Why Use A Metronome?
I come across a lot of guitar students who have either never owned a metronome or alternatively, do own one, but haven’t found an effective way of using it.
A Metronome really can be your best musical friend and in this lesson I’d like to address the use of a metronome in your daily practice and how it can significantly transform your understanding of rhythm and also dramatically improve the overall quality of your guitar playing.
So why are metronomes so useful? Well, for a start, metronomes don’t lie. They give you a 100% solid and accurate time reference any time you need one and can really help you focus your attention on playing accurately and in time.
Guitarists, (like many other instrumentalists) are often obsessed with what they play, rather than how they are playing it and rhythmic accuracy can often left behind as an after thought because of this.
Playing in time and executing rhythms accurately is of paramount importance to all musicians and a player with poor time will sound far weaker and possibly unfocused in comparison to a player with strong time and a solid rhythmic awareness.
How do I know if I have good time/rhythmic awareness?
A simple test to gauge your current level of rhythmic awareness is to play some common rhythmic subdivisions against a metronome. If you play each rhythm (see the examples below) using just a repeating single note along with the metronome at a setting of 60 BPM (beats per minute) you should be able to easily hear if you are playing all the rhythms accurately.
Try the following rhythm exercises along with your metronome, perhaps just concentrating on the first four bars initially. Play the C note at the 5th fret on the 3rd string for each example.
(n.b. the other rhythms can be added later as you gain increased familiarity and fluency with the first four rhythms…)
If you are unsure of how these rhythms should sound, then please refer to the attached MP3 file to hear them played against a click track on a MIDI piano for maximum clarity.
Once you have played each of the first four rhythms (the most common rhythms in 4/4 time) see if you are playing right ‘on’ the beat (the click) or whether you are ahead or behind of the beat/click.
Adjust your playing according to how accurate (or inaccurate) things are sounding to you. Remember the metronome is always correct.
Developing a Jazz Time Feel or ‘Swing’
Once you have played a few of the above rhythms and are able to consistently play them (accurately) along with the metronome, then try them all again with the metronome clicking just on beats two and four of each bar.
This is a common practice methodology with jazz musicians, as it really helps to develop a swing feel in your playing. Try it and you’ll hear what I mean.
To facilitate the ‘2 & 4’ click, just take a comfortable tempo setting on the metronome and then half it (i.e. for 120 BPM set the metronome at 50% lower – 60 BPM, but now hear the clicks as sounding on beats 2 and 4)
It may take a moment or two to hear this correctly but after a few attempts, you should get it quite easily.
The above is really just scratching the surface of what you can achieve with a metronome, but hopefully even these few exercises will get you realising just how helpful a metronome can be.