32 Metronomes Lock Into Groove After Starting At Different Times

I’ve had a fascination for the metronome since an early teenager-

You ask, what’s so fascinating about a metronome?

Well, the strive for performing with one, and playing in time is one of the important basics of great musicianship. Ah, becoming one with the metronome… It’s a beautiful thing. just ask any session player in Nashville.

You can tell right away (at least I can) a musician who has practiced with one vs. the musician that hasn’t. Yes, good music breaths and tempos shift. But this should be done according to feeling, and not by chance.

I once recorded a band that was having some serious timing issues, so I created an elaborate click track for them to play to. One of the band members during his speeding up solo stopped playing and said “hey, the click is going off.”

I said the following… Technically, I would say that indeed, the click IS going off… but not as much as you are.”

If you are a musician I’m certain that you experienced the following… You are all playing as a group at one tempo, in a groove.  Then a musician takes a solo… either ahead or behind the groove and “pulls the band” into another tempo. Some musicians are notorious for speeding up tempos, especially in bluegrass music. It’s just so natural to go along with it, and almost impossible to prevent.

Anyway, here’s a video that is just amazing to me which shows under certain circumstances, that even a metronome  can get pulled away or “bullied” by the group to follow their groove rather than keep it’s own tempo. Here’s the explanation:

“If you place 32 metronomes on a static object and set them rocking out of phase with one another, they will remain that way indefinitely. Place them on a moveable surface, however, and something very interesting (and very mesmerizing) happens.

The metronomes in this video fall into the latter camp. Energy from the motion of one ticking metronome can affect the motion of every metronome around it, while the motion of every other metronome affects the motion of our original metronome right back. All this inter-metranome “communication” is facilitated by the board, which serves as an energetic intermediary between all the metronomes that rest upon its surface. The metronomes in this video (which are really just pendulums, or, if you want to get really technical, oscillators) are said to be “coupled.”

The math and physics surrounding coupled oscillators are actually relevant to a variety of scientific phenomena, including the transfer of sound and thermal conductivity.”  read more

On thing that I didn’t see was if the metronomes were all set to the same tempo. I would imagine this really won’t work unless that was the case.


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