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How NOT to use a Metronome with a Drumline

Nobody wants a drumline that can’t keep time. We all know the metronome is the answer—but how?

The metronome is the most important tool a musician can own, and in no section is that more true than a drumline or marching percussion ensemble.

Even if you buy all the best metronomes for drumlines, you still need to use it correctly.

But, if simply turning on the metronome was enough, everyone would play in time and that would be the end of this discussion.

It’s not.

As far back as ~2011, Vic Firth has been publishing videos on the right (and wrong) ways to use a metronome in marching percussion.

Here’s Brian Mason telling it straight—

Don’t have time for the old school Vic video? No problem.

Here’s the deal…

 

The WORST way to use metronome with a percussion ensemble

  1. Turn it on to the quarter note
  2. End of list.

Too many groups fail to utilize their metronome to its full potential.

Sure, turning on the standard quarter note with a subdivision here or there is simple and effective.

But it’s just the beginning.

If you stop there, you miss out on so much more potential to build musicianship and tempo internalization that advanced metronome training can bring.

Read on to find out how you SHOULD be using a metronome when practicing all your favorite free drumline music charts, front ensemble/pit, or full marching percussion ensemble.

 

Metronome.

 

How to use a metronome with a drumline

I’ll cover many techniques and strategies to using a metronome for improving timing, time-keeping, rhythmic interpretation, technique and countless other aspects of being a percussionist that can apply to both the individual and the ensemble.

For each example, I’ll use 4/4 time like most blank drumline sheet music would for the sake of simplicity and consistency.

Quarter note

  • Talk about versatility
  • Able to focus on technique, timing, or pulse
  • Rhythmic variety (switching from eighth to triplet)

Subdivisions

Eighth note (fixes a lot of interpretation variation)

Sixteenth/triplet (basics, every note, perfect for first week/month of check patterns)

Big Beats

Four On, Four (or More) Off (tests time-keeping skills, helps internalize tempo, immediately exposes rushing or dragging)

Half/Whole note (big beats, gets the student started on thinking about getting their heads up and communicating, start to notice rushing/dragging, backbeat)

Drum machine

Direct rhythms, counter-rhythms.

Song

Bonus if it’s hiphop beats for drumline. Turn on Ye and let it play.

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