Playing with a Metronome
Time and rhythm is a highly important aspect of your playing, whatever style or instrument you play. It’s the underlying foundation of music. Without a solid sense of rhythm, a lot of what you play can easily become lost and undermined. The common misconception with good time is the thought that you already have it. “Nah, I don’t need to play with a metronome.” However, the metronome is such a powerful tool with anything you’re working on whether it be rhythmic concepts, speed training, or working on various feels and grooves. I’ll talk about three basic, yet powerful ways to work with a metronome.
Using it as a Guide for rhythm
Probably the most basic use for a metronome is using it as a marker for quarter notes with whatever your playing. To a person that has been playing for a number of years, this sounds like the most menial of tasks. However, There is no better way to measure or work on your time and technique.
Practicing scales over a metronome:
The most basic way to practice your scales is quarter notes over a metronome marking quarter notes. However, one thing you can aim for when practicing your scales is using different rhythmic values. For example, after practicing playing quarter notes, try eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and thirty-second notes. Don’t forget about triplets (eighth note triplets and sixteenth note triplets). If you feel so inclined, or if you feel like you will use them one way, take a look at some quintuplets and septuplets as well. The object is not to overwhelm you, but to strengthen your familiarity with these rhythmic values. Personally, I play all of this over a 60 bpm marking. Again, the object is not speed, but locking in with the metronome.
When it comes to parts, your basic use of a metronome is having the metronome mark out quarter notes, however, another solid use of your metronome is having the metronome mark two and four. This applies to pretty much anything in 4/4 time whether it be funk, pop, rock, jazz, metal, etc. With one and three gone from the background, it’s up to you and your playing to fill in where it should be.
If you really want to put your time and feel on trial, you can try this yet quirky, yet powerful way of practicing.. If your metronome can go slow enough, try setting your metronome to a value less than quarter note. For example, try setting your metronome on whole notes by setting your metronome to a quarter of the original tempo you’d be practicing. (ex. a whole note at 100 bpm would be 25 bpm). Work on lining up with the beginning of each bar in 4/4 time!
Speed and Technique training:
If you’re working on technique building exercises, using a metronome gives you not only a measurement as to where your at with your speed, but it works as the resistance you can use to increase your stamina. For example, take a scale or pattern your working on, and start at 60 bpm, then increase your bpm marking by 10 bpm every 5 minutes. Allow yourself a minute of rest before each speed increase to give your muscles some small recovery time. Try to work your way up to 150 bpm. If you can implement this type of practicing in your routine, you’ll see massive improvements in your technique and stamina.
Working on feels and grooves:
When it comes to parts, your basic use of a metronome is having the metronome mark out quarter notes, however, another solid use of your metronome is having the metronome mark two and four. This applies to pretty much anything in 4/4 time whether it be funk, pop, rock, jazz, metal, etc.
Also when working on feel and timing for more syncopated guitar parts, there’s no better way to brush up, or check on how your time is with a part you might be working on.
In short, when looking for a way to improve your time-feel, or building your speed and chops, there’s no alternative to playing to the almighty metronome.