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How to practice with a metronome : The Quick Guide to Improving your Rhythm and Inner Sense of Time

“Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting.” GOTTFRIED LEIBNIZ

I guess you’ve been told that in order to become good at guitar, you need to practice with a metronome.

When I was just starting with guitar I’ve heard this advice from everywhere. PRACTICE WITH A METRONOME.

And so I did. I turned the metronome on and played with a click. Months went by and my rhythm and timing hadn’t improved much. So I stopped doing that because I thought it was a waste of time.

And guess what?

My rhythm and timing still sucked big time.

It was years later when I finally learned how to develop my rhythm and how to use metronome so I am actually improving my timing.

Practice with a metronome is a useless advice if it is not followed by explanation how to do that. Turning on metronome and playing with it won’t improve your timing. Wayne Krantz said it best:

“The worst way that I know how to practice with a metronome is just to turn it on in a room and think that by the fact that it’s on somehow your time is getting better.” Wayne Krantz

I’ve put this guide together to help people learn how to practice with a metronome in a way that ensures that they are improving their inner sense of time.

I’ve spent hours browsing the web to put together the best exercises that actually work. I’ve then tested all of the exercises on myself and my students to see which works and which are just a waste of time.  The exercises that you find below are only the ones that really worked.

Why guitar players hate to practice with a metronome?

From my experience as a guitar teacher most students hate practicing with metronome. There are several reasons why that is so:

  1. They suck at keeping time and they don’t want to feel bad about themselves so they don’t do it.
  2. They believe that it is harder than it really is.
  3. They don’t know how to practice with a metronome properly to really improve their rhythm and timing. All they know is a bunch of boring and useless exercises.
  4. Choosing the right metronome and setting it up feels like too much work.
  5. People get annoyed by the sound of metronome click.

All of the reasons above really stop aspiring guitar players from getting better at rhythm.

My goal for this guide is to crush all of the above reasons so you start using metronome regularly.

And not only that.

My goal is for you to start enjoying practicing with a click.

I know this may sound crazy since most guitar players hate to practice with metronome but I believe that their beliefs are based on wrong advice they had received in the past.

If you learn how to use your metronome, you can improve your timing in a relatively short period of time. With the right approach it doesn’t have to be that overwhelming. Once you get to the point where your playing starts to groove, practicing with a click becomes kind of an addiction. It really feels good. Getting the groove going is one of the most rewarding musical activities that I know.

Let’s get to work.

The worst advice ever: Practice with metronome all the time

When I was researching materials for this guide, I spent lots of time on web to find the best advice on how to improve timing. And everywhere I turned, one advice kept popping out:

If you want to get good at rhythm, you need to practice with a metronome all the time.

And let me tell you something.  That kind of advice is one of the reasons why guitar players suck at rhythm even years after they started practicing with a metronome.

Metronome is a specific tool that we use when we want to improve our rhythm and timing and that’s why we don’t need to use it all the time. As with every kind of practice, quality is more important than quantity. Ten minutes of highly focused rhythm practice will do much more for you than two hours of mindless playing with a click.

Working on your rhythm is mentally challenging activity that requires lots of focus. Therefore it is not possible to do it non-stop. You want to do it regularly but in shorter practice sessions. If you don’t pay attention to where the beat is, you can actually also stop.

In many cases using a metronome could be counterproductive. If you are trying to get a new movement under your fingers then using metronome won’t help you much. Quite the contrary. Trying to make new movements rhythmic too early is not a good way how to approach motor learning. Focus on making the movement comfortable and fluent first.

One piece of advice I would give to anyone regarding metronome is to use it only when you want to check or improve your timing. Other times it is really not necessary. Continue Reading →

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Plateaued and not improving, losing motivation to practice?

I looked down and there it was.

My brand new guitar sitting in its case. I knew I should be practicing. I had promised it myself.

But somehow, you know…

I had to admit: “I am starting to lose my drive for guitar. I feel like I haven’t progressed in last two months.”

Suddenly I realized that I had been sitting in a plateau playing the same riffs and licks over and over. I couldn’t find it enjoyable anymore.  I’ve gotten extremely bored playing guitar and I felt that I can’t go any further like this.

“This sucks.”

Even though I had promised myself that this time it would be different, it wasn’t. And even with my brand new guitar I was not able to ignite my inner fire again.

I hit the rock bottom.

I didn’t have a clue what to do because I had never felt this low before.

And yet, here I am 10 years later, running this blog to help aspiring guitarist overcome plateaus and mental barriers.

You see, we all hit plateaus, we all feel lost and frustrated from time to time even though we love playing guitar. It’s perfectly normal to feel like this. The key is not to give up. No matter how hard things are, you cannot quit.

Imagine you are a mountain climber climbing up the Mt. Everest. You have just passed elevation of 8000 m and now you’re in the “death zone.”  It is 30 degrees below zero, wind is fiercely blowing into your face, you are exhausted and barely can breathe. You consciously know that at this elevation you are basically dying and yet you have to move forward.

Going back is not an option right now.

Even in these extremely cruel conditions you have to think clearly, otherwise you are in serious trouble. No matter how low you feel, you’ve got to put one foot in front of the other. And then repeat until you reach the summit. You know what you are after, now you just need to keep climbing. There is no doubt that your physiology has to be superb, but so has to be your mindset.

Every plateau and every mental barrier can be overcome with the right attitude and thoughtful planning.

In this article I want to show you how you can develop the kind of mindset that will help you move forward no matter how hard things are and I also share with you a 4 step process how to crush your plateaus and barriers.

How to strengthen your mindset?

So, how do we strengthen our mindset?

We do it by changing our perspective. Most of the time the obstacles and barriers we face are not that horrible. We usually experience some minor disadvantages or not optimal conditions. That’s how life works. The problem is that we interpret them as huge impediments.

And not only that.

We start to believe that those obstacles are here forever and we cannot do anything about it. We feel helpless and powerless and that makes the whole situation even worse. That’s why we need to change our perspective. We need to learn how to be more resilient no matter what is happening around us.

You don’t have to feel helpless; you can choose to feel whatever you like to feel. Yes, that’s right. It’s a choice. And you are the one who can choose.

There are several ways you can start strengthening your mindset:

A/ Start reading 10 pages of a good book a day. (Or as much as you like)

It doesn’t really matter if it is fiction or non-fiction. One thing that you’ll realize by reading more good books  is that your problems are not that unique. Every obstacle you are facing right now has been overcome by somebody in the past. History repeats itself.

I’ve already recommended few books that helped me in the past but if you feel like you really hit a wall I believe Meditations by Marcus Aurelius could be helpful.

B/ Put uplifting quotes and words of wisdom where you practice

I got this idea from Ryan Holiday and it helped me immensely to get my focus right. Try it and see for yourself. Below are some of my favorite quotes:

“Setbacks or problems are always expected and never permanent.” Ryan Holiday

“Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.” Publius Syrus

“Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.” Marcus Aurelius

C/ Watch a good movie or inspiring TED talk.

D/ Go for a walk or run. Changing your physiology will help you change your mental state.

E/ Turn off your computer, take pen and paper and think.

F/ Do all of the above.

All of the above steps will help you with changing your perspective and maybe you’ll start to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Once you got a little bit of your drive back, you need to start working. You won’t improve without taking action. Now that you understand that every obstacle is an opportunity for you to grow, it will be much easier to put in the needed work.

Most aspiring guitarist won’t ever be satisfied with their progress because they have never defined what success for them looks like. If you don’t know where you are going, you can hardly ever arrive.

If you want to overcome you current plateaus, if you want to get your motivation and confidence back, you need to find your problem spots and then find ways how you can improve them. If only by 1%.

You know for sure that what you’ve been doing so far is not really working, so stop it.  It is time to try something new. Continue Reading →

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