I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

A recent thread dealing with tempo and bpm got me to wondering if there is an app that would give me a real-time readout of my playing tempo (as opposed to enforcing a given tempo, which is what a metronome does).

Lo and behold, such an app does exist (for iPhone at least) and it’s called BeatMirror, from a little company in Toronto oriented to tools for music education. Costs as much as a pint of Guinness.

Basically you set up a target tempo, hit ‘play’, and after the app counts you in, you take off on your own. At this point the app starts using the microphone to determine your actual tempo and produces a real-time readout. At the same time it tracks your tempo over time on a line graph centered on the target tempo.

I’ve played with it a bit with my own jigs and reels, as well as recordings and a metronome as a control, and I have to say it’s really quite good at picking up the tempo just from the notes being played. (I thought at first I’d have to include some foot tapping to give it the beat, but it’s much cleverer than that.)

And, to my inevitable dismay, my tempos are all over the place! John Carty, on the other hand, dials in 122 on ‘The Bunch of Keys’ in live performance and only varies a bit above and below through the set. Using a metronome as input gives a boring line at 120 or wherever I set it…

I thought this was worth passing along. I’m hoping to use BeatMirror to improve my playing consistency without having to resort to following a metronome. We’ll see if it actually helps….

Jon

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Why would you want such an app, surely tapping your foot to the pulse of the music is your built-in metronome. Just wondering!

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

PS why would anybody need a metronome, why be governed by something mechanical (that’s what disco music is no music just mechanical driven racket) Aye.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Ah, goose…you would like a rather wanton poem by Theodore Roethke. ´I knew a Woman´. The last line is : (I measure time by how a body sways.)

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Are you serious, Goose? I would say every aspiring musician would need a methronome from time to time. I use it frequently when learning new stuff and my playing is improving all along. Rythm and timing has always been my greatest challenge and the only way to improve is either playing with other people (with good rythm), playing along recorded music or using a methronome.
I agree that when the rythm is stable you turn of the ‘gnome and start playing music.

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Thanks Jon, I downloaded the app as I see the use in this.

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

How did all the great Irish musicians learn time and tempo, I can tell you none of them ever used a mechanical aid. Could you picture Micho Russell Seamus Tansey or Bobby Casey setting up a metronome and being governed by it, I don’tthinkso.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"Oh yes, you have got to learn to play with a metronome. Even if you don’t do it for life, just that experience helps. You think you are playing on the money and unless you are practicing with a metronome you are probably not." - Kevin Burke

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Hear hear Mr Burke

Lots of fine musicians will look for excuses when they try to play with a metronome and find it harder than they expected. Of course no one wants to sound like a computer. The thing is to to be open to what the little device can tell you, then move on.

The other thing is to set it appropriately. Use the biggest interval you can, at the pulse of the music. For reels or jigs two clicks maximum per bar/measure. One click per bar/measure may still have something to tell you.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

All of you must be talking about individuals who have no natural feel for the music, or of not been able to grasp the natural pulse of the tunes. It is difficult enough to learn our music without having to concentrate on artificial objects.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

> Why would you want such an app

The answer to this is given in OP’s own post.

Without getting at the person that wrote this question, I am, personally, really, really bored of the "well Willy Clancy did not use this" school of pedagogy. Well, few of us nowadays, especially on this forum, are born into the world he was born into, a world of social dance and no music other than what you brought and the only reason you could learn to play was because your father was a flute player.

And for that matter, how many skilled traditional musicians was Ireland producing in Willie’s lifetime? How many now?

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

> John Carty, on the other hand, dials in 122 on ‘The Bunch of Keys’ in live performance

Do remember that such people have spent a lot of time in recording studios saying things like "right, let’s try the reels again but let’s do 122 instead of 124" and having producers tell them every time they have the audacity to drift off tempo, or have extensive experience playing for dancing or the like. Dialling in and maintaining an exact tempo is a skill that needs a fair bit of training.

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

There always was an abundance of music in Ireland, but you needed to explore. The Fleadhs started in 1951 long before the Chieftains or any of the other similar groups brought the music to an international audience.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"All of you must be talking about individuals who have no natural feel for the music, or of not been able to grasp the natural pulse of the tunes."
People have been using metronomes to improve the rhythmic precision of their playing since the early 1800’s. Certainly people have been practising with metronomes for longer than they’ve been playing Irish trad in pub sessions… They were apparently invented on the suggestion of Beethoven, who was possessed of a fair bit of natural feel for music. Professional musicians across all genres either have used or still use them, and it’s hardly plausible that Kevin Burke is the only prominent figure in Irish trad to have benefited from the use of one in his early days. Sure, they’re not compulsory, but they seem to be a useful part of the learning journey for a lot of very highly skilled musicians.
I guess the value of them could be revealed by a simple thought experiment. If you were to use the beat measuring app to check the regularity of tempo of the musicians you most admire, would you expect it to show them keeping a very steady tempo, or speeding up and down a lot? And if keeping a very steady tempo is a desirable skill in Irish music, what might be a good way to practice that skill at home by yourself?

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

The point of a metronome is to practice to a tempo set outside of yourself.

The ability to match an outside tempo is the same ability no matter what creates that outside tempo, be it a conductor, or somebody tapping their foot, or the sound of a group of musicians playing together, or a metronome.

Without the ability to perceive and match an outside tempo, musicians couldn’t play together. It would be a collection of people each feeling their internal beat, creating chaos.

Practicing to a metronome makes one a better ensemble player. It’s why orchestral musicians do it.

For sure there are many musicians in every genre who have the gift of a flawless internal metronome. For the rest of humanity a flawless external metronome is a great practice aid.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

There is a similar app for android, called LiveBPM.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Richard, what about the inbuilt driocht and tempo of the natural musician.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"And for that matter, how many skilled traditional musicians was Ireland producing in Willie’s lifetime?"
Nobody knows and we never will, so that’s a bit of a pointless question.

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Just to clarify that this app is not a metronome, it’s like your grandfather leaning over occasionally to say ‘slow the feck down, you’re rushing again’.

Goose, I am with you about concentrating on foreign objects — that is nerve wracking. So once I set the app I have to ignore it and play, only glancing at it occasionally to see if I’ve strayed from the beat. Or ignore it completely until I’m done playing and then review my tempo graph.

About having an innate sense of tempo - I think we all have it, but at the learning stage it is one of several things that have to happen simultaneously (right hand action, left hand action, lift, tempo) so it requires practice. I have 40+ years backing for dancers to have developed a steady beat as a rhythm player, but now that I’m belatedly learning a melody instrument, it’s back to the drawing board. Any feedback I can get, absent a listening tutor or grandfather, is of value.

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I’ve never known any application of the metronome in folk/ trad/ world music. The only times I’ve ever used anything like a metronome is playing to klik in a very non folk/ trad/ world recording situation where compilations and overdubs are required. When playing on my own (ref: www.youtube.com/channel/UCTD5_DyrMvckMttNHme0-cA) I can keep in time with myself! Please note joe fidkid art work!

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Oh, the ongoing metronome discussion… sigh.

We have several players who come to our sessions that cannot lead a set of tunes that others can follow. Why? They’ve never practiced with a metronome and cannot hold a steady beat.

It’s much easier for players who have been dancers or played in Ceili bands to internalize the rhythms than a fiddler that’s not danced nor played in an ensemble. These players were the bane of my trying to lead our "performance" sessions at Jack of the Wood. Once in a while I’d just have to stop a set because a player gradually drifted off the beat. I’d encourage them to use a metronome, but they never do.

LiveBPM is available on IOS and Android. It’s a great tool for determining how fast an artist plays a set and remembering how fast it’s played. It’s best to really learn how it’s played by ear and practice, but the app gives a quantified number that can be a reminder along with the key and starting notes.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"I’ve never known any application of the metronome in folk/ trad/ world music."

Playing for a feis comes to mind.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"Practicing to a metronome makes one a better ensemble player. It’s why orchestral musicians do it."

I have a slight disagreement with that statement. If you don’t already have a good internal sense of tempo, then yes, a metronome may help you play at a steady tempo when practicing at home.

In a session however, you probably won’t be leading every tune set. You have to adapt to the "consensus tempo" of the group, sliding into what may be an ebb and flow of tempo as the group finds its groove, maybe even speeding up very slightly towards the end of a set. I’m not talking about runaway tempos, like when the Alpha Fiddler takes over, just a slight increase as excitement builds. You can hear this even with polished band performances, and there’s nothing wrong with it as long as you’re not playing for dancers.

It seems to me that this skill of slotting into a consensus group tempo is a different skill than learning to play at a steady tempo at home. Relying on a metronome may even be detrimental, compared to practicing along with recordings of good ITM musicians where you can follow their "flow" of tempo.

In this respect, there is no comparison with orchestral musicians who aren’t expected to work together on establishing a consensus tempo. They’re following the lead of the conductor, a human metronome.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Back to the initial post…. Thanks Jon. I’ll check it out.

As well as checking my own consistency in practice, I can also see a good use for it in the studio to pick up what tempo something is being comfortably played at before setting that dreaded "click track". It might take a bit of time out of guessing and adjusting.

Before that gets jumped on…… whatever the genre, I leave it up to the person recording to say if they want a click track or not but either way I can certainly tell those who have trained with a consistent beat and those who haven’t. Whether that training matters or not is an argument for a different thread.

As for the app….. It sounds like something many of us will benefit from in our own way.
thanx again for sharing Jon. 🙂

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I remember hearing a radio interview with Sharon Shannon and Dennis Bovell when she made her "Out The Gap" recording with Dennis Bovell and reggae musicians in 1994. The drummer had asked for a click track to follow, Bovell told him just to watch her foot. Just thought I’d mention it in passing.

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I have an old app on my iPhone called BPM8, which does the same thing. I never really used it for much other than a novelty. But a couple of times during sessions, people would exclaim that we were playing way too fast, and I would pull it out to show them that we weren’t playing as fast as they thought.

I tend to agree with Goose about metronomes. I think they can be a bad influence on the music in some ways, but they ARE a tool that can occasionally tell you things that you didn’t already know. And they can be useful for certain targeted practice, like staying steady, or increasing your tempo.

The idea of a metronome being an outside tempo that you have to match to is correct, but it’s only part of the equation of playing with another person. Because it is not adjusting back to you the way another player would. So I would say, use the tool for things it is useful for, but don’t let it become a crutch. Ultimately, the music needs to be much more fluid and variable (on purpose) than a metronome will allow.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

There is nothing wrong with learning to keep a steady tempo.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"Ultimately, the music needs to be much more fluid and variable (on purpose) than a metronome will allow."

Of course. But, I’m curious. From at least a dancer’s standpoint, how much fluidity and variability in tempo is acceptable?

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Playing for dancers is a different kettle of fish, you obviously play at the pace the dancers ask for. After playing for loads of dancers in competitions all over, I can tell you that it’s not an easy task.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I’d just like to add when the dancers tell you the pace, it depends on the skills of the musicians to stick with it. No metronomes at competitions.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Eh, I don’t agree with that. Neither would this guy, I don’t think. I will keep using my metronome when playing for a feis, because I am not skilled enough to know if I am playing at 118 bpm or 116 otherwise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ux6qJgW1Y3Q

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I don’t understand what he means by playing a fash. So what your saying is that a mechanical object dictates the pace of the music, therefore the dancers are also dancing to the metronome. Alright I suppose if that’s what you fancy!

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Goose, he is saying some players can be intimidated (& distracted) by playing exactly @ 115 bpm for a jig. I think he is right that it’s important to not be distracted, but instead use the beat to get started. Even when the tempo varies the musicians need to play without getting distracted by minor background sounds. It’s a helpful video for practical use of a metronome.

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

It’s best to learn how to keep as steady as possible. For instance, when recording a few tracks with Isaac Alderson on my last album, he wanted to just record ‘live’ (as opposed to doing a scratch track and then recording our individual parts separately on top of that). So he wanted to just do 3-4 live takes of each set. And I said that I dislike playing with a click track, which I figured that we would need so that if we wanted to edit parts from different takes into the final version they would all be at the same tempo. But he said that I would be surprised at how steadily we play (especially since we were doing the takes back to back). In all the takes, of sets that were 4-5 minutes long, each of our takes was within 5 seconds of total length of each other. So with no click track, over the course of maybe a half hour, we didn’t vary our overall tempos more than about 1.5%. That’s way better than I would have guessed we could have done. So it’s a good skill to have, and I think an app displaying tempo can maybe help you get there if you struggle with steadiness.

However, when I wrote "Ultimately, the music needs to be much more fluid and variable (on purpose) than a metronome will allow", I was not necessarily talking about overall tempo. I was talking about the fact that if you’re playing every note exactly on the beat, then you’re going to sound like a midi player. So that’s why most people set their metronome to just sound on the 1 and 3, or just the 1 for jigs, etc. That allows you to at least get some lilt into the music. But even beyond that, I am often subtly changing the timing of the notes on the down beats too, as part of the phrasing or expression. So the overall tempo is staying steady, but I’m not necessarily playing the notes right on the beat. I might play a note in front of the beat to make a statement, or I might delay it to the back of the beat to give it a more relaxed feel as part of the phrasing. But a metronome is more rigid than that.

I will admit that when you’re playing around with subtle timing of notes, you still need to ‘know’ where the beat is… So as long as you’re keeping that in mind, a metronome can help keep you honest. But this is where the tempo sensing apps might fall down a bit. Depending on how long a period of time that they are showing the average display of tempo, they’re going to maybe tell you that your tempos are all over the place, when in reality the overall tempo may be staying fairly steady.

Take for instance an app that displays the literal tempo between every pair of adjacent notes. So if you’re playing with a lot of lilt, swing, or a dotted rhythm, it’s going to tell you that you’re speeding up and slowing down every two notes. If it displays an average over maybe the last 8 notes, or something, it is going to show you a much steadier tempo, and that’s actually a better representation of how steady you’re being. So Jon, don’t necessarily get too discouraged by what it is telling you about your steadiness. Instead, maybe you should try doing what I described earlier, and record yourself 4 times in a row playing through the same tune one time through, and then compare the length of the 4 recordings from first note to last note and judge how steady you’re playing is from that.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

AB if you pay attention to the dancers you should know if you are playing at the proper tempo, or are you talking about learner musicians who are unable to keep time.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"… but I’m not necessarily playing the notes right on the beat. I might play a note in front of the beat to make a statement, or I might delay it to the back of the beat to give it a more relaxed feel as part of the phrasing…. (Reverend)

If someone wanted to develop their ability to do that, practising alone, how would they know where the beat was?

If they had an instrument where the note was not at maximum volume as it started sounding how do they decide where ‘the note’ is in relation to the beat?

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

David if you know the tune, the beats should come naturally.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"If someone wanted to develop their ability to do that, practising alone, how would they know where the beat was? "

Depends on the situation. But generally with their body somehow. Foot tapping is the obvious way, but a lot of players sway their body a bit with the beat, etc. As I said "I will admit that when you’re playing around with subtle timing of notes, you still need to ‘know’ where the beat is… So as long as you’re keeping that in mind, a metronome can help keep you honest." But I would say my total metronome use when practicing (or click tracks in recordings) is maybe a total of 4 hours in the last 20 years. I think I learned to know where the beat is by a combination of tapping my foot (something that comes naturally to me, because I was a club DJ for 20+ years, where I was doing a ton of beat mixing, which is definitely aided by foot tapping), and by playing with other people and learning how they process the beat.

I did have a situation about 12-13 years ago, where there was a fiddler that I played with fairly regularly. He was a very nice fiddler, but his preference was to play at the front of the beat, and I wasn’t yet a strong enough player to 1. recognize that, or 2. stay steady on my own. So I would start matching him, which would make him feel like the beat had moved forward, and he and I would occasionally get in an endless feedback loop of speeding up. That was really the first time I had become real cognizant of playing around the beat instead of right on it.

One other thing I should mention is that I’m a plectrum player, and from that, I also have a very specific body movement that is feeling the beat, and that is my right hand. So when I’m playing around the beat, I feel like my hand is dancing to the music, not pounding out the beat.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

To the people who depend on metronomes, how do you manage to play for the dance "The three tunes" with the different tempos therein.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Isn’t it just possible, goose, that they use the metronomes as a tool to learn how to play steadily, and don’t actually "depend" on them?

I know teagan mentioned using a metronome when playing at a feis. My guess is that it’s to get the initial tempo locked in (like the difference between 116 and 118), and then just play without using the metronome. (I could be wrong). I have played for dance performances before where they wanted very specific tempos, and we would use a metronome with a little flashing light instead of a sound. But once we have the tempo, we don’t stare at it the whole time, rather, we all just lock to each other and watch the dancers to make sure we’re not pushing them too hard, or slowing down too much. (But I have also gotten pretty good at nailing 113 for certain tunes for dancers without a metronome).

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I don’t know anyone who "depends" on a metronome. I don’t even know what that means.

I know players for dancers who will use one to establish a specific tempo for a set as requested by a dancer, but don’t use it continuously during the tune.

I know a fair number of people, including me, who will occasionally practice with a metronome as a sanity check, and a fair number of people who could benefit greatly from practicing with a metronome, but nobody who "depends" on using a metronome.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Why does a metronome remind me of jump leads.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Thanks Reverend, the follow up question was going to be "How does someone learn to tap their foot regularly when playing a tune?"

But I didn’t get chance to ask it before going off to a ‘Zoom session’ and in the interim you have more or less answered it in your response to gooseinthenettles.

@goosinthenettles "David if you know the tune, the beats should come naturally." Not where is the beat in the tune, where is the beat in time. What if it doesn’t come naturally? What about the guy at the session I go to who’s stomping is ever so slightly irregular - what practical course of action would you recommend to him?

Was thinking of this in the Zoom session - leader for the tune freezes for a few bars and you know that when it unfreezes Zoom will speed it up for a second or so. Good game trying holding the tempo to eventually get back in sync.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Surely instinctively feeling the beat is a fundamental requirement to play music. Like innately being able to hear the different pitches of the notes. It’s not something you can learn.
It’s like those, such as me, that can’t hit a ball with a stick or catch a ball, trying to do sport.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I would disagree with that, Yhall House. I think you could learn to hit a ball with a stick and catch a ball if you actually cared enough to try. Likewise, there are people that could learn to feel the beat better than they do. But really, most of the discussion here about metronomes is using them to learn to stay steady, with your own internal beat.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I s’pose you could slightly polish a very poor ability but never enough to actually really play properly. One has to tolerate such people at sessions from time to time. And yes, I would have no interest in doing sport.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Goose, I have never played music in a feis though I have played for a stepdancer who has competed in several. For her we usually started with an 8 bar introduction before she danced. In Ryan Duns video he mentions
using a metronome to begin playing at a specific tempo. The metronome is used as a mechanical device to register the speed when there are no dancers’ feet moving. As for his use of a metronome at a feis I don’t know why he does that instead of counting or tapping in a beat. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the organisers of the event(s) (given all the written rules and competition) expect and may even require a calibrated metronome to establish the specified bpm with no room for questioning the accuracy of the tempo they are playing. Again,
I’m speculating from what I have heard since I’ve not been part of any feis competition.

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I’m not coordinated enough to tap my feet and play at the same time. I would be hopeless trying to follow the app. It does sound neat from the software/programming standpoint though.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

You don’t follow the app though it follows you! No foot tapping required—it automagically finds the tempo from your playing and displays a running average. So if you start playing at your desired practice tempo of 105 but drift up to 109 bpm it will be abundantly clear.
Experienced players may have no use for such an app, but as a learning aid to check one’s progress I’ve found it worthwhile.
Cheers, Jon

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I would think that, similar to what Reverend said with the flashing light, the beep on that metronome he had in the video would only be loud enough to set a count in. He would hardly hear it once he had the accordion wound up, other instruments and tap shoes joining in.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

AB, it is the norm to play an eight bar intro for dancers, from my experience during those eight bars the dancer will give you a hand signal as to whether you are playing to fast or slow.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

The set dancers i play for wouldn’t really know how fast or slow our playing is befor they start to dance, so counting on them in the first 8 bars is no option. And for scottish country dance their is only a chord, before the dance starts.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

The kids that we play for at a feis are used to dancing at a very specific tempo. I am not so arrogant that I think I can start at that exact tempo every time. So yes, we use a metronome to get started, as Reverend suggested. When the feis rules say a certain tune should be danced at 118 BPM, that is *exactly* what I play at. Not 117, not 119. 118. A metronome is the best way for me to make sure I hit the right tempo.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I’ll certainly give the app a try. As has been stated several times, it is emphatically not a metronome but a way of checking ( while and after playing) how well you maintained your tempo. Bound to be enlightening.
As for foot-tapping, I do it but don’t believe it helps me maintain a steady tempo. The same brain controls the playing and the tapping so they’ll slow down and speed up in synch. The foot helps with the pulse but not the tempo.

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I’ve used LiveBPM on the iPhone for contra dances. It’s not a metronome; its a beat monitor. We just set in on the floor and glance at it every now and then. It’s amazing and disturbing how easy it is to drift to a different tempo. Many of us (myself included) have been live performing for decades, have been in studi0 recordings, etcetera so one would think that we would be able to keep a solid steady beat. But a dance is a bit different; the dancers really notice when the beat changes.

Even the very good bands sometimes slow down; I’ve checked by sneakily watching my LiveBPM while they are playing! This seems to happen most often when switching to another tune during the dance. It also seems to happen more often when there are inexperienced dancers; maybe they tend to drag the band’s tempo down as they fumble through the dance. We’ve gotten good feedback because we stick to the beat; the dancers notice that and like it.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Good idea, Walt, I’m looking forward to trying it out next dance I play for…. which happens to be a ‘virtual’ called dance this weekend (the band/caller being socially distanced and masked and the dancing couples all tuning in online).

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"How did the great Irish musicians learn time and tempo…" Goose, are you comparing yourself to the great Irish musicians? Metronomes have been around as long as clockwork had existed, how do you know whether or not someone from the past used a metronome? A metronome isn’t used to help keep a beat, it’s to establish a tempo. If someone has composed a piece, and they feel it should be played at a certain tempo, they will show that in bpm. Having said that, I play in a trio, and I know I have a tendency to speed up, so I will occasionally practice a piece through with the metronome. Just because you are unable to use one, or just plain pig-headed refuse to, doesn’t mean those who do are inferior (to you) musicians.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

¨How did the great Irish musicians learn time and tempo…¨
Really, this is a false equivalency. . time and tempo are very basic to this music. It is not the sole province of ´great Irish musicians´. Anyone regularly playing for dancers will be well schooled by the dancers themselves as to their preferred tempos, and its constancy. I don´t think ´Goose´ or anyone needs to use a metronome to learn them. Considering the economics prevalent in Ireland in the twenties, thirties, and forties, pretty damn few musicians, many of those we look back to as ´Greats´ had the luxury of owning a metronome. They were busy earning a few extra pennies playing for dancers.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

If there have been any studies as to how rare or plentiful metronomes have been in Ireland over the years please point me to them. Even if they were as rare as snakes, you can’t possibly say who would and who wouldn’t have used one had they had access to one. It’s just mythologizing. It’s also kind of insulting to presume that Irish musicians were so quaint or backwards or pigheaded or whatever that they would have collectively turned their noses up at a simple tool that could have improved their musicianship.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Musical talent covers a broad range of abilities - some folk have difficulty learning to read music, some cannot play by ear, most fall somewhere in between on that spectrum. Some tend to speed up while playing, obviously not a good attribute for a drummer or rhythm guitarist. I try to respect anyone who is learning to play an instrument (we’re all learning all our lives) regardless of their level of talent. What bothers me about Goose’s attitude (and a few others) is his decidedly arrogant dismissal of anyone who uses a metronome. Perhaps I’m taking it personally? Why shouldn’t I, I know I’m a good musician with a good musical education and I find a metronome useful from time to time, and I also know I’m not alone there. Let’s all make an effort to be a bit more accepting, and learn from and celebrate our differences.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

//Why would you want such an app, surely tapping your foot to the pulse of the music is your built-in metronome.//

@Goose, the problem is that your built-in metronome can be less than perfect, especially with learners / improvers.

I tend you think you are just a little bit on the wind-up (no pun intended) 🙂

Speaking of metronomes, someone was someone describing a classical violin teacher on the web, who also taught Irish and old-time tunes. She put samples of her playing up, with the caption, "what does your teacher sound like?" as the heading.

Some bright spark commented that she sounded like a "metronome with pitch" 🙂

Ouch!

When I practise, I tend to use rhythm tracks rather than a metronome - it just makes things a little more interesting. There’s no doubt, though - we all need an external reference from time to time, be it metronome, rhythm track or backing track.

There was a discussion like this this a while back, with people giving the pros and cons of using a metronome.

Just out of curiosity, I listened to recordings of some experienced players, and although there was no audible change of tempo, if you compared the start tempo to the end tempo, there was quite a noticeable difference.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"It’s also kind of insulting to presume that Irish musicians were so quaint or backwards or pigheaded or whatever that they would have collectively turned their noses up at a simple tool that could have improved their musicianship."

Perhaps, although as a "folk" music without a formal academic pedagogy, it seems to me that Irish trad would be similar to other folk genres like Appalachian OldTime, Missisippi Blues, Breton dance, Balkan dance, and so on. Musicians in those styles today may practice with metronomes. But going back 50 or 100 years and in a rural folk tradition, it’s hard for me to imagine musicians in those styles practicing intently along with a metronome instead of learning the music more organically, by simply playing with other skilled musicians.

I have no data on that, so it’s just a guess of course. Maybe it actually was a metronome that the Devil gave Robert Johnson at the Crossroads, and that was the secret of his success as a Blues musician. 🙂

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I would agree that it’s pretty unlikely that traditional musicians from bygone eras would have ever used metronomes, but that seems to me, at best, a specious reason to see them as useless annoyances. A conductor is not a "human metronome" - orchestral music often varies in tempo through the piece, and can be rubato, where the tempo varies to add expression to the phrasing. Also, getting around fifty musicians to agree on how to play a piece would never, ever happen, the conductor’s job is like the proverbial herding of cats.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Since this thread (originally NOT about metronomes) has sputtered to life again, I’ll just blow on the flames a bit by musing that, in the absence of an actual metronome, many Irish homes may have been graced by a pendulum-powered clock, at least by the mid- to late-nineteenth centuries. No reason someone sitting by the hearth couldn’t or wouldn’t have used the pendulum to keep time. I sometimes glance at the second hand on a battery-powered wall clock leaping forward at a tempo equivalent to 120 bpm when gauging my tempo.

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Evidence ?

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Evidence for what? My (lighthearted) point was that a source of steady rhythm were undoubtedly available in some households 150 years ago. In 1800 Dr. William Crotch was at work on replacing vague tempo markings with more reproducible pendulum swing settings, so the cat was out of the bag as early as that. https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=ppr

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

I have asked, seriously, about pendulum clocks in discussion like this over the years and been told they were uncommon in an Irish working persons house. Evidence either way?

I have been in several English working peoples houses that had long-case clocks, ticking every second, that had been in the family for generations. They may have been expensive but they last for several generations and the big ones, rather than the 120 bmp or faster wall clocks, may have been less expensive because of they could be more roughly built.

Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"Evidence for what ?" - Evidence that any single musician in the history of Irish traditional music sat down and played along with a clock.
I won’t hold my breath.

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Sorry Kenny can’t help you my time machine’s broken just at the moment 🙂

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

the big ones, rather than the 120 bmp or faster wall clocks, may have been less expensive because of they could be more roughly built.

A typical basic long case clock cost several years of a labourer’s wages, and real prices tended to increase over time with the increasing complexity of the movements. I think some people are a little confused about what the working class in rural Ireland looked like around this time.

(Which is not to say I find the clock thing completely ridiculous - I often use a clock to take a tempo from, but you do need a clock, and for most of history it wasn’t possible to get one for £5 with free delivery on Amazon)

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

Will an Apple Watch work?

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Re: I just discovered a useful app for measuring tempo: BeatMirror

"A typical basic long case clock cost several years of a labourer’s wages". How much did a set of Uillean pipes cost? Not all the musicians were labourers.

I *asked* about Ireland. I *know* that by the late 19th century long case clocks had found there way the houses of skilled workers, blacksmiths and small farmers in England, some already 150 years old and probably cast-off more than once better-off owners who had ‘upgraded’.