So I guess I have a complicated learning history. Over about 12 years, I acquired several bad habits that only now I’m figuring out how to overcome, and it severely hindered my technique and learning process. I could get by, but I never really felt like I had control of my instrument. It was like that for various reasons, like not being patient enough with myself and wanting to be better and play more difficult things than I could actually play at the time, and relying on fake technique to get the job done. Another reason was anxiety.
If I remember well, I think that for a time I focused on playing along with the metronome, and I might haven’t even practiced without the metronome at all. That was until one or two years ago, when I started going metronome-free. Not only that, but I started to practice without much regard for tempo. I’m aware when I’m playing out of tempo, and I’m doing it on purpose. For example, I might play a passage at a slow to medium tempo, and when I get to the tricky part of the passage I slow the hell down to really focus on my fingers and the sensations I feel.
I’m aware that I need to play things at tempo eventually, but what I now believe is that practicing with a metronome hindered my technique and tempo more than it helped. It pressured me with staying on the click, even if that meant using fake technique in order to manage that. The metronome gave me awareness of tempo, sure, but I wasn’t developing the proper technique to actually stay on tempo in a relaxed, technically efficient way.
So my personal hunch is that metronomes might be helpful for developing tempo awareness, they might be helpful either when you don’t have that awareness yet or when you’ve already developed your technique to the point when all that’s left is to make sure that it all flows together at tempo. They might help to test if we can play a passage at a given tempo. But they might be damaging if we use them with the intention of developing technique, and that technique might be better worked at no-tempo.
I feel like I’ve been fighting my own nature when I practiced with a metronome, that forcing myself to play with the beat when my body wanted to go out of tempo hindered the development of technique, because my body and my mind might have been attempting to figure things out at a speed where it could be relaxed, and I didn’t allow it. Furthermore, it might have given me the impression that all parts of a given passage were equal, when I needed to spend more time with one part than other. Now, I can’t say that was the fault of the metronome, but of my approach, but I still think that the metronome might have influenced me in such a way that it convinced me of its authority, rather than being just a tool to be used in the correct way.
Overall, I feel like I’ve been making a lot more progress since I’ve started to practice without the metronome. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t times when the metronome is helpful, but that it must be used with the right intention in mind. I feel like I’ve skipped something fundamental about the development of my technique and that practicing without the metronome is more useful. However, it makes sense to me to use the metronome to glue the music together, or practice scales, etc, when the technique is at a more solid level. I use a metronome when practicing drums. I slow it down if I’m working on a more difficult passage, but at times, that passage is so unfamiliar to me that I prefer to turn it off altogether.
This might have all been common sense to you guys, or it might be a new idea. I don’t know I’m interested in hearing you guys’ opinion on this.