Tips for Practicing With A Metronome

In this music lesson we are gonna to look at a musicians favorite and most hated friend the Metronome.  There will more than likely be points when you will want to throw said metronome against the wall but remember rhythmic timing is the black and white, right or wrong of music.

There are some music educators who are against the use of metronome and argue that we all have innate since of timing but unfortunately this is not true. When I was in college my African drumming instructor from Ghana Dr. Daniel Avorbedogr told me the following story.  In village is Gahanna everyone is giving the opportunity to be part of the tribal drumming circle from a very young age.  However it quickly becomes apparent which children can't keep time and are giving another craft to hone their skills on.

Now it’s not to say one can’t learn to keep a beat(steady rhythm) but for some this will be prove to be a monumental task.

Lesson One

The first thing one should do when practicing with the metronome is start with it clicking on every beat.  For some it helps to have a different tone to happen on the down beat(beat one) of every measure.  Practice everything using the metronome: scales, rhythmic exercises, etudes, walking bass lines, mandolin chop chords , etc. 

Play things at varying tempos never starting to fast.  Always working towards in end BPM(beats per minute).  I like to increase the tempo five to ten clicks a pass as I am working something up to speed.  The goal being progression towards the final tempo, always keep track of the tempo you achieved in that particular practice session.  The next practice you should start a little slower than where you finished during your last practice session.  Work on passing the previous tempo you wrote down.

Conversely we as a society are always trying to do things faster but playing music slow can be quite a difficult task.  Slow your scales down and really concentrate on your subdivision between notes.  The best way to tell that you are truly playing in time with the metronome is that it disappears with what ever you are playing.  The same holds true if you ever have to play with a click track( which is just a fancy term for a metronome) in a recording situation.

Lesson Two

After you have become comfortable playing with the metronome on all four beats it is time to change it up.  We now want to set our metronome to only play on beats two and four of a measure (assuming we are playing in 4/4 time).  This is something I use a lot in my bass lessons and own practice to really lock in the two and four accents of jazz walking bass lines.  It is also beneficial to mandolin players when practicing their chop chords. Helping to  really lock in the snare drum aspect of you're playing.

The most difficult part of practicing with the metronome on two and four is you must really own where beat one is.  It is like jumping onto a moving vehicle if you are aim is not correct you are going to stumble right out the gate.  So make sure that you let the metronome cycle through a few measures before you jump in.

Lesson Three

So one last bit of info to help in your performances.  Often times in performance situations with adrenaline kicking in we will count off a song at the wrong tempo be it to fast or to slow.   The best way I have found to guarantee a pretty accurate consistent tempo for a song is to come up with a saying or slogan that you can only say clearly at your intended tempo.  Be it “fried fish” or “burnt toast” or what ever it may be this is a highly effective way at guaranteeing a tempo.


I hope this lesson has been of some insight into how to approach the use of the metronome.  If you have any question please feel free to send me an email or asked your music teacher.  Keep up the good practice and happy music playing to you all.


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