Saturday, August 11, 2012

Michael Cera: The Human Metronome

Lost and Found

I found my metronome today! This is huge news. Really. 


I thought it was hundreds of miles away, but my 'nome was actually less than a hundred inches away from my bed.

Good Time

Before this glorious day of 'nome's return, I had been relying on some alternative sources to find tempos and maintain good time. If you're ever without your trusty metronome and you need to keep good time, consider some of these options:
  1. Internal sense of rhythm. (Knowing how long things take.)

    Meet George Michael.
    The man.
    His sense of rhythm is as impeccable as his taste in flowery shirts.

    In the TV series Arrested Development, the undeniably cool George Michael (played by Michael Cera) is looking for a spot in his family's band when he highlights the importance of having a good internal metronome.

    always on time

    "It's knowing how long things take." Brilliant.

    In a practice room, luxuries like iPods, Ghardetto's, George Michael, and external metronomes are permitted. However, in a performance setting, you must leave these items behind. On stage, all you're left with is your internal metronome.

    So, it makes sense to develop it. Devote some practice time toward working without a metronome. Re-introduce the metronome every so often to check and see how well your internal metronome fared. You can find some tips to help develop your own internal metronome at my post about Victor Wooten's grooviness.

  2. A clock.

    A clock? Sure! A clock keeps steady time, doesn't it? It's exactly like a metronome. Except it's likely much larger than your 'nome, it hangs on the wall, doesn't necessarily make noise, and really only gives you one tempo. But other than that, it's a fine substitute for a 'nome.

    Bear with me nowwe're about to get into some rather intense math:
    There are 60 seconds in a minute, and a clock's second hand ticks at every second. Sooo let me run some numbers here... 60 seconds per minute x 1 tick per second = 60 ticks per minute, or 60 beats per minute.
    If you're playing a lot of 60 BPM songs, you're in luck! Otherwise, subdivide eighth notes within the 60 BPM quarter notes to get 120 BPM, a common benchmark tempo. Of course all of these "calculations" are extremely simple and obvious, but the point is that in a no-metronome situation, you can use the clock to at least get a ballpark estimate of your desired tempo.

  3. Your favorite songs.

    Think of some songs that you can easily hear in your mind just by thinking of them. Then, determine the tempos of these songs and devote the information to memory.

    This way, the next time you see a piece of music which calls for ~120 BPM, you can simply think of "Stars and Stripes Forever." (The recording I linked to is actually closer to 125 BPM, but the "march tempo" generally hovers around 120 BPM.)

    Or, you can think of Arrested Development's catchy theme song to approximate tempos around 175 BPM.
Those are just a few ways to help you keep the beat when you are away from your metronome. What are some methods you use to keep your time-keeping sharp?

Honing your internal metronome takes time, but it's well worth it. If you're successful, you could rival even the best time-keepers, like George Michael.

Here's a sample of his best work:

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