How do I get my band to play in time? (Part 2 of 2)
In the last post we talked about the
3 Things Any Band Can Do with a metronome to improve tempo.
Now we are going to look at how to maintain excellent tempo while removing the metronome from rehearsal.
Building a strong sense of tempo is very similar to building physical muscles. It takes a lot of hard work and effort, and when you finally get where you want to be, you still have to work to maintain all the progress you've made. If you quit exercising altogether, your muscles will begin to atrophy much like your sense of time if you choose to put the met away for the rest of the season.
The polar ends of this topic are quite interesting. There are groups who never touch the met and have no real defined sense of tempo (constantly fluctuating and experiencing time tears). Then you have the groups who never practice without the met, making it a crutch, so when they go to perform they feel completely lost (this usually happens early on in the season).
How do we find the balance of using the metronome enough, but not too much?
After the ensemble has developed a strong sense of pulse with regular metronome use, begin using the doctor on 1 and 3 only. This requires the ensemble to be twice as focused as before since they are now receiving only half as much input from the met. An advanced version of this can also be applied, only having the met play the downbeat of each measure. This is still constant use of the metronome but while continuing to grow and strengthen the internal pulse of the ensemble.
2. Met Check
Once the ensemble is sturdy with half and quarter time tempos, begin removing the "constant use" of the metronome and begin spot checking. Allow the ensemble to begin each movement on their own, then after a few measures turn on the metronome to gauge how close the performers are to accurate tempo. This is one of the more telling techniques, and can take quite a bit of determination and focus to really maintain excellent tempo as the met comes in and out.
The trick here is when to begin implementing these different techniques. As long as consistent metronome use has taken place from day one of the season, you should be able to move into half-time met use before your first performance to set you up for a solid run. It is also valuable to do the last 2-3 runs of rehearsal without the metronome at all to see where trouble spots are and feel out how well the ensemble listens.
There is no silver bullet, but with hard work and the consistent use of good techniques, you can enjoy a very tempo-stable ensemble.