It is human nature to speed up and slow down while you are playing music. Often you will play faster when you feel confident and are playing parts you find easier, and will slow down when you get to harder parts. Sometimes, just to make your life that much harder, you will actually try to play faster when you get to hard parts… It is not always consistent. The goal in the end is to play everything at the same speed.
Enter the metronome…
For those of you who don’t know, a metronome is a little machine that clicks or ticks at a consistent speed. It will take you time to get used to working with a metronome and they can be very frustrating at first! Many, many a time I could have sworn that the metronome was speeding up or slowing down, but sadly, it was all me!
The first problem practicing with a metronome is to be able to start with it. It is a little bit like doing double-dutch when you’re skipping rope. I find the best way to start is to actually count “one-two-three-four” with my metronome before starting to play.
My metronome is my best friend for learning music that I find hard. Remember the bracketing that I mentioned in “Quality vs Quantity”? Well, once I find a part that is hard, I take out my trusty metronome and play it very slowly. I then slowly speed up my metronome until I reach a point where I start making mistakes. For example, I might start with my metronome set to 60. That means that it will click 60 times per minute. Let’s say that I get up to 90 before I start making mistakes. I then slow my metronome down again and go through the process of speeding up gradually, but this time start at 70. These numbers are just meant to be an example. You will need to find how slowly you have to go to be able to play the part correctly. By doing this over and over (whether on the same day, or on sequential days), you will be able to play the passage faster in the end.