Being able to play in time has been an essential element of music since music was music. I’m my view half of music is the notes or sounds that you want to make and the other half being when you want to make them, hence timing.
For a long period of time a metronome has been the tool to help people to achieve this. Whilst drum machines have become a more popular choice because their realistic sounds (therefore a more enjoyable way of practicing) metronomes still have their place due to their simple approach to timekeeping.
My personal preference for a metronome is the app Temp Advance although there is a perfectly good free version of the app called Tempo both of which can be found here at the developer’s website.
The simplest way to use a metronome is to have it count the beats in the bar, so if you are a playing with 4 beats in the bar you can set your metronome to play on each of those beats. On some electronic metronomes you can set the first beat of every 4 to be accented so that you know where you are in the bar at all times. This is a great method of practicing when you are just getting started using a metronome and also working on your own timing. So, if you are learning a chord progression and practicing the changes then this way of practice will greatly improve your playing and timing.
For practicing chord changes too then you can use a metronome to help give your playing a push. I wrote a full article on practicing chord changes that you can find at the link below.
However once you are comfortable with working with a metronome on the beat you can use the metronome to begin to develop your more advanced awareness of timing. Whilst having the metronome on Beats 1-4 is good you can give your timing more ‘swing’ by only having the metronome play on beats 2 and 4. Whilst this can be tricky to get started with if you are use to listening to the metronome play on beat 1 to helps you to focus on the beat and to encourage you to emphasise 1 and 3 even more. This is a very common way of practicing for jazz musicians and other non-classical based styles.
Another example of more advanced metronome practice is to just use beat 1. This means that you can work on your timing between the beats and even begin to subdivide the beat even more. By this I mean you could play on Beats 1-4 as even quarter notes or switch to playing even triplets where there are only 3 even notes in the bar. This is a great way to spice up your scale or improvisation practice as the possibilities for creating different rhythm combinations are endless.
If this article has been helpful to you then please get in touch and let me know. Alternatively if you have anything to add or would like to see a blog post on something that you have observed when learning guitar or need help with, please get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you!