Using a metronome

The metronome is a very seldom used tool for many reasons. First, many people think it is something “extra” that they either decide to use or not, like a humidifier or capo. Secondly, many people aren’t aware of how badly their tempo sways, and thus don’t really think they need to use one. Thirdly, even if they decide to use one, many people either give up quickly or never become fully accustomed to using one in their daily studies because of the hard work involved in becoming comfortable with the metronome. Still, it is an invaluable tool that every single serious musician must learn to utilize.

metronome pic

What is a metronome?

First, for the sake of completeness, I will explain what a metronome is. A metronome is a mechanical tool that makes repeated clicking sounds at an adjustable pace. You use a metronome to sound the “beats” of a piece of music so that you can play along with its “pulse” and check if you are inadvertently rushing or slowing down. You can set a metronome to click as quickly or slowly as you want, and you then mentally treat each click as a half note, quarter note, eighth note, etc. You can also set the metronome to match the “beats” of a piece of music by accenting the downbeat of every measure. For example, if you set a metronome to 4/4 time, the first downbeat will sound differently than the other three beats that follow.

Before you use a metronome…

I believe that you need to have pretty solid beginner guitar skills before you can seriously begin to add a metronome to your guitar studies. Now, I don’t mean that you should first be able to play Recuerdos De La Alhambra before you can use a metronome, but you should at least have good control over your fingers, be able to play some scales and chords, and have decent music reading skills/understanding. I believe this because adding a metronome to any music studies will cause your brain to have to devide its attention between the metronome clicking and your actual playing, and if you don’t possess some decent playing skills you will have a big train wreck in your hands.

Adjustment period

When you first begin to slowly work a metronome into your music studying, it will be very hard and extremely annoying. The ticking will become very distracting and throw your tempo off, which ironically is what a metronome is supposed to help you with! I would begin using a metronome with a relatively slow and simple piece so that you don’t fry your brain thinking about too many things at once. It is of course always adviced to study a new piece in a slow tempo to begin with, and if you add a metronome into the equation I would slow things down even further. Very few people end up becoming accustomed playing along with a metronome precisely because of this adjustment period, and the problem seems to be even more prominent amongst guitarists. All I can say is that, although it may be tough at first, the metronome is an excellent study tool that you want in your arsenal.

Developing your own personal metronome

Frequent, if not daily use of a metronome in your guitar studies will strengthen your ability to keep a steady beat on your own over time. It is an ability that takes a long time to grow, so begin by taking the first step and adding a metronome the next time you play the guitar.

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