Down The Middle

Lesson Number One: the metronome doesn’t care about you.

See that metronome there on the piano, class? It doesn’t give a crap about you! You could be having the worst day of your life, but the metronome doesn’t care. You could be swimming with herpes, but the metronome does not care. Flood, famine, pestilence? The metronome does! Not! Care! Set that thing to 120 beats per minute, and it IS 120 beats per minute. No wavering, no complaining: Just a ruthless, methodical 120 bpm straight down the middle.

Think about this, class! The metronome is one of the great levelers the world has ever known. It is democracy and justice. Balance and symmetry. That metronome doesn’t care if you’re black, white, green, whatever. All it cares about in this world is keeping tempo. It shows you what is and gives you the chance to succeed. And if you can’t keep up, well, that’s on you to keep trying. THAT’S democracy.

What’s great about the metronome is that it will LET you succeed. It will give you all the tools you need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get ahead. If you’re struggling with a passage at 160 bpm, you can slow it down and work on that phrasing until you get it nailed, and then speed it up until you get that nailed, and then speed THAT up. Try asking if you can slow down the production line at the factory so you can catch up!

And here’s something really cool: the metronome takes you in between the lines. See, class, rhythm isn’t notes: it’s the spaces in between the notes. The metronome is set, and it offers you the same exact space in between notes, over and over and over again. You can fill and synchronize those spaces all you want, and you’ll have unlimited chances to get it right. Because that metronome isn’t stopping and it isn’t going anywhere.

You will never have a more honest, even-handed friend in your life, class. That metronome right there is pure loyalty. It’s there for you, precisely because it doesn’t care about you.



  1. Love it! This is the kind of friend I’ve been looking for, no nonsense, a straight shooter.

    • Honest and diplomatic to a fault.

  2. Funny but true. Of course, once the chops are in place, you spend the rest of your artistic life playing around with the time 🙂

    • Learn the rules. Then break the hell out of them.

      • Absolutely!

  3. Would have loved to have met the music teacher who imparted this bit of wisdom.
    Dead on!

    • It’s sort of a composite, but both professors were the type where you learn more sitting down with them and bullshitting for ten minutes than you would have learned in a full semester with someone else. Lucky for me.

  4. Mine died. Missing the beegeebies out of keeping life in order, on time and focused.

    • DAMNIT!!! Somebody get Jots some 120 BPM, STAT!!!

      • My piano’s on fire trying to bring Mozart’s Sonata II, K. No. 280 up to 138 BPM…send fire extinguisher, too!

      • don’t TOUCH!!!

      • Give her a C. A bouncy C.

  5. My mom plays the piano, and the metronome was a source of pride and aggravation when we were learning music.

    • Yes and Yes!

  6. Lily said:

    Never thought about it that way! The metronome: very solid, but kind of a bitch.

  7. That would’ve been a much better title for this. Damnit!

  8. I love this. You are really making me think today, Brian. Thank you for the metaphorical slap in the face. (C’mon, snap out of it!) 🙂

    • I try to enlighten while I pummel…

  9. Well said!!!

    • Why, thanks!

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