The metronome is an essential tool in becoming a good guitar player. I stress the use of the metronome in scale, exercise and rhythm playing in my instructional video Comprehensive Guitar Instruction by Charlotte Adams and I show how to use it to learn to play leads. (You can also find instruction on working with the metronome in Moving On and in my downloadable video, Metronome Use.) I realize that many people have a resistance to working with a metronome and will attempt to move forward in their playing without enduring the irritation and frustration they experience when having that steady click in the background. Avoiding the use of the metronome, however, leaves you to sound like an amateur for the rest of your musical career, annoying your listeners and anyone who attempts to play with you. The solution is to make peace with the metronome, which is exactly what I intend to help you do in this article.
Annoying sound, isn’t it?
The students that I see having the most trouble with the metronome are those who are not consistently tuning in to it. Not only will their success rate be low, they will be terribly annoyed by its sound, which only makes sense. They are trying to play music and there is a background noise distracting them! If the sound is indeed background noise to you, it will be just as annoying as having a television on in your practice room. The obvious (but sometimes not so obvious!) solution is to TUNE IN to the sound of the metronome.
The first step is to use a metronome that has a click that is clear and sharp, but doesn’t hurt your ears. Avoid the small electronic ones with a pitch and instead choose one that has a click or wood block sound and an easy to use dial. If you are willing to sacrifice the ease of a dial and you have a smartphone, you can download a free metronome app that offers a variety of sounds.
Try this method
Practice using the following method each time you play. Begin as you do each practice session (as described in the instructional video) by bringing your attention to your breath, then to your body and the way you are using it. Choose a very simple exercise to begin your session and set the metronome to a tempo at which you feel you can play the exercise perfectly. Now knock it down a few notches. (Remember Charlotte’s mantra: SLOW) Pick up your guitar, check again that your body is relaxed and turn on the metronome. Just listen. Close your eyes and internalize the beat. Imagine that the metronome is inside your body and is your own rhythm, your own heartbeat. As you feel the rhythm move down your arms and into your hands, begin to play your chosen exercise. If you notice any tension, soften your neck and send warmth through your arms and hands. If tension persists or you lose the beat, pause your playing, breathe, keep listening and begin again when you really feel the pulse. Continue this way as one long, fluid metronome meditation. Remember that your goal is not speed, but accuracy. If you think of the beat as external to you, you will always be chasing it or waiting for it.
When you are able to play WITH the metronome, you will be able to use it in ways I described in the instructional video or to hone your repertoire pieces. Always start slowly and increase your speed gradually. Remember – if you practice wrong (wrong notes, wrong timing, etc.) you will get very good at playing wrong!
For a complete lesson in metronome use, check out Charlotte’s 21- minute downloadable video guitar lesson,
Metronome Use for Guitar Players.
(Also available on dvd)
To inquire about private lessons or workshops with Charlotte, contact us.
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