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Mike Longo Answering Comments About Metronome Article

This is a post I made on Hal Galper’s Face Book Page.  Hal shared my metronome article to his followers and stated that he agreed with everything I said.  This provoked a lot of responses on his site. Many of them were positive and in support of what I said.  To answer some of those who were in disagreement I posted the following:

I greatly appreciate all of the responses to my article on the metronome usage and many of them have come from musicians I have a high degree of respect and admiration for. I can’t help but notice, however, that no one seems to be addressing the arguments I made to support my opinions. Not my opinions only but the opinions voiced by the “musical greats” that Hal has pointed out above. One post pointed out something along the lines that ” how can you play all around the beat if you don’t know where the beat is” or something to that effect. I am para phrasing of course. IMHO for this to be valid, one would have to accept that a metronome clicking is a “beat” in the first place. A “musical beat” that you play music to. Another post stated that no one can describe what a “Pulse” is. To me a pulse is the sound your heart makes when it is beating. I am not speaking of “tempo” here because once a pulse is established as the time unit one can move it up or down to any tempo they so desire. Another post went so far as to say that “no one can ever achieve greatness as a musician unless they practice with a metronome.” In the article I pointed out the fact that the metronome wasn’t invented until Beethoven’s life time. Does this mean that all of the musicians who preceded him, Bach, Handel, Hayden, Mozart and others had bad time and were unable to achieve greatness? Since we live in a free society, no one has the right to tell another person how they can play a musical instrument or how they can practice one for that matter. In no way was my article intended to do so. The points I made however, to be disagreed with, should be addressed with an explanation of why they are not valid. For example, I pointed out that one can take the most swinging record from the past that has passed the test of time and there is no way you can get a metronome to stay in sync with the music. Now I’ve heard a lot of explanations for this about how players go “a little ahead or behind” when they play and on and on. But one thing is for sure. When they made the record there was a person sitting behind a drum set and not a metronome on stage. The fact that they are all playing together and grooving to that extent seems to suggest that there was some sort of internal thing they all had in common. There is a book called “The Power of Music” (I don’t recall the author off hand) that points out the premise that our sense of time in music is established while in the womb listening to the heart beat of our mother. A lot of references were made to prominent musicians who practiced with a metronome as well. I will quote a couple of jazz musicians I’ve known. Dizzy Reece for instance stated, “A metronome is not natural.” Dizzy Gillespie stated, “A metronome will make you play stiff.” I have an experience that one could try that might shock and amaze you. Try putting on a stethoscope and while listening to your heart beat see if you can get a metronome to sync up to it. It might even be feasible that trying to sync your time feel to a metronome clicking could be bad for your health. I am being facetious of course, but could there be a connection? I have often wondered about all of the young kids shooting up places and causing mayhem might have some connection to the music they are listening to with the drum machines. As Dizzy Reece feels, “it is not natural.” I know a lot of references were made to Michael Brecker, who I loved, and how he practiced with a metronome. I also recall a statement he made that playing with a metronome depressed him. He attributed it to the idea that he was rushing. Could it have been that was not the case at all? Does the possibility exist that he might have been attempting to do something “unnatural” as Dizzy Reece described it? I don’t know, but it is food for thought. Please understand that I do not mean any disrespect for those who disagree with these ideas. Its just my opinions that are in the article. I do know that the grooves we used to hit with Dizzy and Moody sure felt like a heart beat and not a clock ticking.


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