Why does the bounce work so well?

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“Its secret is ... a ‘gravity bounce’ that feels like having your own conductor to help you keep in time...” Martin Walker, PC Notes, Sound On Sound Mag., 2010

Many musicians have told me how much easier they find it to learn new rhythms with this metronome.

So - why is that? Think about that familiar moment when an orchestral conductor comes onto the stage at the start of a performance, silent and motionless for a moment or two.

Then he raises and drops the baton, and you hear a single chord with all the instruments wonderfully in time with each other. This simple visual cue is enough for all the players to come in, synchronised to within a millisecond or two.

It is easy and natural like anticipating the bounce of a bouncing ball.

  • When you first play with a metronome, the bounce helps you get started.
  • For experienced pros - it makes it much faster to learn new complex rhythms and ones with irregular timing, and helps when working on rock steady timing to "bury the beat".
  • For everyone, the bounce continually encourages you to play more exactly in time, much as a conductor does with his baton.
  • It also helps you to see immediately where you are in the measure at any time.

Normally a metronome encourages you to play slightly away from the click

Normal metronomes without bounce visuals can easily encourage you to play off the beat - especially if you are new to metronome practice.. When you are a fraction out of time, you hear the beat most clearly. When you are in time, the click can "disappear" - especially for players of loud instruments like percussion or piano.

So it is only natural to find yourself playing slightly off the beat so you can hear the metronome tick as clearly as possible. This makes it like an unstable equilibrium, it's really hard to keep in the pocket for more than a beat or two - and if you do it requires effort and tension.

Most musicians when they practise with the metronome play up to 50 ms away from the click at least some of the time.

It's best to play in the pocket in a relaxed way if you can

Howeve, it's best to try to see if you can hit the click and make it vanish, or merge, at least for some of your metronome practice time.

That way you can develop really precise time. It's not that you have to be on the beat every time - musicians often play ahead or behind the beat as part of the feel of the music, often intentionally. It is just so you can hit it exactly whenever you want to.

The bounce visuals help with this precision and relaxation

The bounce visuals help with this as they let you see the moment of the click precisely - even when the sound of the metronome tick merges or vanishes. A traditional pendulum mechanical metronome also shows the tick visually - but not with the precision of bouncing ball visuals.

The bounce action is also relaxing to follow. This helps you to bring that relaxation into your instrument technique.

See also my more recent blog post here: Enjoyment and Relaxation in Metronome Technique.

More about that in my page in the bounce metronome wiki How to keep exact time.

This vanishing metronome click is sometimes called "Burying the metronome click" or "Burying the beat". Here are a few links: How to develop rock solid rhythm guitar playing skills (scroll down for burying the click)  - Forum discussion at  ABRSM - Forum discussion at Drummer World. A google search will find much more.

So the bounce helps with that as well.

More thoughts on why the bounce works so well (this blog post is an edited version of that longer page)