One thing I stress to all of my guitar students is the advantages of practicing with a metronome in order to obtain great results.
Most of my students initially resist the idea of using a metronome. Some remain resistant to it, while others adopt the metronome as a training tool. I can usually see a clear distinction in the playing of my students who are accustomed to using the metronome compared to those who do not.
Students who use one tend to play more smoothly, have better technique, and are able to learn difficult songs more quickly.
The use of a metronome is not just something I encourage my students to do. To this day, the metronome plays a major role in almost every form of practice I do. Like many beginners, I didn’t use it much in the first few years of learning to play the guitar. But once I started using it, my playing started getting better and I really kicked myself for not starting sooner.
So why exactly a metronome is such a good practice tool? Read on and I’ll share with you the benefits of practicing with a metronome, as well as different ways to use it when practicing.
1) Practicing with a metronome will enhance your timing
I’ll start with the most obvious reason, which is the reason most musicians give when talking about the metronome. It improves your timing or your sense of rhythm.
Exactly what does that mean? Well, this generally means that it enhances your sense of where the beat is and how each beat is broken down.
One of the major rhythmic problems that nearly all beginner, lower-intermediate, and sometimes even advanced guitarists have, is a lack of awareness of rhythm or the “pulse” of the music when playing.
Ideally, you should be able to feel the pulse going under whatever you’re playing. You should be able to tap, nod, or move your foot in some way. Many instrumentalists can’t do this, and when asked about it, they can’t say exactly where the beat is even if they are playing the beat correctly.
Equally important is getting a feel for how each note is broken down into smaller parts depending on whether you’re playing the eighth note, the 16th note, the treblets, etc. Oftentimes, even if a less experienced guitarist knows what these types of tones are, they have a hard time putting them right into the rhythm they are playing.
Constantly practicing with a metronome force you to pay attention to where the beat is and how all the notes fit into each beat. This skill can be difficult to develop, and sometimes I really have to work with a student to help them understand how to do it.
2) Practicing with a metronome helps you build speed
Anytime you see a guitarist showing off a great technique, whether it’s an electric guitarist playing solo, or a classical guitarist flying gracefully through a complex section of music, this skill is the result of a lot of work with the metronome—both fast and slow.
In order to eventually be able to play fast, you have to gradually build up your speed. You have to train your bodily movements and your mind to deal with the increased demands of fast play.
The general way to do this is to take whatever you’re working on, slow it down to a speed where you feel easy to play, and then gradually increase it until you’re at the speed you’re supposed to play. Depending on the difficulty of what you’re practicing, it can take anywhere from one training session to months to accomplish.
Working with the metronome enables you to increase your speed in small increments so that each increment is almost unnoticeable from one speed to the next. Without the metronome, you will likely end up increasing your speed in very large increments.
Also, the metronome will ensure that you don’t slow down in particularly difficult places once you start to reach a higher speed.
3) Practicing with a metronome helps you slow down
Sometimes, training very slowly is necessary to build a better technique. If you’re trying to work out the finer details of your picking or train your fingers on a series of challenging chords, take it slowly to memorize the correct motions in your muscles.
Almost all beginner and intermediate guitarists practice this kind of thing very quickly.
4) Reduces the tendency to “lush” or “pull” the rhythm
If you’re having trouble gradually speeding up or slowing down while playing a piece of music, a metronome can help. In fact, it’s almost impossible to work on this problem (and it’s a very common one, even for drummers) without a metronome, since it happens so gradually that you may not even be aware of it.
You will likely have this problem even if you are practicing with a metronome on a regular basis with the methods I have already described. When the metronome taps one or more times per beat, it gives you plenty of guidance and keeps your rhythm under control.
The problem of dragging or speeding up the tempo can arise when you go back to playing without the metronome, relying solely on your own sense of timing.
The way to tackle this problem is to have the metronome give you fewer instructions. Instead of making it click once per beat, set it to go slowly to where it clicks once every 2 or 4 beats. This will force you to rely more on your sense of timing and rhythm, as the metronome gives you enough feedback to know if you’re speeding up or slowing down.
5) Gives a sense of progress when practicing
Another great reason to practice with a metronome is that it gives you very accurate knowledge of where you stand as you practice, as well as your rate of improvement.
This is important from the point of view of efficient use of practicing time and motivation. Knowing how quickly you can no longer play something correctly immediately helps you secure what you need to work on.
Seeing that speed gradually increase gives you evidence that your practicing has paid off, which then motivates you to keep practicing.
6) It enables you to play to “Click Track” when recording
If you get to the point where you are trying to make a good recording of something, when you get to Click Track can help you through the process. A Click Track is basically just a metronome that you hear through a set of headphones while recording.
It is common for musicians to listen to Click Track when recording in a studio to ensure that multiple sections of the song play at an identical pace. This makes mixing and editing easier, as you can cut and paste different parts together and make them look seamless.
It also ensures that the band isn’t rushing or pulling the tempo and that the song plays at exactly the beat it was meant to be played.
If you hadn’t practiced a lot with the metronome before doing this, it would be very difficult. But if everyone in the band got used to playing with the metronome, then using Click Track in the studio wouldn’t be a problem at all.
I hope this article opens your appetite to practice with a metronome. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you.
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