The Internal Metronome


What makes you tick?


Just why is it so difficult for some people to play in time even when a metronome is clicking away in their ear, let alone when they need to set the time themselves without one?

The simple answer to this, as always, may be found within the Mind and I call it the Internal Metronome.

Before I explain how to uncover and activate it, three misconceptions must be addressed so, again as always, one does well to dissect the matter into its tiniest component and master it both in Mind and Body.  For the Internal Piano, this is 'steadiness'.

The misconceptions relate to rhythm (1), tapping along (2) and tempo (3).

1.  Having a 'sense of rhythm' does not mean that you can execute music in time in any time signature.  One may 'feel the rhythm' or 3/4 or 12/8 time but not have steadiness in timing.  Thus, awareness and activation of the inherent steadiness of the internal metronome is key to playing in any rhythm accurately.

2.  Using a body part (usually the foot) to train yourself to have a sense of rhythm when music is playing, or to a metronome set at different speeds, is as much use as wooden soap.  It is an illusion of artificial steadiness for the simple fact that the timing is coming from outside the Mind.  Thus, awareness and activation of the inherent steadiness of the internal metronome is key to being able to tap along to any beat accurately.

3.  Executing musical phrases at speed is usually considered difficult because more brain power (conscious interference) is required to keep time.  Of course, this is nonsense.  Tempo is not an issue because steadiness is steadiness.  Thus, awareness and activation of the inherent steadiness of the internal metronome is key to handling higher tempos.

How to uncover this elusive internal metronome that has been tucked away for so many neglected years?

As I propose in this related video, close your eyes and count to 15 seconds using a real timer as a marker (but don't cheat!)


By doing this exercise a few times, not to mention the benefits in patience one acquires, you will see how your 'inherent second', which may be a tiny bit faster or a tiny bit slower than an official second, is giving you almost identical results.

Consider this a revelation because you have just uncovered your Internal Metronome.

Try using this default inherent second and apply a different count to each 'second'; for example, each second you may count 3 beats.  You could even mumble song lyrics to yourself to a favourite song but never lose conscious awareness (I don't say control) of this inherent steadiness.

What is necessary now is to continue doing this training in your mind anywhere you find yourself.  Driving?  Use the white lines in the road if at a fixed speed and apply a time signature to them.  Walking?  Use a particular step as a beat and pick a time signature.  Each step could be worth 1 or 3 beats, for example.  Maybe you can imagine a particular drum rhythm or bass line (such as the infamous Billy Jean one) and observe as your internal metronome is able to slow down that bass or speed it up at will; try varying bars of different speeds.  4 bars at your natural second, 3 bars a little faster then drop it right down.  The natural results which are taking place outside your conscious mind should startle you.

No matter how you exercise this internal metronome 'muscle', know that it will become stronger and more present and remain an 'undercurrent' to anything that you wish to play.  It is adaptable by nature, the exercises above just allow you to experience that fact.  When you sit at the piano, let that internal steadiness come into play; request a tempo, set the time signature and it will begin for you.  Do not interfere.  This is the biggest difficulty: playing (even one note melodies) and trying to control the internal metronome.  This results only in failure.

Again, the internal metronome is ignorant of time signature and tempo; they simply do not matter and are not to be thought of as anything to do with a sense of rhythm.  The 'sense of rhythm' is the result of an awareness and then absolute freedom of the inherent steadiness that we all have, if we just give it a chance to be discovered and exercised just like any other muscle.

I hope this proves beneficial for every single reader.

Perhaps consider joining my Water Pianism Community and sharing your progress.

 If you enjoyed this article, consider sharing, Liking my Facebook Page and joining me on YouTube. If you would like to apply for online Piano Lessons with me, see here.  Do also consider my books.