In this blog I want to talk about using a metronome. In my past experience there was not much use for rigorous timekeeping in worship. Many times it was good enough just to get close to the relative tempo. But, many new worship scenarios are requiring drummers to use the metronome or to play with preprogrammed loops. I myself have played in all three scenarios. Most recently I have been asked to start using a metronome during worship services. This is not such a problem for me because I use a metronome when I practice playing the drums. The real problem comes when the use of the metronome during rehearsals and performances exposes the lack of accurate time keeping of other musicians. In my experience this is true of acoustic and electric guitar players. Often times these individuals also happen to be the music director or worship leader, which can be a problem. I can only assume that this occurs because the players of these instruments are focused mainly on a songs chord changes, tone, riffs, and inflection.
I’m not trying to single out anyone type of musician or instrumentalist. But, I do think that amongst the majority of worship musicians we do not have a culture of “the metronome” or timekeeping. Unfortunately, this is not good in the current environment of worship music. Many of today’s songs and worship leaders are requiring more accuracy with timekeeping. I personally enjoy using the metronome because it takes a bit of the stress of keeping everyone on tempo off of me.
The only downside to using a metronome comes when a lead instrument drops a beat or gets behind the beat and then it makes it seem as though the drummer is losing the tempo. This usually necessitates turning off the metronome just for a beat or two, finding everyone else’s 1, and then starting the metronome again just to make sure everyone is on track. Obviously, this only happens if the drummer is the only instrumentalist that can hear the metronome. It is much more advantageous for all the musicians to hear the metronome, but this would require that everyone on stage has in-ear monitors. Unfortunately, this is a costly luxury and most medium to small-sized churches use floor monitors.
When I play I always use ear plugs. So, it is not foreign to me to put in in-ear monitors. I currently use a $100 pair of Sure E2’s. These allow me to protect my ears, hear the metronome clearly, and still hear my floor monitor. I am using these in combination with the Yamaha clickstation. There are several other metronomes that are fancier and have more versatility, but I preferred this one because of the rubber stop/start bar which I can hit with my stick. It also has a “type tempo” function that allows me to change tempos on-the-fly rather than dialing in a tempo. It is powered by a 9 V battery, for which I always have a spare. It is an electronic device after all and there’s no telling when it may decide die. It is always best to change out batteries every two or three weeks. This metronome also has a “vibration” function that is good to use when you do not have the ability to use in-ear monitors. This allows you to decipher a tempo without anyone else hearing a noise coming from the metronome.
Below are some pictures of my setup. I have rigged up a mounting device using various Gibraltar products. The threaded insert on the back of the metronome is 6 mm. I place it on the Hi Hat, close to me, so that I have access to it and it won’t get knocked around. You may be able to see from the pictures that I use all three subdivisions of the beat. 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16 notes. In this way I can better gauge the tempo of the metronome and separate its sounds from the sounds of the drum set and of the other instrumentalists.
I hope this gives you some good ideas for your own set up. When your worship leader approaches you about using a metronome during worship you will be prepared and have the remedy in hand.