A metronome is a tool that produces a steady audible pulse, click or beat. We measure these pulses in beats-per-minute (BPM), which indicates how many times the pulse will sound in one minute. If you set your metronome to 60 BPM, you would hear one pulse, click or beat for every second that passes on a clock.
Example #1: A metronome set to 80 BPM (You will hear the click 80 times for each minute that passes)
Example #2: A metronome set to 200 BPM (You will hear the click 200 times for each minute that passes)
I have provided some standard metronome tracks on this site. You can listen to or download them by going to the practice tracks page.
Some people use a metronome because they are told to use one. Some people use a metronome because an interview with a famous guitar player said, "I always use a metronome during practice." Even though this is good advice, you should use a metronome because you understand their use and purpose.
Here is the reason why I think you should use a metronome. It enables you to become a better player faster.
In other words, if you want to become a better player, use a metronome, and you will get there quicker. Can you think of a better reason than that?
Perhaps the easiest way to tell an average guitarist from a great one is in their ability to play consistently. An intermediate guitarist will play more or less on tempo, and a great guitarist will play right in the pocket. Even non-musicians can tell the difference. They may not be able to explain why, but they can sense it.
There are only two primary considerations for your riff or lick to "fit": rhythmic choices and note choices. So even if you had figured out all the right notes, if your rhythm is not correct, you will sound "off."
Practicing with a metronome will help you develop your speed, confidence, and rhythmic chops in the shortest amount of time.
There are many ways you can use a metronome to improve your playing. I will give you a few ways I recommend using a metronome but remember that a metronome is a tool, and you are limited only by your creativity.
Important: It is always more important to play something accurately than to play it fast.
Find a scale, lick, riff, etc., that you would like to learn or improve. Do your best to figure out what tempo you can cleanly and accurately play it. At the beginning of practice, write down what you are working on, with the tempo and date.
Play it cleanly and accurately twice at that speed (2 to make it true) with no mistakes. Increase the metronome by 10 BPM and practice at that speed until you can play it cleanly and accurately twice at that speed.
At the end of each practice session, write down what tempo you ended on. Keeping a practice log with beginning and ending tempos is an excellent tool for tracking your progress and motivates you to continue.
Rinse and repeat this process until you can play it at your desired speed.
Keep in mind that speed is not a linear thing even though we practice it that way. You will find that improvement is slower on some days, and on other days, you will make massive leaps. Try not to worry about this and keep with the above formula.
If you find you plateaued at a particular speed, here are a couple of proven tactics. Try increasing the BPM higher than you have ever done. I know this is counter-intuitive to the previous advice, but it can help push you through the plateau. If that does not get you through the speed barrier, try going back to the speed you felt you were last doing really well. Pick it up from there and increase the tempo in steps of 5 BPM instead of 10 BPM.
A similar process to the one above, but this time will focus on the speed you can cleanly change chords.
As you progress with guitar, you will start learning more complicated chords, which can pose some challenges. Don't get frustrated. Grab your metronome, and set it to a speed you can manage.
Isolate what part of the fingering is giving you the most trouble and work just that part. Add the other fingers in as you go. Increase the speed in the same way you would in the increasing speed section above.
It's usually a good idea to continue increasing the BPM past the speed you will need for the song you will be playing. When it's time for the chord change in the music, it will feel slower and comfortable.
Strumming patterns are a function of breaking down the beat into rhythmic subdivisions. You can create many variations by using combinations of quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, triplets, rests, etc.
Rather than list out all the possible combinations that one could play, try playing along with the exercise below.
Can you play it, cleanly? If not, slow the tempo down until you can. Can you play it faster? Using these chords and metronome set to 80 BPM, practice coming up with other variations.
I hope that this has given you some insight into the power of a metronome. Practice with one today, and you will see how it will help you improve.
If you do not have a metronome, I have provided one on the practice tracks page. There are also drum tracks available at various tempos, which are fun to play along with when you are tired of hearing the metronome sound. The kick drum is on beats 1 & 3, and the snare drum is on 2 & 4.
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