10 Awesome Ways to Use a Metronome

Why use a metronome? Well, I can think of many good reasons to why you would want to use a metronome when you practice. People are born with perfect pitch, but have you ever heard of someone being born with perfect time? I haven't. Time, as most people would agree, is something everyone needs to develop. This is where the metronome comes in handy.
If you want your musical ideas to be cohesive, things have to be played "in time." You can play the hippest notes you want, but if it's phrased poorly and out of time, frankly, it'll sound terrible to not only musicians, but to your average listener as well. That goes for any style of music. The human ear likes to be able to understand organized logic. Playing music in time is a big part of that organized logic.
Using a metronome for some is a bit put-offing because it can expose your weaknesses, and this is a blow to your ego. You might think you have good time until you play with someone that does, then you just might feel inadequate in that department. Well, break out your metronome and get to work!
You can use a metronome for many things in your practice. When doing finger exercises, picking exercises, anything you do to build technique, scales (of course) or sight reading (more on this coming up), you can use the tempo markings as a way to gauge how much better we are getting. The faster we can cleanly execute something the better we are getting, right? It can be very rewarding to see yourself beat your previous record on playing a certain passage, or exercise you routinely practice: you see your improvement, literally! When first starting out it might be a good idea to mark down what you accomplished today, so you have something to beat tomorrow. This all can help motivate you when it's often hard to see improvement in your abilities. You now at least you have something tangible to gauge your progress.
Here are some great tips to utilize a metronome:
1. Really nailing time values. Eighth notes, sixteenth notes, eight note triplets, quarter note triplets, etc. You get the picture. This could be just the picking hand, adding in the left hand as well, or just playing slurs (hammer-ons and pull-offs) in time with just the left hand. The trick here is to go for precision. Come up with your own exercises.
2. Playing really slow. Try it. You'll see that playing really slow is harder than playing fast in many ways. Play a passage or a whole song at 40 beats per minute (BPM) and see if you can pull it off convincingly, with passion, all without speeding up. Many people you admire who play with excellent time I bet have learned to "feel" time at extremely slow tempos as well as ripping tempos.
3. I often get my students to use a metronome to help with their sight reading. Breaking all the elements down, note recognition, fretboard and finger placement, note values, etc., while having the metronome mark out quarter notes, I have them do the following:
1) Name aloud each note in succession treating each note as if it was a quarter note. You must time each note you pronounce exactly with the metronome. When there is a repeated note, or notes, disregard them and quickly scan with your eyes to the next new pitch. (This will help to get you noticing groupings of notes taking in larger chunks of information at a quick glance and teach you to always be scanning ahead of where you are playing)
2) Then play the actual notes on the guitar, again treating each note as a quarter note disregarding time values not playing repeated notes in the same fashion as step 1.
3) Then clap the rhythms while counting, breaking down the time value sin your counting. (8th note: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +; 16th notes 1 e + a, 2 e + a, 3 e + a, etc.)
4) Next play the rhythms on the correct string (open or muted not implementing the fretting hand) that you would play each note.
5) Then isolate the fretting hand and try to play the notes and rhythms without using your picking hand. This helps with fretting hand accuracy in finger placement and timing!
6) Then finally, put it all together and play the song as it is supposed to be played.
The faster BPM that you can do each step the better you are improving at putting all the elements to sight reading together. It also helps a person realize what area that is causing difficulty by eliminating the other elements and boiling it down to just one at a time.
4. Naming notes on your fretboard. You'd be surprised how much better you get at knowing your fretboard layout by naming notes up and down (yes down) on each individual string. The faster the tempo, the faster you can recall the note, the better you are getting. Again, you get feedback, witnessing yourself improve. And yet further, you are exposing weak spots. Are you sensing a theme here? Almost everyone has a zone they avoid because they aren't comfortable. Do the uncomfortable so you can get comfortable.
5. This next one combines elements of steps 3 & 4. Write out random notes onto staff paper. (Tossing small pieces of paper with note names written on each,then pick up the pieces of paper and write then in the random order you happen to choose works well) Do this 6 different times, writing out one or two lines of staff per string. Be careful you are writing out notes that only fall in the range of each given string. Now using the metronome play the random notes you have prepared. This is such a great exercise to not only help your sight reading, but to learn the fretboard and the range limits of each of your strings.
6. Instead of putting the "click" on each beat when learning a song, try halving your intended tempo marking and count yourself in hearing the clicks on beats 2 & 4. This is really good for making you have to "hear", or feel where beat one is. This in my opinion helps you develop better time than having the metronome tell you where each beat is. Plus this concept and the following suggestions help you create a more elastic time feel, something not so rigid but still "in time."
7. If it's a fast tune you're working on, try dividing the tempo one fourth and hear the click on beat only on beat 1, or just 2, or just 3, or just 4. Now you are getting somewhere developing good time.
8. It 3/4 time hear the click on just beat 2 or 3, only. Or have it click every second beat so that it click on beats 1 & 3 for the first measure, then beat 2 in the second measure. You'll notice how every two measure you cycle back to beat 1 again.
9. For a more advanced move, you jazzers could hear the metronome click on the "ands" (or up beats) of a swing feel, or the "ands" of 2 & 4, etc. You get the picture. Try to stay in time only hearing the up beats.
10. And of course, use a metronome when you are practicing the new approach to scales. Treat playing scales as an Etude, a short practice piece, where you can measure your improvement by building up your speed.

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