TIME TO COMPLETE: 10 Minutes
WHAT YOU NEED: Guitar, Metronome (Metronome backing tracks available free here)
SKILL LEVEL: Beginner
To put it simply, practicing with a metronome will make you a better player. A metronome is a device that makes a ‘clicking’ sound at a constant rate. You can buy physical metronomes (looks like a small wooden pyramid with a swinging bar side to side) or you can get software versions for your computer or your mobile. As a guitarist it is essential that you have one to practice with. Practicing with a metronome will increase your sense of rhythm and help you ‘tighten’ up your playing to a more professional level. In this lesson we will look at the basics of playing along with a metronome. In later lessons we will look at other uses of a metronome.
COUNTING THE BEAT
Before you try to play anything along with a metronome, you need to be able to count the beat along with it. Many people struggle learning to play with a metronome because they skip this step. Which is a shame because this is a very easy step.
All you need to do is count out 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 . . . in time with the click of the metronome. So every time you hear a click you should be counting the beat out loud. So on the first click say “One” out loud, then on the second click say “Two” and so on. Make sure you count the number at the exact same time as the click – not before and not after the click. This will take a bit of practice to get used to.
The reason we count to four then go back to one is that most songs have ‘four beats in a bar’ so it is a good idea to get used to counting to four.
Some songs will have ‘three beats in a bar’ so once you feel comfortable counting 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 you can have a go counting 1 2 3 1 2 3 etc.
For this step start off with a slow tempo then work your way to a higher tempo when you feel comfortable counting out loud in time with the metronome. Don’t move on to playing exercises or anything else until you master this step. If you have trouble counting along with a metronome, you won’t be able to play guitar along with it. So keep practicing until it feels easy and you say the number at the exact same time as the clicking sound.
SIMPLE EXERCISE WITH A METRONOME
The first exercise is a great warm-up for your fingers and fits very well with a metronome.
As you can see in the exercise above, you will play four notes on a string before moving to the next string and playing another four notes. Continue this across all six strings. The great thing with this exercise is that it is really easy to count along while playing because of the 1 2 3 4 pattern. In other words, when you play the first fret, you should be on the first beat the same way when you play the third fret you should be on the third beat. This makes it easy to check if you’re not counting properly. You should aim to play each note at the exact same time as the metronome click. If you notice you lag behind or keep playing before the click, play with a slower tempo and really focus on playing at the exact time.
Make sure you count the beat in your head while playing the exercise. Later on when you feel comfortable playing you won’t need to count the beat as you will be able to ‘feel’ it. But many beginners find it easier to count when starting out. Make sure you start out extremely slow and play every note perfect. Don’t try to speed up the metronome because it will only hinder your progress. After you play the exercise perfectly for a while, you can slowly increase the tempo.
The idea with this exercise is to get you used to using all four fingers across the first four frets. This will stretch your fingers out which will make it easier for you to play chords.
This lesson was a very basic introduction on playing along with a metronome. If you can do these exercises with ease then you can move on to more complicated exercises. If you struggle with the exercise above, keep practicing counting the beat out loud without using a guitar. This is a crucial skill so keep working at it until it is perfect.
Once you perfect this skill playing along with other musicians such as drummers will be a whole lot easier. In later lessons we will look at other ways a metronome can help you become a better guitarist so feel free to subscribe to the free newsletter so you know when new lessons are available.
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