Creating Mastery in Music’s Time Space

Photograph Compliments of Marcela Laskoski

Time is the ultimate foundation upon which all our work rests. It reigns supreme, permeating every aspect of our existence. We spend countless hours dedicated to creating and performing music. Then there are the arduous personal practice sessions we diligently undertake. We often expend tireless efforts investing in the promotion of our artistic ventures. We want to create mastery in our music and in its realm of time.

“The most necessary, most difficult, and principal thing in music, that is time.”- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Why Time?

The ever present question of time is – where does it begin? An over simplification of time is simply a measuring of space; from one point to another. When we write a tune we get to behold our work with a god’s eye view. We see our compositions parceled out into events, shapes, emotions, and colors. Then our listeners can interpret our music through their imaginations and senses.

But time isn’t necessarily a hard physical thing. There is no house, field, automobile, or living being to which you can compare it to. It isn’t even a line, yet we musicians interpret it as one. We can consider it a floating point of our imaginations; a foundation for our creation. Time holds our music in its hand, without it, our music will have an unrecognizable form.

A square is the same on every side, circles are infinite, with no beginning or end. The measure of the musical composition begins with time. What happens from the beginning of the composition to the end is measured by time.

Oddly enough, limits have a lot to do with creativity.

Three Things To Consider

In music, three essential principles come to light, akin to the insights of a maestro orchestrating a symphony.

Photograph Compliments of Marvelous Raphael

The first principle reveals that music embodies space. This is a delicate dance where every pause and moment of silence serves as a bridge traversing the vast expanse.

Have you ever looked at your work through the perspective of a DAW? When you can experience music by the millisecond, it changes your perspective. You start to understand that the distance between notes is vast.

We navigate the space between sounds. Creating music is then understood as an intricate effort to discern the following note and the ensuing silence.

The second principle exposes the inherent nature of writing and creating music—an intrinsic propensity for trial and error. It is a perpetual cycle of refinement, perpetually evolving and shape-shifting. Often, we think we have captured our creations essence. As we listen back, it swiftly transforms, warps, distorts, and eludes our grasp. Then we seek more satisfying alternatives.

However, the most vital principle emerges from the realization that music can arise from error, misinterpretation, surprises, unrest, and rebellion. The path paved by errors is not fear and shame but a journey of disruption, reinvention, and boundless joy. Music extends an invitation to savor moments of fulfillment amidst the trials and tribulations of life’s journey. It provokes us to challenge established conventions, igniting novel thoughts and fresh perspectives.

If You Don’t Work With A Metronome, You Are Fooling Yourself

Most musicians embark on their journey of music with pure playfulness and enchantment. This venture often begins at a tender age, when the world was a playground. An instrument becomes another toy to explore. However, introducing a metronome to this joyous exploration injects a dose of stern reality. The ticking overseer becomes a task master that can drain the spontaneity and mirth from the process.

As musicians mature, their aspiration to hone their craft and strive for precision nudges them toward a more disciplined approach. Initially an unwanted intruder, the metronome slowly transitions into an essential ally. The tick-tock becomes an integral part of their artistic journey. Initially a mechanical device, the new digital versions can mirror the musicians’ performance. This creates awareness of inconsistencies they might have overlooked.

Photograph Compliments of Rachel Loughman

We are going to go deeper into discipline. Before we do that it’s worth taking a moment to stroll down the memory lane of the metronome itself. A historical artifact that has shaped the contours of musical excellence, the metronome is a tale worth telling. So, let’s embark on a voyage into its past. We are going to retrace its steps to understand its evolution and influence on the music world.

Inception: The Story

Once upon a time in the music world, musicians were like ships on a stormy sea, tossed around by the violent waves of tempo irregularities. Their struggle to maintain a consistent tempo was as challenging as a toddler trying to ice skate. That was until a fellow by the name of Johann Maelzel came into the picture and, like a superhero armed with a magical device, saved the day!

Maelzel, an inventor who probably loved order as much as a librarian loves quiet, invented the metronome in the early 19th century. Picture him laboring away in his workshop, candlelight flickering, glasses perched on the edge of his nose, probably muttering, “By Beethoven’s beard, I will bring order to this rhythmic chaos!” I mean, who wouldn’t want to keep time in check? It was about as cooperative as a cat on a leash.

And so, the metronome was born, an ingenious device capable of emitting a steady ‘tick-tock’ that musicians could synchronize their playing with. The metronome, much like a strict school teacher with a ruler, helped musicians to keep their pace, providing a rhythmic backbone to their symphonies and sonatas.

Enter Beethoven

One of the earliest adopters of this device was none other than Ludwig van Beethoven himself. Yes, the very Beethoven who turned deaf but whose music still roared! He not only used the metronome to perfect his tempo but also started including metronome marks in his music, setting the tempo standards for others to follow.

When he first encountered the metronome, Beethoven must have been like a kid who just found the secret stash of candy. “By all the tuning forks in Vienna! A solution to my tempo troubles,” he probably exclaimed. His symphonies no longer had to fear the tempo storms. The seas had been calmed by Maelzel’s magical ‘tick-tock’ box.

Now, if we were to imagine a painting of this scenario pre-Maelzel’s invention, you might see a frustrated Beethoven, hand on his forehead, sheets of music scattered around him like a field after a snowstorm, the sweat-dotted brow, the shaking head. It’s a tableau of art and agony, of creation and chaos.

A Different Story

But then, after the metronome’s introduction, a new picture would tell a different story. Here, you’ll see a confident Beethoven, perched at his piano, a metronome beside him, ticking away like a dutiful soldier. His compositions under his hand, the chaos replaced with a serenity born from the rhythmic order the metronome has brought into his life.

Photograph Compliments of Benjamin Lehman

So, from ships in a stormy sea to serene sailors, musicians have come a long way, all thanks to Maelzel’s metronome. It’s a reminder that sometimes the solutions to our biggest problems can come in the smallest packages. Or in this case, a box that goes ‘tick-tock’. Because let’s face it, who can resist a good ‘tick-tock’? Even Peter Pan’s crocodile knew that!

Walt Disney’s Mastery in Music’s Time Space

In the annals of creative history, a remarkable tale delves into the visionary mind of Walt Disney. To be specific, his pioneering work on “Steamboat Willie.” This story epitomizes the essence of creativity and innovation. We are going to unveil the audacity to challenge conventional norms and the unwavering pursuit of artistic excellence. If you have never “Steam Boat Willie”, click on the link: it’s very fun.

In the early days of animation, synchronized sound was an uncharted frontier, a realm where imagination and technical constraints clashed. Undeterred by the limitations, Walt Disney envisioned a new era of storytelling that seamlessly intertwined visuals and sound. He sought a solution to bring this vision to life—a rhythmic guide that would synchronize the animated movements with the musical accompaniment.

Walt’s Solution: The Click Track

Enter the click track, a breakthrough innovation that would forever change the landscape of animation. In essence, it was a meticulously engineered metronome-like device, pulsating with a precise rhythm, guiding the animators’ strokes, and allowing them to match the characters’ actions with the music’s tempo.

However, this endeavor could have had a smoother path. Challenges and setbacks were aplenty. The click track was a novel concept, untested and unproven. Critics doubted its feasibility, dismissing it as an extravagant endeavor. Yet, within Walt Disney’s visionary mind, doubt was merely a fleeting companion on the path to greatness.

With unwavering resolve and an unyielding belief in his vision, Disney rallied his team, pushing the boundaries of creativity and technical ingenuity. Together, they meticulously synchronized the click track’s beats with the characters’ whimsical movements, forging an extraordinary harmony between animation and sound.


The result? “Steamboat Willie,” a masterpiece that catapulted Walt Disney and his team to the forefront of the animation industry. It wasn’t just a groundbreaking creation but a testament to the power of audacious ideas, tireless persistence, and the relentless pursuit of excellence.

Through this remarkable tale, we witness the indomitable spirit of Walt Disney—an innovator who dared to defy conventions and who understood that the road to creative brilliance was paved with uncertainty and perseverance. He ventured beyond the confines of the ordinary, embracing the challenges and possibilities in the intersection of art and technology.

The story of Walt Disney creating the click track for “Steamboat Willie” is a timeless reminder—a testament to the transformative power of daring creativity. It emboldens us to embrace the unknown, challenge the status quo, and unleash our imagination’s full potential. And in doing so, we may chart our own course toward artistic mastery.

Carve Out The Time To Make Yourself More Proficient

Habits are everything; this means you have to discipline yourself. If music is a lifeline to your personal growth, you will decide to prioritize your time.

When we make decisions, we are presented with two distinct outcomes:

Experiencing the discomfort and inconvenience stemming from discipline.

Suffer from the dismay and remorse arising from regrettable life choices.

We must comprehend our motivations and embrace consistent habits to unlock our desired outcomes. Merely possessing talent is insufficient; the key lies in managing and developing our abilities.

Discipline In Music’s Time Realm

Photograph Compliments of Jon Tyson

I view discipline as a deliberate course of action in pursuit of learning, training, and study. Discipline becomes a self-imposed regulation. By implementing the field of practice, we transcend personal inclinations and achieve excellence in endeavors others may not.

Authentic discipline emanates from within ourselves; it does not derive from external standards. However, those external standards may inspire us through their examples. The key is to apply discipline to both learning and practical applications, experiencing the tangible results it yields.

This personal dynamic is intrinsic to our being. Engage in your work for its inherent value, not for the external validation of others, their attention, or monetary gains. Yet, if we are honest, these considerations may creep into the forefront of our minds.

Discipline and perseverance become mechanisms through which we explore the how and why. They empower us to make better choices. This includes expanding our options, embracing flexibility, and allocating ample time to endeavors of utmost importance. By understanding and faithfully practicing your cultivated habits, you will consistently experience daily triumphs.

At the core of perseverance lies one essential concept: never giving up. The true-to-life measure of success lies in our ability to persist and achieve results. Most of us do not possess innate genius.

I can personally attest to this, as I have had the privilege of being surrounded by brilliant minds. To even tread in their wake, I must diligently forge ahead, focusing and exerting maximum effort.

The Lizard Brain

The lizard brain is an entity that yearns for mindless TV consumption and instant gratification. Conquering this part of my mind has become a profound learning experience. Fortunately, the effort did not require the courage to battle fierce beasts or overcoming crippling dependencies. I stood resolute in my pursuit of breaking through and attaining my goals with the higher faculties of my brain.

Within the tapestry of a given day, we engage in numerous activities that foster learning. It is through deliberate and perfected practice that we achieve mastery. Persist in your chosen processes, knowing that the fruits of your efforts will ultimately be revealed. The harmonious symphony of discipline and perseverance will guide you toward the melodies of success.

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