So I’ve been practicing the F-Major Scale the last few days and I think I’m getting good at it.
I’ve memorized the Nashville Number System for the scale (it wasn’t that hard – I’ve got a good method for this I’ll post about soon.) and I’ve been getting good with the finger positions.
But one thing I haven’t touched on yet in any of my posts is how to practice keeping time. Making sure that you’re timing is on point when playing piano notes and piano chords is essential.
Have you ever listened to music and just couldn’t really follow the groove because the rhythm was sort of off (think of your junior high school band…). You don’t want that to be you. You want your note and chord transitions to be smooth and flowing properly.
Metronomes For Piano
So how do you practice keeping time when playing the piano? You use a device called a metronome. This used to be a mechanical gadget that would keep constant time based on whatever tempo (i.e. BPM) you wanted to keep. If you don’t know
what I’m talking about when I say time/tempo check out Wikipedia.
The arm would swing back and forth and it would click/tick at a steady pace. Check out the picture above – that’s a metronome.
How to Use it to Practice Keeping Time
So the next time you’re practicing your scales or your notes or even chords, make sure you’ve got a metronome nearby. To use one, you simply have to set the tempo, and push/pull the arm in one direction. The metronome will then start.
When you’re first starting off, or learning a new scale, you’ll probably want to keep things pretty slow. Don’t rush things, gradually work up. It’ll make you better and better.
So for example, start out at around 60 bpm (beats per minute). That’s a pretty slow tempo and should get you comfortable with whatever it is you’re playing, before moving things faster.
Then play the piano scale or song or chord progression you’re practicing to the tempo of the metronome. Everytime the metronome clicks, you play a note. Keep up with the clicking and make sure you’re focusing on both learning the song/scale/progressions/etc, and making sure you’re playing on time with the clicks.
Once you’re totally comfortable at 60 bpm (play the scale at this tempo at least 10 or 20 times, less if you’re a quick learner) move up to 65 bpm or even 70 bpm.
Repeat that process until you’re able to play the scale at a really fast time (120 bpm or higher). You should keep the metronome with you during every practice. You always want to be playing or practicing playing the piano with a metronome so you’re always honing your musical timing. It will make your progress multiply.
Where To Find A Metronome For Piano
Back in the day, you’d have to buy one of those things and keep it on you whenever you wanted to play or practice. But nowadays you don’t have to buy one of them. There’s a lot of free stuff around that’ll let you keep time and practice keeping time effectively.
And, of course, you can still buy an actual metronome. There is one from Amazon.com (pictured) - it’s $102.95, but it’s the best looking one I could find. Looks authentic, made out of mahogany. If you buy it now you can get free shipping.
And I mean, it’s kind of cool if you really think about it. It’s old-school, and authentic. Some people like that. If you want to buy a real metronome check out Amazon.com.
Desktop/Laptop Computer Metronomes
There are a bunch of websites online that have digital metronomes you can use for free.
http://www.webmetronome.com/ – This site has a free online version that uses buttons and a slider to set the tempo. It doesn’t look like a metronome but hey.. if it works it works. And it can work for you if you don’t mind the **** design. They’ve also got a downloadable version you can keep on your desktop/laptop
http://www.seventhstring.com/ - This is another free online metronome that actually looks like one (sort of), but isn’t animated at all. It also uses Java and takes a long time to load. But basically, you choose the tempo and then press the “s” key or space bar on the keyboard to start and stop it.
Mobile App Metronomes
Luckily, we live in an age of expanding technology and don’t have to settle for crappy web versions that look like they’re from 1995.
If you’ve got an iPhone then you have to download the “Metronome” App from the app store. This is a great little free app that actually looks and works like a real metronome.
Once you download it to your iPhone or iPad, you just open it up and use the wide gold slider in the middle of the arm to set the tempo (just like a real metronome).
To start and stop the metronome you can either tap the screen or pull the arm just like a real metronome. Make sure your iPhone isn’t on vibrate otherwise you won’t hear it.
So that’s it – learn how to keep time. It will help you play songs that don’t sound horrible. I’ll be back soon with a post in the future about how to get better and better at keeping time, but for now start with the method in this post.
And please, if you thought this post was useful share it around on Twitter/Facebook/Google+ or anywhere else! I’d really apprecaite it. Thanks for reading.