As a practicing and performing musician, and especially as a teacher, I sometimes think about the mistakes I made when first learning my instrument — mistakes that still haunt me to this day! I often discuss these regrets with fellow musicians, and the biggest complaint I hear is “I wish my teacher made me practice with a metronome”. Practicing with a metronome in the early stages of learning an instrument is greatly beneficial to a musician’s life. During basic guitar lessons, we always get students to practice basics with a metronome.
1. Practicing guitar with a metronome makes for smoother solos.
When a student first starts with basic guitar lessons, chances are she’ll do most of her playing by herself. This is a great opportunity to work on better timing by playing with a metronome. The student may be practicing scales with a metronome and changing chords with a metronome. While it may seem monotonous in the beginning, this practice is actually programming and fine tuning the student’s playing to feel smooth and even. Practicing with a metronome sets the foundation for the student’s entire musical life.
After practicing scales and chords with a metronome, the student may choose to learn how to play one of his favorite songs. This song will likely be a combination of chords and scales that he has already learned how to play. After practicing with the metronome so much, a sense of timing will be ingrained. Then, when he plays this favorite song without the metronome, he’ll naturally play with great timing — similar to the way the song sounds on the album. If he wishes to further improve the timing of the song, he can practice with a metronome to the actual song.
2. Practicing guitar with a metronome makes for tighter bands.
After a guitar student has taken basic guitar lessons for a while, she may want to start playing music with other musicians. This is an excellent way of developing musicality and learning listening as well as playing skills. When playing with other musicians, maintaining great timing becomes even more crucial. Now, with a combination of musicians, each with their own unique sense of rhythm, we have to hope they, too, practice with metronomes!
When a group of musicians all have a great sense of timing, something magical happens: They sound amazing! I would argue that when a band is playing is more important than what a band is playing. If the timing is tight, even the same five notes played over and over again can sound incredible! Practice with the metronome, and find a group of musicians who also practice with a metronome, and you’re golden!.
3. Practicing guitar with a metronome makes for better recordings.
After a musician has played with a band for a while, the time will come to hit the recording studio and record some songs. Recording a song is not as easy as it sounds. Oftentimes the musicians will be asked to play to a click track, which is the studio version of a metronome. This is because in modern recording and editing techniques, the music can be manipulated much easier if the song is a steady tempo the whole way through.
This is definitely one of those times I hear fellow musicians saying they wished they’d practiced with a metronome when they started taking basic guitar lessons. After you record a take in the recording studio, you have the opportunity to really listen to what you just recorded. You are forced to listen to your playing as if you were looking at it through a magnifying glass. Every imperfection is exposed. This is why recording can be a stressful process for musicians. Students who are used to practicing with a metronome often have an easier time in the studio and come out with some great recordings!
Practicing guitar with a metronome makes better guitarists. Period.
The metronome can seem like your biggest enemy when you’re first starting basic guitar lessons. But it’s actually your greatest ally. Practicing with a metronome will have you sounding better when you play by yourself, better when you play with a band, and better when you record in a studio. Take your practice to the next level and spend some time with a metronome every day!