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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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