How to Use a Metronome

Regardless of the instrument, genre, or nationality of the music, one thing every musician can use in practice is the metronome. We use it for the sake of practicing a song or piece of music, for sight reading, sight singing, or just hammering out those tricky rhythms. It keeps us in line and is the beacon, or the rails of the railroad if you will; that keeps us on tempo and rhythmically correct, so that we don’t get derailed and play sloppily. The metronome can be the musician’s best friend. 

What is a Metronome?

You hear musicians talk about it, but “what exactly is a metronome?”. Well, for starters a metronome is a device used by musicians alike to follow a set pace using ticking sounds. Think of an old grandfather clock, y’know, with the pendulum swinging back and forth. It makes ticks just like a metronome, however, it does not change its pace. It’s slow and steady like the flow of time itself.

A metronome follows the measure of time through BPM (Beats Per Minute), and can be set at whatever tempo is desired by the user. The BPM one follows ranges anywhere from 40 BPM, to 208 BPM. A musician then uses this “ticking” from the metronome to follow the proper rhythm given by the tempo. Some metronomes give you a steady 4/4 time signature or common time as we also call it. Usually these metronomes are found online or through software — we’ll get more into that later. Your authentic metronome does not measure a time signature, but just the tempo.

The purpose of a metronome is to keep a musician in line with the timing of their playing. It gives them the ability to follow a set tempo and follow along with whatever song, piece, or exercise that they’re trying to play.

Composers usually use a metronome for reference when writing musical compositions.

However, some musicians may not recommend the use of a metronome at all! The reason behind this, is because metronome time is different from musical time.

When we say “metronome time”, we talk about the strict beat that goes along with following a metronome — or each tick you hear. When we mention “musical time”, it’s different because it’s more expressive and doesn’t always follow the exact BPM.

It’s quite rare that one should be at perfect timing with the metronome, and in all likelihood, it’s probably better. It makes the music more “human” and “organic”.

When it comes to practice…

Musicians will likely turn to a metronome when they are speeding up or slowing down at certain parts and would rather stay on time, or a semblance of that as nobody’s perfect! They’ll also turn to a metronome if they need to perfect certain techniques, for instance “spider exercises” or “scales”. It may also be a helpful tool in the recording process to flex and splice tracks to fit the appropriate tempo.

Metronome History

To further understand the metronome, and it’s origins we should look at how it came to be.

Demonstration of the pendulum in action, using tiny metal balls…

It was back in the late 16th century where the motion of the pendulum was being explored by Italian scientist Galileo Galilei. This eventually inspired the idea of the metronome. The way it was experimented was by exploring the different speeds of the pendulum depending on where the weight shifted. Take a grandfather clock for instance. The motion of the pendulum as it goes back and forth allows it to power the gears of the clock which allows the hands to turn. Much like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, the metronome helps musicians keep track of their timing.

During the 19th century, it was through Deitrich Nikolaus Winkel’s revolutionary research that gifted German inventor, Johann Maelzel with the standardization and manufacturing of the first line of patented metronomes named after him, “The Maelzel Metronome” or “MM” for short. In short, he took Winkel’s metronome and improved it, making it more portable and standardized for all musicians alike.

The metronome markings were used in Ludwig Van Beethovan’s music, as he sought this as the perfect opportunity to utilize this invention. He used the markings within his first 8 symphonies!

As the years advanced since the former standard metronomes took the spotlight, they have seen many improvements. Some light up, beep even talk! You’ll find that they’re much more easily accessible, and have a wider range of BPM to toggle between.

You might say, “well, that’s all interesting and such, but why get a metronome? What’s in it for me?” Therefore…

Why Get a Metronome?

It is completely optional whether or not you get a metronome. It is not a must, however it is recommended that you invest in one. The following are reasons how a metronome may benefit your everyday practice:

Firstly, your timing will greatly improve. As long as you don’t strive for perfection, because as a wise man once said, “now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good”. Another note on perfection is, it’s okay to not have perfect timing, it makes the music more “human” and “authentic” and that’s what people look for! If you’re looking for everything to sound mechanical, and automated, then simply work with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) and other software to make the most synchronized piece of music you’ve ever written.

Secondly, your dexterity will also improve. You can challenge yourself with a slow tempo to a much faster tempo by simply adjusting your metronome to do so. The reason you’d want to do it slower, is to make sure that you can play each note on time and on beat. Once comfortable you may adjust the tempo to be slightly faster, and faster. It challenges you to play with the rhythm, because like a band of musicians, a metronome won’t wait on you if you decide to slow down.

Thirdly, they’re easily accessible. You may choose to buy a metronome or you can always go digital, with either a program or an app. Both of which are the cheaper option to buying.

Another reason is that they’re extremely mobile. They’re so small you can take them just about anywhere you go! In fact, as mentioned before, “so small” they can fit on your phone through an app, or through the internet browser on your laptop.

Yet another good reason to get a metronome is, because no matter what time signature you’re in, you can still practice as long as you know what tempo! The metronome does not discriminate any time signatures, as it doesn’t have an up or down beat to it. It simply clicks, making it suitable for any song, piece or genre of music you’re looking to play.

Finally, the last reason you should get a metronome, is because it will make you a better player. You’ll learn the different tempos to written music, and be able to play them accordingly. Furthermore, they’re great for practicing a set for an upcoming gig. Y’know that part you couldn’t quite get down, you can hit the notes, but it sounds sloppy… or you have the timing, but not the correct notes… either way, the metronome has you covered!

Types of Metronomes

There are a couple of different metronomes you may find, both with the same purpose and functions. Given your budget and preference, we’ll go over which of these may be right for you!

Analog (Mechanical Metronome)

This was the industry standard for a long time when it came to tracking your timing. It worked without the use of electricity, and runs from a wind-up mechanism to get it started. Most of these mechanical metronomes have a fairly wide range of BPM’s to change between, which can simply be adjusted by moving the weight of the pendulum arm up and down.

When it comes to shopping for a mechanical metronome, you have the option to purchase a more traditional style mechanical metronome, or a smaller more compact and portable type.

Regardless of the type of mechanical metronome you decide to get, make sure it’s placed on a level surface so that gravity and the angle isn’t messing up the rhythm.

Good models to look at are: Wittner 813M, or the much cheaper, Cherub WSM-330.

However, some of you may want something more, “modern” or “advanced” which is an okay way to go too, in fact some people prefer it!

Digital (Electronic Metronomes)

Firstly, it’s recommended you check out the Boss DB-90, and the cheaper option, Korg TM50PW.

These “electronic metronomes” often perform more than the intended purpose, which is keeping you in time with the tempo. Some of them have a voice, or electronic beeps to communicate something with you. They also typically have built in microphones that can help you tune your instrument! On top of that, they usually go beyond the standard 208 BPM to roughly 250 and possibly higher! There is so much more that they can do, but we’ll leave it at that as that’s probably enough to sway your opinion on its practicality. It’s basically the swiss army knife of every musician out there.

Next up…

Other Metronomes

There are so many other options for metronomes out there as well as things to consider when looking for a fair quality metronome. (These are the more convenient options for those with lack of budget, looking for more practicality, or aren’t ready to invest in the real deal just yet.

Firstly, let’s talk about the options you have and dive a little deeper into each of them. As mentioned, there are many options for metronomes, possibly ones you’ve never actually considered before. There are apps, websites, and even software programs that can do the job for you.

On the topic of apps, there’s one easy app that’s my go-to just simply called “pro metronome”. It does just that. You can use it on your phone, hook your earphones up to it while playing guitar and developing your timing, adjusting time signatures, changing tempo while it names the musical term for said tempo — it is an excellent app and I would highly recommend it! Best of all, it’s free on the app store for iPhone users. Android users, I’m certain there are excellent alternative options out there if it’s inaccessible on the Android store. However, if not — don’t fret over it! The next couple of options are just as good!

Websites can be just as good! In fact if you need just a specific BPM I’d recommend just simply using Google’s metronome. Simply type in “metronome” into the Google search engine, and “BAM!” you have a metronome. Another alternative is a website I’ve used for over 5 years, called Metronome Online. It’s an excellent site that has progressed over the years. It not only allows you to adjust your BPM, but tells you its musical term! On top of all of that, it keeps track of how long you practice! Which is worth noting for future reference.

The last recommendation we have here, is software. If you are familiar with any DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) programs out there, they will always have a metronome included within the software. Regardless of whether you’re using Cubase to FL Studio, you’re going to be able to keep track of your timing. There also happen to be other nifty tools included like tuners, and pitch correctors, but for the sake of this article, we’ll stick to the metronome.

You may also adjust the tempo as you could a normal metronome to new highs, as well as change the time signature and which note gets the beat. It’s a very helpful a cost effective way to get a metronome, if..

  1. a) You already have the software. 

or…

  1. b) You’re interested in the recording and song production process, you get some nice perks with the software. (Metronome, tuner, plugins… etc.)

The purpose of these programs including a metronome is for the recording process and making sure you follow the intended tempo of the track. Which is why 10/10 times you’ll always see a metronome. 

Consensus: If you’re looking for a cheap alternative, like very cheap and aren’t ready to invest no matter the cost, I’d recommend the app, or one of the digital alternatives. However, if you’re looking for practicality, get the “physical” electronic (digital) metronome. If you’re wanting something raw and authentic that doesn’t require batteries, go with our mechanical options!

Recommended Metronomes

As written about above, when it comes to actually buying a metronome for daily usage, it can be a little confusing for most. With technology advancing and all of these gadgets built into a metronome and at different prices, what is actually reliable and built to last? Typically, the digital metronomes will be your best bet when it comes to convenience and built to last, however, some have different tastes and are more into the actual metronome. Whether or not you are a tech-savvy person, we’ll go through the recommended metronomes and help you discover what is right for you.

Let’s start with the Analog Metronomes we discussed above…

The Wittner 813M is a pricy metronome for those looking for a finely made metronome, as its casing is built from the highest grade hardwoods; matte walnut. It runs just like a typical wind-up analog metronome, producing ticks on each beat of the adjustable tempo. In fact, a really cool feature it has is to allow for “accented beats” of 0, 2, 3, 4, and 6, which sounds a bell as it reaches the first beat of a measure. It can also range from 40 to 208 beats per minute (BPM).

In short, it’s an excellent metronome if you’re in it purely for the fact that you need a metronome and nothing else. It does have some handy features, and has excellent German craftsmanship. It’s very recommended if you’re not tech savvy, but can appreciate the design and authentic feel.

Next, metronome…

The Cherub WSM-330 is a much cheaper alternative to the former discussed. Firstly, it has a beat by wood block chip sound, as well as a 5 position on-off bell. This is typically what helps you count measures. It has the standard tempo range of 40 – 208 beats per minute (BPM). It has a 1 % tempo tolerance, requires no battery, and has a top-grade mechanical mechanism.

In short, it would be an ideal metronome for those looking for something cheap, but authentic with great functionality. It’s an acquired taste for most as it produces a somewhat irritating sound, however, it works well for what you pay. It’s definitely for those on a budget, not tech-savvy, and are looking for an authentic metronome they may want to place on their stand, piano, or generally anywhere flat surfaced.

Let’s talk about some Digital Metronomes…

Firstly, the Boss DB-90 is a pricey yet an amazing metronome for those who are looking for something digital and top of the line. It is the most advanced metronome available. It has a built-in rhythm coach to help you nail down your timing, built in MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) for those looking to implement a drum machine style pattern to a set tempo. On top of that it can help you track pitches and name the note, tune your instrument, wider range of BPM, higher and lower than the standard… and more!

In short, definitely a great metronome for those looking for more than just a metronome’s functionality but a sort of “swiss army knife” solution to all their musical needs. It is pricey, but comes with more than you bargained for when shopping for a metronome, which justifies the price for the most part. Furthermore, it does run on batteries, as opposed to the analog wind up functionality, yet the electronic aspect of it gives you plenty more options in ways to use it. It’s like a smart device in metronome form.

Now the cheaper alternative…

The Korg TM50PW is a much cheaper option in the digital metronome department. For starters, it has a built in tuner which can be used at the same time as the metronome. A highly responsive needle-type meter is included for your tuning needs. It can detect a very wide range of octaves from C1 to C9, and ranges from 30 – 252 beats per minute (BPM). On top of that it has 16 built in rhythms that allow you to practice a very broad range of musical styles.

In short, it’s very recommended if you have a very small budget, but need something that can just about do it all and more. You definitely get more than you bargained for with this metronome. Furthermore, it’s small and compact, and a very resourceful device. It’s definitely for those who are tech-savvy and enjoy devices with multiple functions for a cheap and fair price. It should be bought with a case though to prevent any damage, as it is delicate.

Using a Metronome In Practice

So, you finally got your metronome and you’re ready to practice! You feel stoked, but wait… “What do I actually do to make the most use out of this new metronome?” — don’t worry! In fact, many of us know what we want musically, but don’t exactly know how to get there! We got you covered as you read on, so you can feel confident in your everyday practice with your brand new metronome!

First things first, you’re definitely going to want to develop your finger dexterity. In fact using “spider exercises” are something I wish I knew about when I had first started out. I would have been much further along if I had practiced these finger dexterity exercises earlier.

Spider Exercises

There are a number of different spider exercises you may use to develop your finger dexterity, some far more difficult than others, but will develop and improve your muscle memory, finger strength, and finger accuracy when playing with both hands simultaneously.

The first exercise we should go over is the 1-2-3-4 spider exercise. The reason it’s called the 1-2-3-4 finger exercise is because of the fact that each of these numbers represents the numbered fret on the string. The 1st fret, 2nd fret, 3rd fret and the 4th fret.

What to do:

  • You want to start on the low E string, the string that sounds the lowest in pitch opposite of the high E string.
  • Next, you’ll want to set your metronome to… let’s say 80 BPM, should be slow enough! If it’s too fast, try 60 BPM.
  • Then while listening to each tick of the metronome, you’ll want to play the 1st fret with your index finger, then the 2nd fret with your middle finger, the 3rd fret with your ring finger, and lastly, the 4th fret with your pinky finger.

(Try that on just the low E string about 10 times to get a feel for it…)

Note: If you’re finger picking, use your thumb on the low E string. If you’re using a pick, then remember to down-up pick between each note.

Got it? OK!

  • Play the 1-2-3-4 on the low E again.
  • When you finish on the 4th fret of the low E, move your way up to the A string! Literally the string next to the low E.
  • Play the 1-2-3-4 on the A string with appropriate fingering as before!
  • After you’ve hit the 4th fret, move to the next string… the D string.
  • Do the 1-2-3-4 exercise again on the D string, then move to the G string.
  • Repeat the 1-2-3-4 exercises on the G string again and then move to the B string.
  • Do the 1-2-3-4 exercises on the B string, and then move to the high E string and do it there as well!

OK, you’re officially halfway done your first set! Good work!

Now we go back down…

Instead of playing 1-2-3-4, on each string, we’ll be playing 4-3-2-1 from the high E string to the low E string. Like so…

  • Play the frets 4-3-2-1 on the high E string.
  • When you finish on the 1st fret of the high E string, move back to the B string and play 4-3-2-1.
  • When you finish on the 1st fret of the B string, move back to the G string and play 4-3-2-1.
  • When you finish on the 1st fret of the G string, move back to the D string and play 4-3-2-1.
  • When you finish on the 1st fret of the D string, move back to the A string and play 4-3-2-1.
  • Finally, when you finish on the 1st fret of the A string, move back to the low E string and play 4-3-2-1.

You’ve officially completed 1 set! Congratulations! Do this at least 10 times without messing up before moving on to the next set of instructions.

You’ve made it! Now to start the 2nd set. Instead of playing the 1-2-3-4 exercise going up, we’re going to play the 2-3-4-5 exercise. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll just go through it one more time for you guys!

  • Start on the low E string once again and play the 2nd fret, 3rd fret, 4th fret and 5th fret.
  • Once you hit the 5th fret of the E string, move up to the A string and play the 2nd fret, 3rd fret, 4th fret, and 5th fret.
  • Once you hit the 5th fret of the A string, move up to the D string and play the 2nd fret, 3rd fret, 4th fret, and 5th fret.
  • Once you hit the 5th fret of the D string, move up to the G string and play the 2nd fret, 3rd fret, 4th fret, and 5th fret.
  • Once you hit the 5th fret of the G string, move up to the B string and play the 2nd fret, 3rd fret, 4th fret and 5th fret.
  • Finally, once you hit the 5th fret of the B string, move up to the high E string and play the 2nd fret, 3rd fret, 4th fret, and 5th fret.

Then, go back down!

To sum it up, you basically play 5-4-3-2 from the high E string all the way down to the low E string, and then after hitting the 2nd fret, you modulate your exercise by one fret higher; becoming 3,4,5,6 up and 6,5,4,3 down… and so on! All the way until you finally reach the 12th fret.

If you can play this exercise all the way until the 12th fret at least 10 times without messing up, you’re ready to increase the tempo.

However, for those of you who would rather see what you’re doing to get a better understanding, look below as it’s laid out in tablature for you to see:

 

If you feel that either:

  1. This exercise is becoming too easy for you.

            Or…

  1. b)   This exercise is becoming slightly boring.

You’re welcome to change it up! Because the most important thing for you as a musician is that you keep your practice interesting and challenging. You can either increase the tempo, or play double time. Playing two notes per tick on metronome.

If that’s not quite the change you’re looking for, then try out one of these many different combinations of the spider exercise:

You’re also more than able to modify these practices to make them far more challenging to greatly improve your finger dexterity and challenge yourself with odd patterns.

Take the 1-2-3-4 exercises for instance! They’re pretty easy to pick up for the most part, right? But what happens when we change which strings the notes are being played on — and even have them alternate?

We get something like what we see below! Give that a shot!

If you’re looking for something different, you can also try these patterns!

This should most definitely spice up your finger exercises on guitar, and even better improve any sloppiness in your playing!

What’s even better is that any of these patterns shown can easily be changed by using the 1-2-3-4 chart above. You can always play the patterns using 2-3-1-4 or even by using 4-2-1-3. So many possibilities!

Utilizing these practices in your everyday guitar practice, you’ll be sure to notice and huge difference in your technique!

Playing Without a Metronome

As mentioned before, there are musicians who swear by using a metronome, and then there are musicians who don’t believe in the use of one. Now, whatever the case may be the latter, or that you simply have no access to a metronome, or don’t want to be dependant on one and develop your own inner clock, or utilize a “body rhythm” to feel the groove of the song, keep reading!

Musician playing without the use of a metronome relying on sense of sound and rhythm.

Musicians usually develop an ear for pitch and tone on their own clock — some develop it within weeks, months, even years! The same generally goes for understanding rhythm and timing. You develop a sense of, “something sounds off…” or maybe, “the timing is impeccable”. It all comes from experience and you developing as a musician. If you’re just starting out, don’t expect it to come right away, however, it can be exercised through, playing, listening, and practicing!

Metronomes didn’t always exist, and music has been around even since 1500 BC in the prehistoric era, so the question arises — how does one play without a metronome? Or better… How does one develop a sense of timing?

Let’s first talk about the good of a metronome for beginners. It won’t hinder you to learn timing from a metronome. If you have this sort of stigma about a metronome, you need to put that behind you and understand the pros as well as the cons! Practicing using a metronome can in fact if used correctly, help you develop a better sense. In fact, you can slow the tempo of each tick to beat to the beginning of each bar instead of every beat. From there you can then cut it out and play with just the sheer sense of knowing the rhythm yourself, because you can feel it!

That being said…

The best way you can start playing without the use of a metronome, firstly, is to focus on your counting in whatever time signature you’re playing at a slow and comfortable rhythm. So for instance, if you’re playing in 4/4 time which we also call common time, we would start by either simply tapping our foot, clapping, or tapping our hand on our lap to a steady tempo, whatever tempo you can muster slowly, and to a 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 rhythmic pattern… 

Play the tempo’s rhythm for 16 bars just to get a feel for it.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, try and play something with simple rhythms that are on beat. Songs like “Ode To Joy”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” are great starting places for beginners!

If you’re looking to improve your timing at a difficult piece you may either try:

  1. Learning to take the training wheels off, also known as; easing yourself off the metronome if you are an avid user of one. This can be done by slowing the tempo, and play double or quadruple time. When increasing the time of your playing but slowing the metronome’s tempo, we are actually simulating what it’s like to have minimal guidance. In other words, the metronome will beat at the beginning of every bar. Eventually can be changed to beat every 2 bars and so on…
  1. Perhaps, you don’t have the money for a metronome, or you don’t believe in using them; sight reading will be your best friend in this scenario. Let’s say that we’re using common time (4/4), and we have an assortment of quarter notes filling up the bar, you already know that each quarter note gets the beat, and that there are four of them in each bar. Simply, tap your foot and give yourself 2 bars of introduction, then on each beat: clap, clap, clap, clap. That’s it!

You may try different variations of rhythms, where they might get more challenging

and use different time signatures. This is how you develop your ear, and your sense

of timing.

  1. The last option is to listen! If you have a metronome, practice getting used to different tempos. It also helps to associate these tempos with their musical names. Adagio, Grave, Presto… etc. Tap your foot, or clap your hands to these beats. Really try to drill it in, practice option b) with it and sight read while tapping your foot to the tempo. If you don’t have a metronome and want to work on timing, listen to music at varied tempos and clap along to the melody. Some examples are:

Nothing Else Matters – Metallica (46 BPM)

Perfect – Ed Sheeran (63 BPM)

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (72 BPM)

Wonderwall – Oasis (87 BPM)

Blackbird – Beatles (93 BPM)

Highway To Hell – ACDC (112 BPM)

Rockin’ in the Free World – Neil Young (131 BPM)

Crazy Little Thing Called Love –  Queen (152 BPM)

Schism – Tool (167 BPM)

Master of Puppets – Metallica (220 BPM)

Clapping along to any of these songs at their tempo should prove more than enough challenge for any musician out there. With their wide range of tempos, you should get a real feel for the spectrum of different BPM’s they adhere to.

Furthermore, if you’re interested in picking up your guitar, looking up the tablature and playing along to these songs, you’ll gain an equally beneficial experience if not more than just clapping along. Master these different tempos, and you should be able to play in time to any song using your own inner metronome.

Moving Forward

So now, you’ve made it to the end of the article and have a pretty good understanding of not just the origins of the metronome, but how it works and to use it to the best of your ability. We’ll cover a few things of use for going forward so that you don’t feel lost in your practice and stuck in a “musician’s rut”, so that every practice is more productive than the last!

A winding path leading to the unknown, a metaphor for the musician’s journey

So, you want to make the most of each and every practice with your metronome, correct? Firstly, this will go forward with the assumption that given the fact that you’ve read this far means you are a dedicated musician that wants to get better, or play with their band as a tighter knit group. For casual musicians, it’s okay to keep reading, however, you might find some aspects a little extreme, in which case, to your flexibility, you may tone it down to your liking. 

Assuming the article finished here, you’re sitting in your practice space with a blank look, “this was useful, but what do I do now?”

Firstly, it’s recommended you begin with some finger exercises to develop your finger dexterity, strength and synchronization with your other hand. If you’re a beginner that wants to develop fast, try not to get in that mindset… just play for the sheer enjoyment of music, and you’ll get there! Time flies when you’re having fun!

Beginners should start at about 40 BPM, while intermediate players should start at 60 BPM.

Earlier we discussed using spider exercises, we have several variations of them here, however, if you want more, there are other places you can find them online with a simple Google search, “spider exercises for guitarists”.

Once you find the spider exercise you wish to do, let’s say it’s the standard 1-2-3-4 exercise where you gradually move up each string and then come back down. Play it to that tempo given to you whether you are a beginner or intermediate guitarist.

You should play it on each tick of the metronome going up the neck, 1-2-3-4, next string, 1-2-3-4, next string, 1-2-3-4… and so on before coming back down and doing 4-3-2-1 on each string.

Timing is a must. Accuracy is also a must. If at any point you find yourself off timing, or your finger hits the wrong note, or just not hard enough… restart. This isn’t some sort of torture or punishment, although at the start it might feel as though it is, it is to hardwire muscle memory and build your finger dexterity up. If you allow slip ups to slide by, then you’re only giving yourself permission to play sloppily and thus you won’t get any better.

“Why so slow though?”

Speed isn’t impressive unless you hit all the right notes on time. Anybody can play fast, but can everybody play with 100% accuracy? That’s what separates most serious musicians, from the casual musicians.

We start off slowly, because we want to hit the right notes. It doesn’t matter how fast you do it, it matters how accurately you do it. Really try and drill that in, because that’s where most musicians mess up.

Challenge:

Try and play all the way up to the 12th fret 10 times without messing up. If you can do that, then you might just be ready to shift the tempo up another 4 BPM. Then do it over again. If you pull that off, bring it up another 4 BPM…

Now, that may be too easy for some of you, and that’s okay. That’s when we perform the same exercise but in double time. What is meant by double time is by playing each note twice as fast. So between each tick of the metronome, you’ll want to play two notes.

Something like: 1-2.. *tick* 3-4.. *tick*  1-2.. *tick* 3-4.. *tick*  1-2.. *tick* 3-4.. *tick*

It was hard to show, but the 2nd and 4th notes will be on the tick, while the 1st and 3rd notes will be in between.

This is different than before because each note was on the tick.

Even harder: You may play in quadruple time, and that’s like:

1-2-3-4.. *tick* 1-2-3-4.. *tick* 1-2-3-4.. *tick*

Each 4th note is on the tick, while the 1-2-3 is in between.

It’s a pretty useful exercise for all musicians alike to be able to play different patterns and at a variation of different tempos! Scales may also be used with a metronome if you can break down the scale to what you’ll play between each tick. This will help you understand scales better and which notes are associated with which, and can be used in solos, licks, or improvisations.

The next useful thing you should practice is developing your inner metronome.

This is something that both metronome users, and non-metronome users can both benefit from, despite their different views and beliefs on this practical tool. As mentioned before, you may play along with any of those songs at that tempo, which will give you a good feel for songs at a variation of different tempos. Which is good if you don’t own a metronome.

Those songs should be practiced religiously, if you’re looking to memorize a certain tempo. 

However, if you own a metronome, yet you don’t want to depend on it, then definitely do the following:

Take a piece of sheet music, it doesn’t matter if it’s written for guitar, piano, vocals, whathaveyou. It’d also help if you’ve never heard this music before, to look it up on YouTube. It’s good to have that sort of guidance to understand the rhythm and how the song is structured. If you want, you may even go in blind, look it up after and see how close you got.

Next, try clapping out these rhythms. You may first find the tempo of the written piece of sheet music, turn your metronome on and tap your foot to it. After a good 8 bars of tapping your foot, turn it off but keep your foot tapping, then clap out the rhythms written on the sheet music. This will help you hardwire and keep the rhythm in your body as opposed to using only your ears to follow the rhythm because rhythm needs to be felt!

You may try this with any song, or written piece of music out there. It’s an excellent practice and should be done over and over again until the tempo becomes second-nature.

These exercises should be practiced religiously as they will greatly benefit and develop you as a musician.

There you have it! Some guidance towards what to do after you’re done reading this article. Being a musician and feeling lost towards your craft is an awful feeling to have, so knowing the steps to take in order to improve yourself and your playing are definitely useful in giving yourself direction and taking your playing to the next level. Remember, keep practicing, don’t get discouraged, and make it meaningful everyday. Always ask, “what am I trying to achieve from today’s practice”, rather than going about it meaninglessly, go about it methodically.

Keep on playing for the love of music! Keep rockin’!

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