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Metronome: Is It Doing You More Harm Than Good?

Jak Angelescu

Guitarist for Unknown🎸 Mother of Dragons🐉
Staff member
Legend
  • Sep 24, 2019
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    Kansas City, MO
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    Good morning (or evening) guys and dolls!
    I’d LOVE for students to share their metronome tips with me. As I find that utilizing it can either make or break you. On one hand, it’s awesome to use the metronome to help us stay on time and develop good rhythm and timekeeping skills, and can also be a great way for us to gauge and increase our speed.
    But one setback I believe the metronome has, is it can come with a sense of stress, frustration, and the urge to “race” ourselves.
    I notice that many guitarists will have a very stable, strong spot where they’re playing a solo up to speed. They’re cruising along, having a great time, and then suddenly everything is rushed, smashed together, off-time, and next thing you know they’re struggling to regain themselves. And I find out that it’s because they practice the ‘boring and easy’ parts up to speed because they lacked the patience to practice the easy parts slowly, and then transition with this speed into the more challenging spots.
    Or, their transitions from one spot to the next are stiff, chopped, and not very relaxed or controlled.
    I believe using a metronome is extremely necessary and helpful, when used right. When used improperly I personally feel it can have adverse effects. Gauging our speed is not the only way to gauge our improvement. Speed is not everything. I believe it is great to practice certain spots that you are struggling with over and over again, and also to help stabilize your timing once you get something down.
    So here are my personal tips for metronome usage 🙂 I’d really love to hear some of yours!
    1. Practice the boring parts at the speed you can play your hardest parts comfortably. Don’t lie to yourself either. If you’re having to strain your eyeballs looking at the strings and you’re holding your breath, that’s not being played comfortably 🙂
    2. Practicing the boring parts as slow as the difficult parts will enable you to TRANSITION into the harder parts effortlessly, or with much ease. This will help relieve the “Oh my God here comes that part now focus focus focus don’t mess up don’t mess up” stress. It will make your connections sound better 🙂
    3. Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t think that you have to improve 20 BPMs a day to be improving. Every single thing I’ve struggled with, I set the tempo for extremely slow paces, played it for ten minutes while relaxing and mentally clearing my head, and next thing I knew I could increase the BPM by 15 or 20.
    4. Don’t let the BPM number distinguish how well you know something. Just because you can play something up to speed, doesn’t mean you’re playing it will ALL that you’ve got. I see a lot of guitarists struggling to hit vibratos where they could be. And to be honest, timing vibratos and allowing your muscles to get trained to react to them strongly and in time is a difficult thing. So if you practice slowly, put the vibratos and the slides in there. Slide slowly during slow tempos, and vibrato on time and slowly as well. This will also help you to hear if your vibrato is also getting a pitch change so that it comes through clearly.
    5. Put the metronome down and allow yourself your own feel. If you are hearing the constant beat going, you may fumble your way through some spots trying to keep up. Allow your mind to clear of the feeling of needing to “rush to stay on time” and let yourself be your own metronome. If you play the boring parts faster, then you now have free will to slow down and work your way through the difficult spots without the metronome beeping.
    6. Don’t get discouraged. Metronome usage can make you feel you’re never going to get better because the number’s not going up. Remember, there are other ways to gauge your improvement 🙂
    That’s all I’ve got 🙂 if you have any metronome tips, please share them because I would love to hear them! I’ll be in the studio for most of this week so my timing on here may be sparse.
    Have a great week everyone!
     

    Jamie London

    Campfire Attention Holder
  • Nov 11, 2019
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    Gilroy, California
    synn3r.com
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    Damn good advice here Jak, especially #5! I use metronomes a decent amount, I probably could and should use them a bit more when I’m just noodling around, but my younger brother is an excellent drummer and I also enjoy jamming with him much more than using a metronome. I feel like having a solid drummer to play with can be just as good, if not better in some ways. But I agree with everything you said above. I used to HATE playing to a metronome when I was in my early teens, of course over time you realize how important it is and learn to make it work for ya.
     

    Jak Angelescu

    Guitarist for Unknown🎸 Mother of Dragons🐉
    Staff member
    Legend
  • Sep 24, 2019
    2,891
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    Kansas City, MO
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    OOOHHH you are SOOO lucky to have a good drummer to jam and practice with. I believe drummers are so essential in helping a song be written. Not to mention, who wants to try and adjust your metronome to some obscure time? Or what if you want the tempo to slow down or speed up during a song? Drummers are awesome!!!
     

    Jamie London

    Campfire Attention Holder
  • Nov 11, 2019
    425
    802
    28
    Gilroy, California
    synn3r.com
    12
    EXACTLY! I think there is a time and place for both but having a good drummer to play with is awesome and it’s def more enjoyable and exciting haha. Of course there are situations when a metronome is more practical, but I feel very fortunate to have such an excellent drummer two doors down the hall and because of that, there are always songs being written or at least ideas thrown around so it keeps the creativity flowing!
     

    Brian Haner Sr.

    Administrator
    Staff member
    Nov 11, 2019
    613
    2,154
    Some great points, Jak. I will post a vid soon on practicing with a metronome soon. Syn & I are working on a new batch of vids. Stay tuned!
     

    Dylan Luna

    Free Bird Player
    Nov 11, 2019
    6
    0
    Perfect timing for that post @jak. I didn’t see a way to search old forum questions and I didint know where to start. I have never played with a metronome. I am also lucky my brother is a drummer but I think he could use a metronome too. Anyone have any advise on what metronome they like. Do you use a metronome app or a device? I am working my way through the lessons and didn’t see any specific to metranomes yet so I can’t wait to see what Papa Gates and Syn share with us. Thank you all
     
    Synner Endless Summer Collection

    Jak Angelescu

    Guitarist for Unknown🎸 Mother of Dragons🐉
    Staff member
    Legend
  • Sep 24, 2019
    2,891
    4,296
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    Kansas City, MO
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    @Papa I’m so excited! I literally check the website for new lessons and content daily so I can’t wait! Thank you both so much! 🤗🤗
    @dylan I use a Korg MA-1. I’ve had it for years and it’s easy to use. You can adjust the volume, the BPM, rhythm notation and time signatures. There are loads of free apps that are great too! I’ve used some but I just prefer having I real thing.
     

    Ids Schiere

    Sold-out Crowd Surfer
    Legend
    Nov 11, 2019
    5,007
    5,697
    Groningen
    11
    I use The Soundbrenner metronome from the playstore and it is great! Personally for me it depends on the song whether I use a metronome wehn I practice. I usually do but sometimes I like to just us my natural sense of timing to see whether I’m doing it right. Usually my progress of learning. Song is just learning a song without a metronome and then figure out where those notes go. When I can figure out the timing without a metronome and play it up to speed properly wihout a metronome I won’t use one. When I struggle with the speed I do use the metronome endlessly. I used to learn songs using guitar pro and would always turn on the clock when I do and that really helped my timing a lot!
     

    Ed Seith

    Supreme Galactic Overlord
    Staff member
    Legend
  • Nov 11, 2019
    2,553
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    Marana, AZ USA
    soundcloud.com
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    For learning rhythms and SONGS, I find that my old tried and true is still my best friend. Play along to the RECORDING, not a metronome. What makes that easier now is programs like Amazing Slow Downer, YouTube functionality, Audacity, etc, that can slow down a song without affecting the pitch. This is an AMAZING revolution, the importance of which simply cannot be overstated for the modern musician.
    For solos, I admit, I don’t do a lot of fast solos note for note – I just don’t care enough to have that kind of patience, though I freely admit, it’s been a HUGE detriment to my progress as a player. When I *do* venture into that, I take the difficult parts, learn them VERY slowly with a metronome, until they fall exactly the same way under my fingers EVERY SINGLE TIME, then slowly increase the tempo. When I get to a good speed, even if not the final speed, then I’ll slow the metronome down 5-10 BPM again, and work in the lead-up and drop-off measures to that part.
    Then when it’s up close to proper tempo (within 10-20 BPM), I’ll start working the whole thing.
    The most important part of using a metronome is BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. You know in your heart when you have something down cold, and can play it comfortably and easily. Don’t increase the tempo, even a little, until you’re THERE.
    Another method is to play it 85% of the time at the fastest speed you’re comfy with, then bump it 5bpm for 10% of the time, and finish the last 5% at 5BPM *below* your starting tempo, to keep your last playthrough (the “burn in”) at the most clean.
    Hope some of this is helpful! Great topic!
     

    Matt Wildman

    Free Bird Player
    Nov 11, 2019
    564
    21
    Liberty IN
    5
    I’m glad you said this Jak cause recently I’ve been kicking myself about not using a metronome when I practice and this will help me be aware and utilize it to its fullest based on your tips. I feel like I’m not that bad at keeping time and staying on beat when not using a metronome,but I know I need to use it and see if that’s true or not lol.
     

    Aaron Aldous

    Free Bird Player
    For fast tempos (160 bpm and above) count only the two and the four beats, this will give you a straight feel whilst cutting the mental effort in half (it’ll feel more like 80 bpm). You can also count on beats one and three for a slightly more swing/loose feel.
    One more thing that you can do to improve your speed, as well as mental processing and clarity is to chunk groups of subdivisions. Basically this entails that you treat one beats worth of sixteenth notes as a ‘chunk’ instead of counting each subdivision (although it’s important that you can subdivide, and count whilst playing, but only at slower tempos, 120 bpm and below, any higher and you’re just gonna stress your bandwidth).
    Here’s an exercise: set the metronome to 160 bpm fret only the G note, 12th fret, G string. Play five sixteenth notes, starting on beat one and resolving on beat two. Rest for the remaining beats three and four.
    What you’ve just done is played a chunk of musical information, akin to speaking a word 🙂 take this concept and apply it to absolutely everything you can get your ears and hands on, Syn and Papa G have got that part covered 😉
    Any questions, feel free to hit me up 🙂 happy shredding guys 😘
     

    Andreas Laich

    New Student
    Nov 11, 2019
    9
    0
    Wow this is great, some really good and detailed advice there, thank you!
    In a certain way i love the metronome, cause it gives you structure and it’s nice seeing things work out, even if you slowly increase speed. I like to concentrate on carefully practicing cleanliness, and i even more love the results as nothing is more satisfying than nailing hard parts cleanly.
    But useless to say that it needs lot of time, patience and self-discipline, and this is the part where i struggle sometimes, because i try to play it faster than i actually should too often.
    And once you fall into that unclean, fast playing, you have to restart and go back to a slower tempo where you can play it right.
    But if you are honest to yourself and keep being disciplined it’s one hell of a method to get better, because seeing actual results in bpm-numbers when you manage to play faster and faster but still clean, gives a load of motivation! 😀
    So to answer the title-question: doing good if you use it right, harm if you do it wrong, that pretty much sums up my experience
     
    Synner Endless Summer Collection

    Christopher Lonski

    Free Bird Player
    Nov 11, 2019
    257
    16
    Metronomes are ESSENTIAL. I know I used to think it would ruin my feel if I used them like I would get too sterile and robotic if I used them, but this is nonsense! All a metronome is doing is giving you a sense of where the perfect downbeats are so you can feel where everything else should sit within the beats. I didn’t read all the posts so I don’t know if its been said already, but you DONT have to play exactly on top of the beat. You actually don’t even have to play on ANY of the down beats. You can practice going against the beat and only play on the up beats. It’s also SUPER important to learn to play a little behind the beat and a little in front of the beat and really learn to control where you’re placing you notes. Having that level of control with your playing will take your feel and abilities to the next level and beyond. The important thing to remember is that YOU are in control of where notes are placed rhythmically, not the metronome.