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Microtonal Music and Metronome As Taskmaster!

Grammy Award winning microtonal guitarist John Schneider shares insights on the importance of rhythm and practicing with the metronome.

Inspiration by Metronome Online with

ARTIST FEATURE: Meet John Schneider, the Grammy Award winning microtonal guitarist, Partch instrument builder, radio host, producer, recording engineer, record label owner and educator! We are so lucky to have him share his thoughts on keeping time in music and some other interesting rhythmic concepts. Check it out!

1) Why is rhythm important?

Of course accurate rhythm is essential to reproduce exactly what a composer has written down. But from the performer’s point of view, subtle shifts in rhythmic value—along with modulation of timbre and dynamics—enables the control of the music’s emotional content. In the same way that a great actor can infuse different meanings in a text, great musicians use those same techniques, and the manipulation of rhythmic values is one of our most powerful tools.

2) How do you practice your rhythm and sense of time?

The metronome is my best friend, especially when learning difficult passages where fingering choreography is essential to success. Starting at achingly slow tempi allows the brain to concentrate on controlling the smallest movements, and helps maximize efficiency. Then the slow process of gradually quickening the tempo ingrains the accurate movement in ‘muscle memory’ so eventual performances will be bullet-proof at any speed. During this rigorous process, I do not advance to a faster tempo until I can play a passage perfectly 3 times in a row. The metronome is my taskmaster!

" The metronome is my best friend! "

3) What are your favorite rhythmic exercises?

I really enjoy outrageously changing the tempi & even actual rhythmic values while practicing familiar pieces. Making Bach’s famous E-minor Bourée “swing” á la Jethro Tull, for example, is great way train the mind/fingers relationship. Also artificially dotting or double-dotting eighth-note passages helps to focus rhythmic accuracy.

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

It’s always right there! Anyone with a Smart Phone can have an accurate ‘click’ in seconds (keep that phone charged!).

VIDEO: Count those frets and listen to John’s performance of Lou Harrison’s Round in the video below!

Microtonal Music and Metronome As Taskmaster!

John Schneider

John Schneider is the Grammy® Award winning guitarist, composer, author, and broadcaster whose weekly television and radio programs have brought the guitar into millions of homes. He holds a Ph.D. in Music & Physics from the University College Cardiff [U.K.], music degrees from the University of California and the Royal College of Music [London], and is past President of the Guitar Foundation of America. He has released over twenty CD’s and written dozens of articles on the guitar, while the newly revised & enlarged edition of his The Contemporary Guitar has become the standard text in the field. He has performed in Europe, China, Japan, Vietnam & throughout North America, and been featured by New Music America, the DaCamera Society, Southwest Chamber Music, New American Music Festival, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Other Minds, and the BBC. He is the founding artistic director of MicroFest, the contemporary music ensembles Just Strings, PARTCH Ensemble, and founder of MicroFest Records. He can be heard weekly on Pacifica Radio's The Global Village [www.KPFK.org] (more at www.JohnSchneider.LA).


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