s a bit like asking on Model Engineer Today about … well … OFFS, there just *is not* an analogy for this one.

Well, at least this thread has shown a bit of clued-up-ness, for want of a better word. Past threads on metronomes have shown exactly the opposite - even to the point of a few members angrily voicing their resignation from the board. I don’t have the links to hand, but if you’ve been around here for a bit, you’ll probably remember them. No doubt the Mighty Ben (na Eisc) could find them in a split-second 🙂

So yes, I can understand why people on here get pissed off with the subject. I repeat, metronome? Right question, wrong place to ask it.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

I disagree Jim, being able to keep a steady beat in a mass session is important, there are too many players who cant so anything that helps a novice play steady is fine by me.

Even really good players are wont to play a tune at their familiar pace, so if a tune start out slow then its annoying to have someone come along and speed it up straight away! Also if the session is big then one end can drift away from the other simply because they cant be heard.

Its merely a tool to be used if needed. its not about making music, but about keeping basic time. a fundamental skill. enjoy

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

I certainly find it helpful when learning to control the bellows in time on my concertina for a new tune. I don’t use it so much for plectrum instruments, maybe that is because I’ve been playing strings with a pick since I was fairly young so it comes more naturally. I think it’s enormously helpful in learning to stay in time. I did also just try setting at the wrong tempo and playing in time and I agree that is another useful way to use a metronome. I’ve had that happen where I want to change tempo in the second tune of the set and the drummer just keeps playing at the tempo of the previous tune, so ignoring a tempo from a drummer is very useful I agree.

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I cant think of worse musical training than learning to ignore the people you play with!! its the total opposite of good communal music making. If the drummer is so bad that he doesnt notice the changes then get rid of him tell or kick him 🙂 !! Good music making is about sensitivity , adaptability, flexibility, attention , listening, awareness, these are critical skills, essential. The mere physical ability to execute a roll or play a tune are important obviously but its HOW they are played that makes the difference.

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"being able to keep a steady beat in a mass session is important"

Nowhere near as important as avoiding "mass sessions" like the plague.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

As would Sir Charles, 5string. 😉

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Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Slow Tuesday?

Metronomes are for four-eight year olds being forced to learn piano under duress where they need to lear timing and would probably quit lessons regardless of being forced to be in lock-step with the metronome.

At my age they don’t help. Playing with someone who has excellent timing does.

Sick, sick, sick of the click, click, click?

Well, 3 hours ago it was Wednesday over here.

Sick of the click? I’m doing a Ben here!

Contextuality is everything 🙂

metronomes and feel
https://thesession.org/discussions/25770

Metronome
https://thesession.org/discussions/14807

banjo and metronome
https://thesession.org/discussions/16815

should metronomes be banned?
https://thesession.org/discussions/20875

Metronome Sessions
https://thesession.org/discussions/21885

using a metronome without sounding like a robot
https://thesession.org/discussions/13306

Metronomes and tempo
https://thesession.org/discussions/4742

ITM Metronome?
https://thesession.org/discussions/3041

free metronome downloads?
https://thesession.org/discussions/17455

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Yes Jim, that was a very good impersonation of Ben.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

It’s funny, though. If you can be arsed to read the threads, a similar pattern emerges. Metronomes and their up-market cousins - like them, hate them, understand and value (or not) their function, get annoyed, argue, complain, argue some more, or go huff-puff and resign from the site 🙂

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

You’re doing a Jim, Jim.
A good Jim at that.

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It’s all a good argument for the shaky egg.

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Ok, are we done then? Whose turn is it to start an ‘ears vs dots’ thread?

Re: What Verdi, Brahms and Wagner Think of the Metronome

Well, that guy playing his resophonic mandolin last night. I couldn’t hear the accordions on either side of me, nor the banjo in front.