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Guitar Techniques - - Contents -

Jon Bishop shows how you can use a metro no meor-click track to sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove your tim­ing and sense of rhythm.

The metronome is a handy tool that pro­vides a time ref­er­ence in the form of a con­stant click, and this can usu­ally be set to a spe­cific tempo. Mu­si­cians of all dis­ci­plines have used metronomes to im­prove their tim­ing and even out their over­all time feel.

We gui­tarists can be fear­ful of the metronome. It’s bru­tally hon­est, and it’s also linked in the minds of many, with la­bo­ri­ous scale and ar­peg­gio prac­tice. So this fea­ture has been specif­i­cally de­signed to stretch your time keep­ing skills but also find new and ex­cit­ing ways to use a metronome for prac­tice.

Gui­tarists are no­to­ri­ous for speed­ing up or play­ing ‘in front of the beat’. This sounds jumpy and un­sure, whereas those that play ‘in time’ or even ‘be­hind the beat’ sound far more re­laxed, con­fi­dent and pro­fes­sional - so this les­son could be your most im­por­tant yet!

And in this mod­ern age there are great metronome ap­pli­ca­tions for smart phones and tablets; these al­low un­prece­dented con­trol over tempo, the amount of clicks, time sig­na­ture, click tone and feel etc. In ad­di­tion to these ‘on the go’ ap­pli­ca­tions it is also quick and easy to pro­gram a se­quencer like Logic or Cubase for more com­plex click ex­er­cises.

The stan­dard way most mu­si­cians use a metronome is to pick a de­sired tempo with a 4/4 time sig­na­ture. You may find plac­ing an ac­cent on beat one (usu­ally a click with a dif­fer­ent tone) will help you re­mem­ber where you are in the bar. It’s then time to prac­tice your cho­sen vo­cab­u­lary (scales, arpeg­gios or chords) in the sub di­vi­sion of your choice. Most gui­tar play­ers will prob­a­bly se­lect ei­ther 8th notes (quavers) or 16th notes (semi­qua­vers) as these sub­di­vide nice and eas­ily.

To help you get more out of this style of 4/4 metronome prac­tice, Fig­ure 1 lists all of the main met­ric sub­di­vi­sions in a pyramid style ta­ble. You can start at the top of the pyramid and move through the sub­di­vi­sions, which means you will be play­ing slightly faster each

This fea­ture has been de­signed to stretch your time keep­ing skills and also find new and ex­cit­ing ways to use a metronome for prac­tice.

time. Triplets are of­ten over­looked in this style of metronome prac­tice, so you may find that this ex­er­cise re­ally helps with de­vel­op­ing your rhyth­mic vo­cab­u­lary. To help you to sub­di­vide the beat au­rally, some pop­u­lar meth­ods have been writ­ten in above the stave, for ex­am­ple: semi quavers can be counted 1, e, &,a – 2,e, &, a etc.

This month’s tab and ac­com­pa­ny­ing au­dio demon­strate some other ways we can ex­ploit the metronome in prac­tice ses­sions, and these ex­er­cises build on the stan­dard sub­di­vi­sion of 4/4 prac­tice out­lined in Fig­ure 1.

The main idea here is to work on your in­ter­nal clock and we can do this by re­duc­ing the amount of click in­for­ma­tion that the metronome pro­vides. The big­ger the length of time be­tween clicks, the more we have to sub­di­vide in­ter­nally to stay in time. The slower the tempo, the harder it is to stay in time. Try start­ing out at 80bpm and then re­duce the tempo by 10bpm in­cre­ments. You may find that things start to get tricky at around 30bpm (one beat ev­ery two sec­onds), and at 20bpm there is one click ev­ery three sec­onds! The other thing we can do is re­move clicks, and this again makes life dif­fi­cult and tests our in­ter­nal clock.

Have fun try­ing out your skills with this month’s au­dio ex­am­ples. There are back­ing tracks pro­vided for all the ex­er­cises, and these con­sist of a one-bar count in, and the click track as no­tated above the stave in the no­ta­tion. The gui­tar per­for­mances have been no­tated, but these parts are for the most part only a guide. Feel free to play what­ever comes nat­u­rally to you. The main aim is to lock in with the click and work on your in­ter­nal clock. The ex­er­cises build in dif­fi­culty, with the Beat 1 Blues in Ex­er­cise 6 be­ing par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing. Re­duc­ing the amount of clicks this much may take a few ses­sions to get used to, so don’t worry if you don’t nail it first time. The fi­nal jam track is again a good test, and fun to play. Sim­ply learn the uni­son riff and then count those miss­ing beats!

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