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Beyond the Metronome

in·chro·nous (ĭnʹ krôn- əs) adj. Exhibiting an ability to play rhythm accurately in steady time without the aid of a metronome, recorded music, or other musicians ... what many experienced musicians refer to as your internal clock.

While following a metronome can be a constant check of your rhythmic accuracy, you might find yourself making adjustments in your tempo to become synchronized with it or, for that matter, other musicians. This book is full of lessons, exercises, and 346 inchronicity tracks to help you develop and internalize your sense of steady time ... your inchronation. Once mastered, you can bring rhythmic accuracy and a confident groove to the music you play.

Author Malcolm "Mac" Santiago has worked for over thirty-five years as a versatile drumset player/percussionist and teacher. As an accomplished rhythm section player he has dealt closely with issues of tempo in many styles of music.

Beyond the Metronome is well thought out and goes right to the source of time issues.
— Ari Hoenig

This book presents a unique and effective method that can help ALL musicians develop and refine their internal sense of time.
— Gordy Knudtson

REVIEW 

Beyond the Metronome is a 57-page book with a supplemental MP3 CD, written and self-published by drummer/percussionist/educator, Mac Santiago. The premise of the book, which you may have already guessed, is to assist in the development of a solid sense of time.

In the preface, Santiago explains that like intonation, the ability to play accurate pitches, inchronation (a word he made up) would be the "ability to play accurately or steadily in time, without unintentionally speeding up or slowing down." Certainly inchronation is an equally valuable skill as intonation, although often times overlooked.

In Part One: Tools of Inchronation, Chapter 1, "Finding Your Inner Clock" has five lessons which includes a self evaluation test using one of the 346 click tracks, verbal and mental subdivisions (duple, triple, quadruple), physical movement (referred to as "The Little Dance"), rhythmic unison, and working with a click track that decreases in volume (ie. decrescendo) over a fixed period of time.

Chapter 2, "The Elongated Click" contains three lessons; creating tempos with whole-notes and half-note clicks, being inchronous around the click track — that is using verbal/mental subdivisions (VMS) and the "little dance" (LD) while playing written rhythms, and working with a displaced click track.

Chapter 3, "The Diminishing Click" deals with playing to a click track that gradually changes the number of pulses that are sounded. Example being that the click track is sounding a quarter-note pulse, then changes to half-notes, then whole-notes, to the point that you are performing with a click track that only sounds once every eight measures.

In Part Two: Concepts and Applications, there are seven chapters with lessons, exercises, "challenges" and tests. Chapter 4, "Motor Response" discusses brain and motor skills; cognitive and reactive responses.

Chapter 5, "Tempo Memory" sheds light on finding a tempo by associating it with a well-known, recorded song or finding a new, relative tempo, by relating to the same familiar song.

Chapter 6, "Count-ins" (aka count-offs), discusses ways to improve and avoid rushing/dragging while setting the tempo before playing commences.

Chapter 7, "Rhythmony and Time Feel" is all about playing "on top" (aka "in the pocket", "in front" and "behind" the pulse/beat.

Chapter 8, "Phrasing, Accelerando, and Ritardando" makes use of six exercises to develop the ability to slow down or accelerate in a gradual manner as opposed to making abrupt or sudden changes in tempo.

Chapter 9, "Inchronicity Challenges" is about checking the ability to create time as well as make one aware of how much they've internalized a sense of steady time.

Chapter 10, "Self Evaluation / Margin of Error Test" reveals the tendencies in the player's timekeeping, making use of a metronome, stopwatch and spreadsheet.

Beyond the Metronome is written in such a way that it applies to all musicians, not just drummers and percussionists. Much can be gleaned by simply absorbing the concepts and exercises, then working with any one of the 346 click tracks on the CD. That is to say that you don't even have to be at your instrument in order to learn and grow; all you need is a way to play the audio tracks (eg. computer, MP3 player, car stereo, etc.).

Although everyone can benefit from the wisdom and exercises in the book, it is a scholarly work. I would never consider this book to be an easy read — although it's not a difficult read either. To be blunt, the context and concepts found in the book require a firm understanding of time and the pulse in music, as well as an ability to concentrate and comprehend what is being discussed. This is the real deal.

Seasoned professionals, both performers and educators, will love this book! Teachers of higher education could easily apply and/or adapt Beyond the Metronome to their course work, while serious students of music can grow and learn on their own.

I personally appreciate this book largely because I've been using similar concepts and exercises with my students and my own playing for the past three decades, as well as writing several articles on the topic. Beyond the Metronome, however, takes all that I've ever done (and more), and rolls it into one nice package.

If you are an intermediate or advanced player, and are serious about developing an ability to deeply internalize a sense of steady time (aka timekeeping), this book is for you. I highly recommend it.


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