Backbeats and metronomes

I’ve probably said this before, but I think a lot of the challenge classical musicians have when we try to lock into a metronome is that we constantly put it on the front of the beat, and not the back.

If you count a 4/4 measure like “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and,” the classical musician will make the metronome click on the numbers. The problem is, we’re all soaked from the day we’re born in dance music that puts the click on the ands. (That’s when the drummer hits the hi-hat, and it’s what gives dance music its energy.) And when a pop or rock musician practices with a metronome, that’s where they will put the click — and it’s a ton easier to lock in like that.

Now, it doesn’t work with all music, and certainly not all classical music. This piece I’m working on now has a lot of 3-against-2 in it, and there’s no clearly defined backbeat as a result. But for a lot of music, especially Baroque, classical musicians should try putting the metronome an eighth note off and locking into a backbeat. We’re so surrounded by that kind of music from the day we’re born that I think locking in on the front of the beat is a kind of foreign language to us. No wonder we have such a tough time of it.

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