Magazine article American Harp Journal

The Teaching Corner

Magazine article American Harp Journal

The Teaching Corner

Article excerpt

with this issue's guest author Barbara Fischer

Welcome to The Teaching Corner of The American Harp Journal! I am honored to be asked to moderate what the AHJ Editorial Staff and I hope will become a lively forum for discussing teaching tips, practice hints, motivational tricks, and anything else that our community needs to share and discuss to become better, and more effective, teachers for our students.

The topic for this Journal's Corner is using the metronome. The "Met" (below), submitted by AHS member Barbara Fischer, prompted me to contact some colleagues, Lynne Abbey-Lee, Christine Van Arsdale, and Megan Metheney to find out how they incorporate the metronome into an effective teaching and practicing routine. Not surprisingly, many of us have the same approach to using what Van Arsdale calls "that little ticker that can push or pull, coax or restrain (or re-train!), depending upon how you use it."

Like many of you, I've been using a metronome for so long that it is hard to remember a time when I didn't use it! And, I check, and double, and triple-check, my students' use of the metronome, to be sure that they're truly anticipating and playing simultaneously with the click, rather than reacting to the sound. Abbey-Lee suggests that prior to using the metronome for speeding up, students need to be able to just match the beat (from the metronome) with clapping or tapping, then be able to subdivide the beat the same way, before they're ready to try playing with it to keep a steady tempo.

In my own studio, students begin with playing with the metronome by playing one quarter note exactly with the metronome set at 72 = eighth note, and progress to two quarter notes, then three, then a whole measure of quarter notes, then two, three, and four measures of quarter notes, until they are successful 100% of the time, before venturing into playing with both hands and subdividing the beat.

Van Arsdale uses the metronome to "coordinate precisely the left-right-left-right playing action." She sets the metronome to 88 = eighth note, so students hear a click on each note they're playing, then sets the metronome back to 42 = quarter note; they're playing in exactly the same tempo, just hearing the click on every other note. She then gradually increases the speed of the exercise over time.

Not surprisingly, many of us use the metronome to drill and improve technique. Metheney says: "My metronome gets most frequently used as I work exclusively on technique. Warming up is one thing (doing scales or arpeggios), but devoting a chunk of time to finger agility and strengthening is another. That's the "dirty work," and my metronome is usually on the stand during this time of concentrated technical refining. …

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