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!
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!