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Re: Trouble Hearing Music
Posted by Waltz123
4/14/2014  5:11:00 PM
Hi Bob,

A metronome may or may not help you It depends on the nature of your difficulty in interpreting the music.

If your problem is so fundamental that you have difficulty recognizing and keeping time with a basic pulse, then a metronome might help you. However, this is very unlikely to be the case. I have taught several hundred students over the years, and can only remember one for whom clapping along with a metronome was actually a problem. I sat patiently with her and helped her to eventually clap along in time with the pulse, but it was a long haul. If this truly is your issue, then you may want to invest, at least for a little while, in a music teacher instead.

Assuming you can clap along with a pulse, I would next check to see if you can dance to the same, first with something simple such as Merengue (no rhythms; just one step per beat). Assuming thats ok, try a basic repeatable pattern with rhythm, such as a Foxtrot, Swing, Rumba or Cha Cha basic. And if you can do that easily, try something that really challenges you -- the idea being that you distract your conscious brain enough to see how automatic your response is to the pulse and the rhythms that you superimpose upon it.

If you can clap to a basic pulse but have trouble with any of the above exercises, it will help you zero in on the types of distractions and level of complexity that prevent you from staying in time, which will make it clear where you need to focus your attention. In this way, a metronome can help.

If you dont have trouble with any of this, then the issue lies more with the way you hear the music itself, and a metronome is really not what you need. The chances are very good that this is really the problem.

With regard to the music, I find that students have one of two problems: (1) They cant find the basic pulse buried within the sounds produced by the instruments, or (2) they have trouble identifying which is the strongest beat, I.e. the 1 beat.

To help with the first problem, understand that music comes in a wide variety of styles, some with a very strong beat, some not so much. You should start with the easiest music and work your way up. International Tango music, for example, is a march with a strong snare hit on every beat. Slow Waltz can have no rhythm section at all, forcing you to rely on melodic orchestral instruments to find the subtle pulse. Spend 20 minutes every day sitting down and listening to various types of music and clapping out the pulse. You can even do it on your way to the dance studio by tapping on your steering wheel. Commit yourself to a certain amount of time each day where your interaction with the music is simply listening and clapping or tapping, but not doing anything dance-related, which adds distraction. Start with music with a strong beat, and work your way up in difficulty. As you get better, you can add even more difficulty by trying to tap out dance rhythms, e.g. SSQQ or 1a2, 3a4, etc.

Some people (myself included) have made music tracks that begin with a straight metronome, fading the music in slowly over the top, and eventually fading the metronome out. This can be a handy tool, but Ive only ever found it really necessary with chronically unmusical students, like the lady I described earlier. In most cases, forcing the student to listen to and tap along with unmodified music daily usually does the trick.

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