observation: music and computer science similarities

Although I’m a classically trained musician, my current principle work is as a software engineer. Since college, I’ve been searching for what aspects of these two areas faciliate my understanding of both. Recently, I observed while doing some serious practice with a metronome, that I had the same set of feelings when I was doing serious debugging with a solid debugging tool, like gdb. I then expressed this to my roommate, saying “Using a metronome feels like when you use a good debugger.” I’m not sure what causes the same feelings.

A metronome is a tool musicians use to put their music techinique into an empirical framework that can be measured very precisely. “A metronome is a device that produces a regulated pulse.” This pulse is usually produced by an electronic beeping, sometimes accompanied with a flashing light or waving stick. There are some fancy models that will provide a variety of pulse patterns with varying rhythmic emphasis. When practicing, it forces a musician to strip away most interpretive efforts away from the performance in order to focus on the technical foundations of the piece. This type of work has a number of tangible benefits. Practice sessions at all phases of working a piece are generally more productive and effective when a metronome has been used for part of the session.

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