As well as my musical endeavors, I also like to write computer programs to help myself practice and grow as a musician. I figured some other people might like to use them too, so I’m releasing them one at a time on my website as I work out all the bugs and make them easy for other people to use.
Time Bandit updated to 0.4 on September 8 2014! Download the new version here!
What is Time Bandit and why do I need it?
Time Bandit is a practice tool to help you solidify and work on your time. Because metronomes click on every beat, they are great practice tools only up to a certain point: we can come to rely on the metronome, reacting to the clicks rather than building independence from it and a solid time feel in our head.
Before I wrote Time Bandit, I would often practice material while setting the metronome to somewhere in between 10 and 20 beats per minute — I had to do quite a bit of multiplication for me to relate what I was doing in whatever meter I was in to a more normal tempo, and I found that I would alternate back and forth between 80 and 10 beats per minute on the metronome just so I could hear the pulse I was supposed to be achieving at the slower tempo. Doing all this wrestling with the metronome made me way less engaged when I practiced, and I tend to want the fewest distractions possible.
A friend of mine told me that Dan Tepfer had made a metronome program called DoubleTime where you could set a tempo, and then whenever you wanted to you could press a button to make the metronome click half as often — you gradually work your way down to a click every 8 bars or more. This sounded like just the tool I wanted, but it sadly was gone from the internet.
Like any other person with too much free time on my hands, I rolled up my sleeves and decided to write my own program. Although I started out with the goal to make a metronome that worked like this, every time I thought I was done, I kept thinking “What if it could do this?” and then rewrote everything to accommodate a new feature…making the metronome work in any time signature, allowing you to set up polymeters or clicks that were on strange subdivisions of a bar, custom rhythms, etc. The program is now the feature-rich/bloated monstrosity of a metronome that it is today! Recently, I hung out with Dan and saw his program in person — he’s releasing it in the App Store soon — and realized that because I’d never even seen his original program, my little “knock-off” had spun off into something completely different. Rather than being redundant, I feel like my metronome offers a unique set of features that I don’t think you can find anywhere else, so I wanted to share it.
How does it work?
My original idea with Time Bandit was that I wanted a set-it-and-forget it tool — you set it up, press start, and from then on your hands are on the instrument only, without you needing to go back to the computer. The original purpose of Time Bandit was to allow you to design something like a weight circuit when exercising: a number of “reps” of various rhythmic exercises.
For example, the following “circuit” is very easy to make:
- First, I want eight bars of a quarter note click!
- Second, I want eight bars of the metronome only playing downbeats!
- Third, I only want a click every 4 bars!
- Fourth, Play a click on dotted quarter notes to see if I can keep everything solid!
- Repeat the cycle!
These features gradually expanded, allowing you to subdivide the basic pulse of a measure into any amount. Do you want part of your rhythmic circuit in 3/4 to be 5 over 3? Or do you want to practice switching back and forth between duple and triple clicks in 3? All of these are possible with Time Bandit, and there’s a handy preset mechanism to save your work for the next time you practice.
How much does this amazing, life-changing software cost?
They say if you love something, set it free. Although I do not love my metronome, I have decided that I want to distribute Time Bandit completely free, as it’s the kind of tool that I think could be useful to a lot of people. I hope it helps you. My only request would be that if it works for you and you enjoy it, drop me an e-mail or something.
Back when I was growing up, there was a lot of early Mac software released as postcard-ware. If you’re outside the NYC general area and are so inclined as to want to send me a postcard from whatever far away land you hail from, I would love that. If you actually live in NYC and you see me out and about, corner me in a bar, buy me a beer, and tell me your wildest Time Bandit practice-time stories — that would be an acceptable substitute as well.
Although I tried to make it as intuitive as possible and provide as much documentation as I could in the program, some testers have still found it confusing, especially if they wanted to use the more advanced features. This is the only metronome you’ll ever use that probably needs an explanatory video lesson, which I have provided below.
Time Bandit works on both Mac OS X…and also Windows (mostly)!
Time Bandit was developed on a Mac and works best there, but I wanted to provide support for all musicians running Windows on their computers. The Windows version has worked for both my Windows testers, although one of them needed to take some extra steps to get it to work. If you really want to use it, please read the installation instructions carefully.
Time Bandit for Mac OS X
Unzip the file, and double click Time Bandit 0.3 to open it.
IMPORTANT: If you have a newer version of OS X than Lion, you’ll probably get an error saying that it can’t open the program because it is from an Unidentified Developer. This is because of a feature called GateKeeper in new versions of OS X.
WORKAROUND: Right click (or control + click) on Time Bandit and choose Open from the pop-up menu that comes up. It will ask if you are sure you want to run it. Once you do this, it will remember that you trust the program for the future, and you can just double click Time Bandit or click it from your dock like any other application. If you use your Mac a lot, you’ve probably had to do this before, but if not, here’s a link to a guide with pictures.
(To make a stand-alone app, I had to bundle my program with an old version of SuperCollider, the programming language I wrote it in. The version of SuperCollider I had to use was older than OS X 10.6, so it is before this “trusted developer” thing ever came about, hence the need for a workaround.)
Time Bandit for Windows
Instructions — PLEASE READ ALL OF IT:
1. Unzip/unrar the file.
2. First try running “Run Time Bandit.bat” in the time bandit folder.
Windows Firewall will ask you tell you a program called “sclang” or “scsynth” is trying to accept connections/be a server/whatever. Choose unblock/allow to this question! The program is not trying to access the internet, I promise. If you don’t do this, the program will open but you won’t get any sound.
(SuperCollider, the language I wrote Time Bandit in, has one program (scsynth) that makes all the sounds and another program, sclang, that tells it which sound to make. These two programs communicate like a client and server, even though they’re only talking to each other on the same computer. If you clicked “block” or “disallow” to either sclang or scsynth, you have to go into Windows Firewall settings and unblock them.)
Now you should be able to use Time Bandit! If there is trouble:
3. If you do not get any sound after making sure those programs are unblocked, it is probably because your sound card doesn’t support ASIO…SuperCollider needs ASIO to run. Some cheaper laptops have this problem.
HOWEVER: There is an amazing program that is a great workaround called ASIO4ALL, a project that’s been around since 2003, helping computers with cheap sound cards get great and fast audio performance.
Click here to go to the ASIO4ALL webpage and download the latest version in the language you want, then install it. Restart your computer, and then run the other file in the main Time Bandit folder, “Run Time Bandit with ASIO4ALL.bat.” You should have sound!
IF IT STILL DOESN’T WORK OR MAKE SOUND — let me know, and please send me a screenshot of the black window that comes up when you run Time Bandit — this is all the debug information that helps me figure out why things go wrong when they go wrong.
Enjoy, and hope you like it!
0.4 Added “The Balkanizer,” a way to split bars into smaller subdivisions. For example, bars of 7 can be expressed as 3 + 4 or 4 + 3. This feature was written to allow support for Balkan rhythms, like 2 + 2 + 2 + 3, 5 + 7, and etc.
0.3 First public release