How many different ways are there to use a metronome you may wonder? “Stick it on and play along with it”: You may say. Yes and no, once you get more experienced as a guitarplayer and musician you may see some other things you can do with your metronome.
Before I’ll give you some ideas how to use your metronome in other ways let us first have a look why it makes sense to use a metronome: A metronome does not lie, it will tell you when you play in or out, it is accurate and does not speed up. Some of you may find it annoying to listen to a click. Once you will get used to it you will no longer hear the click as a sound but will start to experience it as a beat.
Typical use of metronome is to play on every beat. Most electronic metronomes will let you set the tempo of the click. Often you will be able to set the number of beats in a bar as well, you may even have a choice of eight and sixteenth beats. All very good but……………………Playing on every click is a good habit for when you are new to playing with a metronome. Most people will be able to do this fairly accurately. Try using a metronome when you are playing with a friend. What will happen is you lock in to the pace of each other rather than the metronome.
Okay so what can you do to feel the pace of the beat rather than hear each click?
Use very slow tempos on metronome:
~ Use, for example, 40 beats per minute, but actually play twice the speed. When you are doing it right the metronome will click on beat One and Three, you yourself feel beat Two and Four. When you are playing scales in this way you actually play double tempo with regards to the metronome. You can play the notes with straight eights. Once you can do this well start playing on the beat of the metronome, so your playing will have come down in tempo, after a while go back to playing double tempo with regards to the metronome. Playing solos in a band in this manner does have a great effect, it adds more drama and animation to your solos. Using the metronome as described before will prepare you for this kind of playing.
~ The next step is to play sixteenth notes to every beat of your metronome. Sixteenth beats sound like 4 notes played against every beat. Make sure you are using very slow tempos. The metronome will still click on beat One and Three. Once you can do this without too much concentratation start playing sixteeths to every beat you hear, again, your playing will have slowed down, bring it back up again after a while to experience that shift in tempo.
~ Instead of using sixteenth notes try same idea with triples (3 notes to every beat). Again set metronome to click on beat One and Three while you play and feel beat Two and Four.
If all of this is causing your trouble set the number of beats of your metronome to TWO, set metronome to higher tempos, 100 beats per minute and above. Once you are comfortable using metronome in this way, bring down the tempo to half the setting you had before (in this example it will be 50 beats per minute) and bring the number of beats back to 4. The tempo of your playing will be the same, but you will actually only hear beat One and Three clicking on your metronome while you play yourself on every beat. Go back to the tempo of 100 beats per minute and bring back the number of beats to 2 if you are still struggling.
What to Play?
Usually players will use a metronome for particular excercises and scales, but you can also use the metronome as a tempo guide for playing a whole song.
Most excercises to improve your speed and accuracy will focus on four-or six notes patterns per beat. You can create solos out of stringing some of these ideas together. Once you understand how it works you can make your own excercises. Your ultimate goal should be to string together a chain of patterns into a longer solo. The hardest thing will be to break up these patterns with other ideas. Breaking up the ideas will make your solos more interesting.
Patterns which employ playing over one string are the easiest, patterns which skip strings will be harder to achieve. Some people start using sweeppicking (plectrum gradually falls on next string to play the next note) when they want to play fast patterns which skip strings as strickt picking with the plectrum may become harder.
Next article will go into detail about Speed, Why You Should Work on It and How You Can Improve It.
See you next time.