Classical Trumpet Performance, Teaching

​John Freeman

The Metronome Game

   The Metronome Game is recommended for anyone who is having trouble working up a difficult fast passage.  If you have the patience, the Metronome Game can and will fix anything.   

How to play the game:  

Slow the metronome down to as slow you are able to play whatever passage you are working on perfectly.  All rhythms must be perfectly executed, and there can be no chipped notes, no wrong notes, no hesitating, no out of tune intervals, etc.  Usually this means slowing it down to an incredibly slow tempo.  This is fine, and what we want.  At Meadowmount, a world renowned classical music school in the woods of upstate New York they have a motto: “If a passerby can recognize what piece you’re practicing, you’re playing it too fast.”   

     It is imperative that when you start your practicing at a slow speed, the passage still sounds exactly as you want it to eventually sound like, just slower.  So, if you’re going to eventually be triple tonguing when it's fast, start triple tonguing from the beginning.   If an interval is out of tune when it’s slow, it’s going to stay that way as it gets faster.

Play it twice at this incredibly slow tempo. If you can play twice perfectly, you are allowed to bump the metronome up one click. Then try again at this new tempo.  If you play it perfectly, you can once again turn the metronome one click faster.  If anything, even just a tiny chipped note happens, you must go back one click slower.   Every time you make a mistake, you turn the metronome down slower until you can play it perfectly again.

This process can take perhaps 30-45 minutes of concentrated practice, but always achieves spectacular results.  Sometimes it might take several sessions or days to master a particularly tricky passage. But now you can master any particularly tricky passages in a few days?  My students are amazed when I force them to do it in our lessons.  Something they never thought they could play, suddenly they are playing faster, and perfectly every time.

When you practice this way, you are burning the correct memory of the passage into your brain with each perfect run through.  The brain can easily speed up this memory later, but it must be perfect going in or it won’t come out that way later.   We get out what we put in.  Let me repeat that... we get out EXACTLY what we put in.   If you practice something fast and sloppy 10 times, you have just burned that image into your brain.   What do you think is going to come out when now try to perform it?