The metronome may not be a populair device, especially among those older students who used to have piano lessons in the past. Often they were told to use a metronome and often these came as large, chunky clocks which you had to touch from time to time to get them to click in time.
Not matter what the popularity of the metronome is these days, it still is a very powerful tool which can help any guitarist and musician to get a better rhythmic feel.
In this short article I will highlight some ideas how to use a metronome to improve your accuracy, speed, scales and melodic ideas.
Today metronomes come in all kind of style and sizes. The chunky mechanical ones I mentioned before, are still there but there are also the smaller and digital ones. If you do not have one yet, try to find a dedicated metronome, that is one which is not part of a tuner or something of that kind. Dedicated metronomes will often give you more useful options such as being able to tap in the time of your playing, giving you more options with regards to beats etc. Go for a handy size, as it will fit your guitargigbag, and you do not need to worry about breaking it [try that with those mechanical ones I mentioned earlier………….]
Any beginner who has been asked to play with a metronome will use the metronome in a straightforward way: Set the metronome at a particular speed and play on every beat. Each click of the metronome is played by a quarter note on the guitar. Easy peasy as the metronome clicks and you cannot forget where to play. Of course this will help your sense of rhythm, but the metronome reminds you where those beats are. What about getting the metronome to play only a handful of beats, and you playing on those beats the metronome does not click? In this sense you need to feel where those beats are. How do we do this? Simple, get the metronome to click on beat One and Three, while you play on all beats, that is beat One, Two, Three and Four. I am talking Four beats to a bar here. In this way you need to feel where beat Two and Four are while at the same time keeping in time with the Four Four feel of the music. If you have never tried this idea first try it at slow speeds, something like 40 to 45 Beats Per Minute will do.
Once you are comfortable with this, then put the metronome on beat Two and Four, which is often called the Back Beat in music. Very useful to feel these beats. Similar as above, just play all four beats while metronome is clicking on beat Two and Four. Next, just put metronome on beat One, while you play all Four!
Use the above ideas to play your scales, riffs and melodic ideas. Once you get them down at a particular speed, speed up and see if you can still play them as accurately as you did while the metronome was clicking as a lower speed.
No fingerpatterns today, no breakdown of the basics of any kind of scale yet, all of this is still to come at a later stage. No, for today just a few simple words of common wisdom:
Play your Seven Note Scales [Any Major or Minor Scale] with seven different fingering positions, where each position starts on a different note of the scale. First start on the Root, then progress to the second note ect. untill you have covered all the seven notes of the scale. In this way you create your seven different fingerings and they will help you to move along the fretboard.
Similar idea for the Five Tone Scales, the so-called Pentatonic Scales —Penta means Five in Greek hence the word Pentatonic, which is a scale made up of only five tones instead of the usual seven tones.
Most students get comfortable with the Rootpositions of any of these scales. Great, as this is a start, but do start playing the scale also from the other remaining notes as they will help you to see more patterns. Be sure to stay in key. Play the First chord of the key to help you to tune your ears into the key: [Am when you are playing Am Penta, D when you are playing D major etc.]
Play your scales first with Quarter notes, then progress to Eights. Once comfortable with this try Triplets, then Shuffle and Swing Feel. Play your scales straigth up and down, then play your scales in melodic intervals like
Thirds, Fourths and Sixths. Once you can do that, why not play some melodic ideas which come from the scale? Shuttle back and forwards to scale notes and melodic ideas, all this while your metronome keeps clicking and you [hopefully] still playing in time!
A lot of work you may say? It sure is, but it is fun, you will learn so much by doing this: It will open you up to become freer with the fretboard and music in general.
Before I shall return to more Music Theory related articles you can expect more blogs about Loop Pedals and the joys of making music with them.