Hi Chan! At this level, I don’t find use of the metronome to keep rhythm very productive. We are subject to the limitations of our current skill. So we often slow down the tempo to whatever pace is manageable. The rule would be to keep a steady speed, without stopping, not making corrections as you play. Hearing the beat of the metronome cannot give you the skill to play a faster tempo. Tapping the foot cannot help you internalize the tempo so that you can play through its difficult challenges more easily. So here’s my suggestion.
When to use a metronome
Use the metronome when you want to check a tempo marking dictated in the music. For example, you see the music says “quarter note equals 100 beats per minute”. So you set the metronome to 100 bpm and listen, scanning the notes of the music at that tempo. Now you have an idea of the end goal. Tempo markings are usually most important when you are playing with an orchestra or a piano accompanist. The metronome is a guideline, or a tool to give you a mental vision of how fast or slow to approximately play the passage.
Secondly, use the metronome in drill work. In drill work, you are playing short passages repeatedly, at a steady pace. The metronome steadies your playing tempo to the desired pace. If there are technical issues in the bow or left hand, you must identify them and work them out with the metronome OFF. Metronome teaches you to play steady, or faster, or slower, but it doesn’t forgive mistakes. So, it’s no good using a metronome until all the wrinkles are smoothed out.
Thirdly, use the metronome to push your tempo speed. Play small bursts of notes with metronome keeping time, repeating, and keeping time with metronome.
You don’t need to use a metronome for Suzuki Books music. The best teacher of the correct tempo is listening to the CD that came with your books. (or find the piece played on youtube) It is best to listen to a piece many, many times in order to feel the tempo inside you and play naturally from what you hear inside your mind as you play. It’s like singing in your head as you play. You hear the note just before you play it. You play the rhythm correctly because you hear it. There are four signals that tell me, as the teacher, if a student needs more listening. If you have any ONE of the four ‘Fs’, you need more listening.
Listening to examples of good music will fix all these problems. Tapping the foot and using a metronome, in most cases will not. Also, about tapping the foot, it is distracting to the listener and adds sounds to the music that the composer didn’t ask for, so if you tap the foot, do it so we can’t see or hear it! 😀