You hear it all the time, but do you really know how to use a metronome? This quick and easy lesson will show you exactly how to get the most out of your practice time by using a metronome!
You hear people talk about using a metronome over and over on almost every video or blog post. practice with your metronome. Using a metronome will not only make you a much better player, but it will also make you faster and increase your sense of timing! These are things every guitar player wants, right?
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How can a metronome make me a faster guitar player?
When you first learn a riff or a guitar lick, you are learning all the new techniques and finger
positions for that lick. So, normally your fingers won’t be used to those positions.
Like everything else, you have to warm them up and teach your fingers to feel comfortable
playing that riff. This is where the metronome comes in. If you just start trying to play a
Steve Vai lick at the speed he plays it, odds are you will get discouraged and quit.
That’s why you should always start slow and work your way up. This will get your fingers ready and prepared to play the lick faster and cleaner than before.
How To Use A Metronome
By now you know my feelings about using a metronome hopefully. If you have looked through more articles on my site you will notice how often I refer to using a metronome. I talk about it so often to drill it in. A metronome is one guitar secret you need to know about. First, I’m going to tell you how I use a metronome and how it has helped me in my practice time.
Following John Petrucci’s Advice
So, some of you know that my favorite guitar player is John Petrucci from Dream Theater. If you don’t know who John Petrucci is you should check him out. He is an incredible musician and he knows the importance of using a metronome. I love to learn Dream Theater licks but at first, my fingers were not prepared for what John Petrucci was throwing at me. They were either too technical or too fast. It wasn’t until I watched his rock discipline DVD (Yes, I’m that old) that I learned about the metronome. I’ve used it ever since.
Start Slow And Gradually Speed Up
Now, here is the way I’d recommend you to use a metronome. Pick a riff that you want to learn. One that you know you can master within a couple of weeks or a month. Don’t get crazy. Know your limits. Now find what tempo the riff is at. You can do this by tapping your foot to the riff and moving the bpm (beats per minute) up or down until the click of the metronome is the same timing as your riff. Or easier, get one of a million metronome apps from any app store and use the ‘tap’ feature. (my favorite is SoundBrenner. You can get it for both Android or iOS, and if you really liked it – they have a metronome watch that connects to the apps too). Write this tempo down. This is your goal tempo and you should shoot for being able to play your riff at this tempo before moving to a new one. Now that you have your end goal, start your metronome super slow.
Reaching The Target Tempo
Let’s say that your end goal tempo is 120 bpm. I would suggest starting your metronome
around 60 and seeing if you can play the riff at that speed. When you first learn a lick you should start it super slow so your fingers get used to the changes. Once you have the riff down at 60 bpm and you feel comfortable playing it at that speed perfectly then move your metronome up about 8 bpm to 68.
I move my metronome up 4, 5, 8 bpm. It varies depending on the lick. Pick how many bpm’s you want to move and stick to it with your riff. Now once you can play your lick at 68 bpm perfectly and you feel comfortable, move it up again to 76 bpm and so on until you reach your goal of 120! It’s that easy!
Subdividing 8th Notes
Here is an example. When your riff is constant 8th notes and you want to increase your
speed but your metronome only goes up to 200 bpm then what? This is when you subdivide your beats by playing your riff at sixteenth notes instead of 8th notes. This won’t mess with your timing at all because 16th notes are exactly double the speed of 8th notes. So now that you got your riff up to 200 bpm playing 8th notes now you can play the same speed but move your metronome down to 100 bpm. You will still be playing the same speed you will just play 4 notes inside every beat rather than 2.
If you have a riff in triplets and you want to go faster then just cut your bpm in half and play six notes inside the beat instead of 3. This makes it easier for you to keep time. Instead of listening to a flurry of clicks on your metronome cut it in half and play double the notes per click. I used to do this once I reach around 160 bpm. I stayed at that same speed and moved my metronome down to 80 bpm. Today I have a metronome that gets to 999 bpm, so I don’t have to anymore. This is very rare these days to find a metronome that doesn’t get to extremely high tempos. But subdivisions and something worth knowing.
Another great technique to practice is playing different amounts of notes inside each beat. Play any riff and only play 2 notes inside the beat. Keep your timing the same don’t just play two notes fast inside the beat, you have to feel the timing and make the two notes fit perfectly in time to the beat. This is easier done than said actually. Now try playing 3 notes, with equal timing, inside the beat. Then four then five, six, seven, and eight. You will want to start your metronome really slow because it may be easy to play the riff with 2 notes in the beat but once you get to play 8 notes inside one beat then you will be flying.
Practice these techniques and find what works best for you. Believe me, you will not regret
playing with a metronome.
Now that you know how to use a metronome go try it out on a riff you had trouble with before, and see what happens! If you have any more questions leave me a comment I would love to answer any questions you may have. If you liked this article, check out our Guitar Playing Tips section for more cool tricks to learn.