Why does the bounce work so well?
From Bounce Metronome
Martin Walker, PC Notes, Sound On Sound Mag., 2010
Many musicians have told me how much easier they find it to learn new rhythms with this metronome.
So - why is that? Think about that familiar moment when an orchestral conductor comes onto the stage at the start of a performance, silent and motionless for a moment or two.
Then he raises and drops the baton, and you hear a single chord with all the instruments wonderfully in time with each other. This simple visual cue is enough for all the players to come in, synchronised to within a millisecond or two.
In the same way the visuals in Bounce Metronome Pro let you see when to play each note before you come to it. It is easy and natural like anticipating the bounce of a bouncing ball.
This is helpful whether you are a beginer or pro.
- When you first play with a metronome, the bounce helps you get started.
- For experienced pros - it makes it much faster to learn new complex rhythms and ones with irregular timing.
- For everyone, the bounce continually encourages you to play more exactly in time, much as a conductor does with his baton.
Why does the Bounce make such a difference?
At first sight the bounce and the conducting visuals may seem nothing too special. So it's a conducting metronome - so what? But if you try it out as your practice metronome - you may well be amazed at what a difference it makes.
Many musicians have told me how Bounce Metronome helps you to learn new rhythms more quickly and easily. So - why and how does that work, and why does it make such a difference?
The magical moment when a conductor raises his baton
I've tried to understand why this helps so much. Think about an orchestral conductor. He comes onto the stage, stands there completely motionless for a few seconds - then raises the baton and drops it, and perhaps the entire orchestra comes in together in a single loud crashing chord - all together.
Here is a rather fun video about this: Itay Talgam: Lead like the great conductors.
How do they do it? It would be next to impossible to do that without the conductor or some visual way of showing the time. If all the players were to shut their eyes, and no counting, it would be almost impossible to do. So however it works, it is all done visually.
How we naturally synchronise with a bounce motion
We are so good at anticipating the fall of e.g. a bouncing ball or a baton - that the visual indication is enough to let the entire orchestra come in together, not just approximately, but at the same exact moment almost to the millisecond. In the same way the conductor can bring the entire orchestra to a halt in the middle of a piece for an indefinite period of time, a fermata - and even though the orchestra can't know in advance how long he will hold it, might be different length of time for the same fermata in difference performances, they still come in all together as one at the end of the silence, after he drops the baton.
In the same way the bounce visuals help you to anticipate every beat - you can see when it will happen in advance, and just like the orchestral players and the conductor, you can then come in exactly on time with the metronome beat, every time on every beat. Even for complex and irregularly timed rhythms such as swing, or for tricky polyrhythms and the like.
Bury the beat, and the vanishing metronome tick - why beginners often find practice with a metronome so tricky
Beginners find practice with a normal metronome tricky, in fact, as a beginner, your attempts to practice with a metronome may even discourage you from playing exactly in time. Even more advanced musicians often play with a metronome in a rather approximate way, not so in time as they are when they play with other musicians.
I think one reason for that is that when you have the sound only, you can hear the metronome tick more easily if you play slightly ahead or behind the metronome ticks, because if you play exactly on the beat, the ticks will merge with your notes, and become less distinct. The ticks may even appear to vanish altogether if you play a moderately loud instrument such as drums, piano etc.
Pro musicians may do this deliberately, they play to "bury the beat" for rock solid timing.
So with a conventional metronome, all the time as you practice, there's a natural tendency to learn to play slightly out of time with the metronome, just so you can hear it more easily. With ensemble practice even without a conductor or leader, you still have some visual interaction with the other musicians, which probably helps you to keep in time.
Probably because of this, many musicians especially beginners use metronomes only in an approximate way and are noticeably out of time with it - which can't be very good for developing your sense of exact time. (If you want to confirm this just check out youtube for videos of inexperienced musicians practicing with a metronome, and you will find many examples). You need to make a special effort to learn to play exactly in time with a conventional metronome.
How the Bounce Visuals help with this
So I think that's why the Bounce Metronome Pro visuals work so well. They help to counteract this tendency, and make this natural and easy to do. All the time as you practice the visuals help you to play more and more exactly in time with the clicks. This helps you to learn the rhythms precisely, especially complex rhythms, and also gets you into the habit of playing exactly in time which will help with ensemble work.
It may also be what helps to make the metronome practice more natural and pleasurable - this is another comment I get from musician users of the metronome that they enjoy the practice with the metronome more. Perhaps what happens is that you play better in time, and you can hear that you are in time and the visuals confirm this for you, and this makes everything so much easier. And there is something about the organic nature of the bouncing visuals which helps to make your playing more fluid and flowing - probably because rather than a sudden event, the metronome tick, it is more of a continuous motion which you play in time with.
How to use Bounce Metronome to help keep exact time
This vanishing metronome click is sometimes called "Burying the metronome click" or "Burying the beat". Here are a few links: How to develop rock solid rhythm guitar playing skills (scroll down for burying the click) - Forum discussion at ABRSM - Forum discussion at Drummer World. A google search will find much more.
So the bounce helps with that as well.