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Tick Tick of the Met is Painful. All Sane and Logical.

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The metronome lies, right?  Or are we frustrated with our inability to accurately play on the beat?  How should that sound?  How does this affect our ability to play great dotted rhythms?

Andrew clearly diagrams how we should be playing to the metronome beat and how this can be applied to dotted rhythms using ALAP/ASAP.  Stop rushing, rounding, and getting frustrated.  Start finding the value in your steady friend, the metronome.

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Video Transcription:

John says, "Can I look at my wristwatch to get a base 60 beats per minute?" Good question. You can, but you need a metronome that you can hear when you're practicing. So that's a really good question. So yeah, you can look at your wristwatch to get a base 60 beats per minute and it will be exactly accurate. But a lot of times people, maybe they don't have a metronome that they like, I think that's an issue. And then a lot of people don't have one that they can amplify to listen to while they're playing the pipes. So we start to make excuses like, "Oh, I'll just turn on my metronome and I'll just look at it blinking." You can't really do that because we want that immediate tactile thing that we get with the metronome.

So for example, when we look at like the wave form of a metronome, the metronome goes like this and then we have, every time we hear the metronome, we will have a sound event that looks like this, and then the room will echo a little bit perhaps. So we might hear like a slight decay. And that's what the click of a metronome looks like, right? And that's what the sound of it does, right? And that's going to happen at a regular interval. Each time it looks kind of like a heartbeat, except there's just one of them every interval. And a metronome is like an extremely small musical event. Right?

Now let's take a tune like John Patterson's Mare, and there are three things that need to happen inside of each beat, right? There's those three subsections of the beat and we want to play them perfectly evenly. But what we want the metronome to do is literally to swallow up the first thing of every three. Nine times out of ten in a jig, what's the first thing that's supposed to go on the beat in every group of three? Good, the G gracenote, right? So here's our G gracenote. And if we're playing it properly,  the click of the metronome is literally swallowing up our G gracenote so that the two things are exactly the same. You see?

And what we should be listening for when we are playing and practicing and developing is for the actual swallowing up of the thing to happen. And so what you want is for your metronome to be loud enough that you can actually listen for the swallowing. Okay? And if it's not loud enough, you got to find one that's louder. And yes, we want to do this on the pipes if we can as well. But like this metronome right here is not really loud enough.

Right? It's not really loud enough. Like I can listen for whether or not the two things coincide, but what we really want to do is maybe get it going over here.

Yeah. Now that puppy is loud. Right?

Anyway, my point being the sound of the metronome is the most tactile thing and we want a metronome that's loud enough so that we actually can't hear our G gracenote because it's perfectly timed with the metronome and the metronome is so loud that it's covering it up. Does everybody understand that? Right? The metronome click is so loud it's actually covering up our G gracenotes. And that's how we can really kind of listen for that actual true fusion of it. We never even want to hear that thing.

So when you're on the practice chanter, use headphones. That makes tons of sense to me. But when we're on the pipes, you could use headphones when you're practicing. But then the reason we really want that speaker is for the recording. So when we listen to our recording back, we'll have a nice loud metronome and we can compare the thing that's supposed to be on the beat with the actual beat itself. That's really, really great, really a great question and a really great discussion point.

We can combine it with some of the ALAP/ASAP discussion that we were having the other day, right? So here's some beats, here's our metronome click. Let's pretend these all dead even, I know that they're not. Here are some beats. Let's pretend that we have ALAP/ASAP on each of these beats, just like we do in George Allan, right? So here are our beats. Here's our ALAP. Now ALAP goes all the way to the split second before the next beat. Good. There's our ASAP. You see? If there were no gracenotes, but in this case there are, but the gracenotes should still be 100% swallowed up by the sound of that beat. Right? Can everybody see what's going on here? Like I'm just drawing our ALAPs linearly here.

But now our gracenotes might be somewhere, might be something like this. Like, so let's draw some gracenotes now. All right, so here's our gracenote. Now if we're doing our gracenote correctly, the beat itself is actually totally swallowing it up. Now we also have a gracenote here separating these two, but then the gracenotes that should be on the beat are actually entirely swallowed up by the click of the metronome if we're doing it right. All right, so to continue our discussion from yesterday, here's four beats. All right. Now what most people are doing is they are abandoning the ALAP too soon. Okay. I just held my ALAP really long. So we're about to leave, but look how much space we have left. Right? And what I was saying the other day is there's only two things that can possibly happen now. Thing one would be we have to extend the ASAP so that the next ALAP can happen starting on the beat. Right? And what's that called? Yeah, it's called round.

Okay. Is that musical? Yes, it is musical. But it's not nearly as musical, or to appease a person like John McCain, as idiomatic as a what ALAP/ASAP would provide for us.

Okay? So when we leave too early, that's one thing that could happen is we could end up rounding it out like that. What's the other thing that might end up happening? Is we still play this note as short as musically possible, like so. And then we begin our next ALAP. See? We just started the next ALAP drastically before the beat. And generally we keep doing it. So that sounds like this.

Right? It starts to sound like that. Like we're trying so hard to hold all of our notes, but we're not really getting what's really going on and so we have that perpetual ahead of the beat playing. Does anybody here, not so much anymore, but did we ever have perpetually ahead of the beat playing? The cause of that, especially in these dot-cut tunes is usually generally abandoning the dotted note way too soon. So going back to our mostly correct diagram here of what we want to do with our ALAP/ASAP, this is where the practical advice that I was giving you the other day comes in, right?

So our foot is slamming down on the ground right here, and then it kind of comes up and it gets ready to slam down again. And then, for me, it does kind of like this and it does indeed sort of bounce up into the air and then comes down. This is my foot in the air, right? Something like this. If I'm double timing and I'm double timing, which I would be doing here, this is sort of the path that my foot takes. And what I want people to do is get used to the action of not moving onto the ASAP. Look how like my foot is almost on the ground here when it aligns with the beginning of the ASAP, right? My foot is almost on the ground, almost on the ground, almost on the ground. And that is the secret.

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Andrew Douglas Andrew is a prolific practitioner of the bagpipe, having been active at the highest level of pipe bands, solo competition, teaching, and creative endeavors for the past 20 years. He's also the founder and creator of Dojo U and of PipersDojo.com

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