Many new musicians aren’t fully aware of how to use a metronome. They are even less aware as to why they should use it. A metronome is a very useful tool to help you improve your rhythm on guitar. It is a time keeping device. You can set the tempo(how many BPM; beats per minute) and play along with it. It’s like a really simple drummer.
Practicing along with a metronome will instill into your playing a very strong sense of accurate timing. As we are learning something new we have a lot to think about and being perfectly in time is not the first thing that happens. It’s usually the last. It is best to wait on using the metronome until you have memorized and gotten pretty familiar with a piece of music. If you don’t have it memorized then you definitely won’t be playing in time unless you can read music really fast. Being required to memorize music and the techniques you are using is one of the benefits of using a metronome. It will also make it music easier and more fun to play along with other people. This could lead to great jam sessions, getting in a band, and will make time in a recording studio much less difficult.
How a Metronome Works
More modern metronomes allow you to accent different notes. This means one of the beats will sound different than the rest. It is usually a different pitch of the same sound. You can also change the time signature. There may be other fancy features, but these are the most useful for practical application..
Older metronomes had a weighted pendulum that clicked back and forth and had a crank you wound up manually. Gravity helped keep it balanced and accurate. Digital metronomes are even more accurate and allow you to change the volume as well.
If you have a digital metronome, ignore the extra options for now, just turn it on and begin using it. It will probably be set to 4/4 timing. This is the most common time signature in music. 4/4 means it will play 4 quarter notes. The first 4 represents the number of beats. The second represents the type of beat. The quarter note is represented by a 4. Think of 4 quarters that make a whole a dollar. A whole note is the same length of time as 4 quarters or 2 half notes. Simple fractions. If you changed the time to 3/4 then you would play 3 quarter notes.
If you have an accented note it should be the first note. When you begin to play along with it, start at the same time as the accented note. Play something very simple. Try just picking one string along with the metronome. Every time there is a click you pick. Pretty simple. Now try just picking on the accented note. You will pick on the first beat and then the next three notes will click before you pick again. Try picking every other note; one and three. Now try going back and forth between two adjacent strings. The first string will be played on beats one and three. The second string will be played on beats two and four. You could also play string one on beats one and two, then string two on beats three and four. If you’re playing chords, strum an E chord four times then and A chord four times and keep repeating.
Don’t forget this…
One of the most beneficial things I want to discuss about how to use a metronome is you can measure your progress and ultimately it will help you improve. You will want to takes notes on different practices you are working on. Each song, technique, scale, etc. will have a speed you are comfortable playing at along with the metronome. Write that down for each one. Then begin speeding the metronome up. If you can play a song at 80 BPM then move it up to 85 and play along at that tempo. Keep moving up until you can not keep up. Then write down the BPM. Set a goal as to when you want to surpass this. Make it 3 days or a week. Whatever you want that is realistic. The goal isn’t to play fast, but playing fast gives us the ability to do so when it is needed. Playing faster also makes playing at normal speeds seem very easy. If you need to play a song at 130 BPM and that is difficult then work up to 140 or 150 BPM. Then the 130 will seem more manageable or even easy.
This was a crash course on how to use a metronome. There is much more you can do with a metronome, but this is more than enough to get you started. If you are having trouble with the your timing or the metronome then click the link below and let me know. Take the next step in getting the help you need to play with freedom and confidence.