ARTIST FEATURE: From the road with Steve Vai to a Youtube hit: meet Alex De Pue, the master fiddler! He shares his views on rhythm and practice with a metronome.

1) Why is rhythm important?

Rhythm provides the context for every other part of music. Without rhythm, a melody could very well be unrecognizable! Many rhythms are evocative of different cultures (Think Samba, Cumbia, Waltzes, etc) and you can paint a much wider variety of musical pictures through extensive knowledge of them. If you are taking a solo in a band, having a solid sense of rhythm allows you to take even ONE NOTE and make it something exciting to listen to. Also, there is nothing like playing with a bunch of cats on stage who know how to lock into a big PHAT groove, not pushing or dragging, but syncing together in a nearly magical coalescence. Rhythm is what makes us move, it’s what gets people out on the dance floor; It can inspire moods, and affect your energy, etc.

It’s a pretty well-known fact that most hit songs are set to 120bpm (by “default”, even, when opening a new Pro Tools session), which is designed to coincide with the average human heart rate (subdivided). THAT is exactly what creates the urge we feel, as humans, to dance… a well-studied science, actually.

2) How often do you practice with a metronome?

I’d say at least 50% of the time, especially with new material. As a student of the violin, the metronome should become, very quickly, your “best friend”. Students should not often practice withOUT a metronome.

Students should not often practice withOUT a metronome.

3) Why is it important to practice with a metronome?

I have seen many students over the years add a metronome to a piece they are working on, only to see the shocked reactions, as they realize their various tendencies to speed up or slow down throughout the piece. It’s always good to set your tempo ONLY as fast as you can play the most difficult portion of your music, before deciding whatever will be deemed your current tempo. OVER-prepare those passages.

As a general rule while practicing a more difficult passage, I insist from myself three repetitions, WITH metronome, performed flawlessly and WITH metronome, before “graduating” myself, with the reward being an increase in tempo by ten clicks… a barely noticeable change, but after a few of those upticks throughout any practice session, your results should leave you feeling like a superhero by the end. Remember, three times… FLAWLESS… only then do we bump up.

4) Can you name one thing that you like about the metronome on

I love that you can track your practice time, and keep your short and long-term goals listed for increased motivation. It’s easy to get distracted in this busy world, and being able to actually look back at the time you have spent, allows for an honest evaluation from which to set new goals and get better, faster. These features are definitely an upgrade from your average, everyday metronome! Now, go practice!

VIDEO: Check out Alex’s original tune called Noriega!: