Metronomes: Essential Violin Accessories for Students
There are plenty of violin accessories available for student violinists, as well as for those who play cello, viola or bass. Few, if any, of the accessories on the market are unnecessary. Most violin accessories, such as dampits, mutes and fine tuners are useful, essential even, but not vital. Then there are the vital accessories beyond shoulder rests and strings that make practice and progress faster and simpler for the student player, such as metronomes.
Metronomes are considered vital accessories by virtue of the fact that the entire point of playing the violin – or any other instrument for that matter – is to play in tune and in time. Nobody can argue with that. Teaching a student to clap his or her hands and tap his or her feet in rhythm in order to keep a steady tempo is only effective if the student possesses a good, natural sense of time.
The metronome is a device that produces a steady, rhythmic, metrical pulse that is audible to the student while playing in order to aid the student in keeping a steady tempo. The beats produced by metronomes are adjustable in terms of beats per minute in order to produce varying tempos. Metronomes are not only audible aids, but visual aids as well. As the beat pulses, a pendulum swings from side to side.
It is not unusual to find, even in student instructional books, a “metronome marking” whereby the composer of a tune indicates the intended tempo of the composition. Even intermediate and advanced players have use for a metronome in such circumstances. In this way, the metronome is a valuable tool for musicians and most stringed instrument musicians have one in their practice area.
There are a number of different types of metronomes available on the market, ranging from mechanical metronomes to electronic metronomes, software metronomes to metronome phone apps. Each behaves and operates differently. The classic mechanical metronome, where an adjustable weight is placed on the end of an inverted pendulum that can be slid up and down in order to control the tempo, is recommended for student players. This is due to the fact that the student can view the swinging pendulum while hearing the clicks.
Today, metronomes come in all sizes, including compact designs that can easily fit in a student’s violin case. It is recommended that beginning students use a metronome early in the lessons in order to grasp the importance of tempo and playing in time. Non-compact metronome designs are also useful, as most private teachers and classrooms have metronomes available for student use.
While shopping for a metronome, it is a good idea to consult a local violin shop, which will typically stock a variety of metronomes for purchase. A student’s teacher, too, will provide good advice to parents about what sort of metronome will best fit the student’s needs and budget.