The Importance of Practicing with a Metronome or Drum Machine
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One of the worst habits a musician can develop is a bad sense of timing. This is a trap that many musicians, both beginners and seasoned players, can easily fall into if they don’t make an effort to work on tempo and timing skills. The inability to keep time properly leads to all sorts of problems ranging from minor irritations to major train wrecks. Metronomes and drum machines are great tools for developing tempo and timing skills.
Many musicians are not aware of their shortcomings until they hear themselves recorded. Recordings don’t lie. An insightful experiment is to record two or three songs without a metronome. Listen to the recordings with a metronome to determine where the tempo speeds up or lags behind. Most musicians are surprised that they have timing and tempo problems. “Click tracks” have become an essential tool in the recording studio. A click track functions as a metronome for musicians while they are recording. A click track, like a metronome, is adjusted in terms of beats per minute (bpm). It holds the tempo steady. This prevents the musicians from speeding up or getting out of time. A click track ensures that all the musicians playing on the song are perfectly in sync.
Guitarists spend the majority of their practice time alone. Practicing alone is the major cause of timing and tempo problems. Tempo problems, in the long run, will turn into a bad habit that is difficult to correct. Playing slightly out of time will begin to feel natural. A metronome is a tool that all guitarists should have in their arsenal. Practicing with a metronome is the most efficient and effective way to prevent or correct tempo problems. Classical guitarists have long reaped the rewards and benefits from practicing with a metronome. Classical guitarists rely on metronomes to develop speed, technique, and accuracy.
Metronomes are great devices because they force a musician to pay attention and focus on time and tempo. A general rule of thumb is to set the metronome at a slow rate (40 to 50 bpm) when you work on a new scale, song, or guitar lick. Gradually increase the speed once you are able to play the scale, song or lick with accuracy. One of the biggest mistakes that guitar students make is playing too fast. Learning to slow down and play with patience is essential for making progress on the guitar.
Drum machines are another great tool for perfecting one’s sense of time and rhythm. Metronomes simply produce a clicking noise. Drum machines are much more complicated. They everything from simple drum beats to sophisticated, syncopated rhythms.
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