SORT OUT YOUR TIMING
... and be a better player!
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!