The Beauty of the Korg TM60 and How Navy SEALs Define a Tight Feedback Loop

Simple, cheap metronome/tuner, how do I love thee? You’re not much to look at, I admit. Just a little black box with some LEDs. Then why can’t I give you up??? You don’t have the throaty low notes of Dr. Beat. Or the classic good looks of this beauty. But when I need you, you’re there. You’re so low maintenance. Batteries last forever. You’re uncomplicated. My baby learners have you totally figured out! I don’t have to refer to the owner’s manual or dive for the controls every time I turn you on (ahem!) because you start playing polyrhythms for no good reason like Dr. Beat. Besides, she’s got fancy taste. Nine volt batteries??? (Eyeroll!) Please pass the caviar and truffles! Let’s be honest, the only good thing about her is that she’s LOUD. Oh, she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve, but for a guy who prefers dives to fine dining, you, TM60, are just perfect for me. Sure, you’re a little on the quiet side, but I’m learning to be a better listener. The best things about you?

  1. You’re a cheap date. Just $25 bucks got this relationship going.
  2. You are an epic multitasker. Even Ms. Fancypants Dr. Beat can’t play a drone and the metronome at the same time. I wonder where she bought her diploma from…
  3. You’ve got everything I need and then some. You can subdivide, play drones, help me keep my learners (and me!) in tune, help me find a beat with your cool tapping function and so much more!
  4. You do the things in your wheelhouse REALLY WELL. You’re built for this gig. Your tuner is accurate and can hear in all ranges.
  5. You’re there when I need you. You’re not like the metronome/tuner on my phone that’s crippled every time the ghost of Steve Jobs decides to send an update.

Oh, I’m sure there’s more about you I don’t know yet. I’m a typical male. You’ll never catch me reading an owner’s manual. But the mystery will only deepen our relationship further. At least until the TM70 comes out…

Getting serious now: This little tuner/metronome is on my desert island list. It’s simple but does the job and does it well. The ability to play a drone and metronome at the same time is an absolutely indispensable practice tool. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that not using these tools, especially at the early stages of learning new repertoire or technique, is a waste of time. There is nothing that hinders progress more than a slow or unreliable feedback loop. Someone once told me a story which illustrates this point in very stark terms. He had the chance to train with the Navy SEALs for a week recently. I’m totally fascinated by the culture and ethos of the SEALs so of course I was peppering him with questions about what it was like. One story in particular had my jaw on the floor. He told me that during target practice, one SEAL stands NEXT to the target and assesses the aim of every shot. No firing off ten rounds, walking over to the target, assessing accuracy and walking back to take ten more shots. The down range SEAL assesses every shot and tells the shooter to make adjustments between shots. This means you’re improving on every shot. No guesswork. Imagine if we practiced this way. I’m certain we would see exponential improvement and reduce the amount of practice time by a huge margin. This is the reason I love the TM60 so much. It’s the ultimate feedback loop tool. Not to mention that the low price democratizes the price of entry. I know it costs more than an app, and you have another thing to tow around, but the trade offs are worth it.

Hope this was helpful!

Next time: Intonation Exercises With Open String Drone

Copyright Rising Tide String Project 2018 (Erik Bryan and Chung Park)

Please contact me at chung@chungpark.com if you’d like me to come and lead a workshop. I’m available for student workshops and teacher professional development sessions.