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Playing In Time * Playing Along VS Metronome

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Robert Spencer, Jun 11, 2014.

  1. I have been playing along with CDs to improve my sense of time. Is that an acceptable replacement for metronome practice?
  2. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I vote no. Metronome practice is different than that. Do you really own the time or are you just able to groove with the song? What happens when you're playing in a band with people who need you to BE the metronome?

    Playing with a metronome also enables you to exercise things like subdivisions, even if you never use them musically, they strengthen your command of time in a way that will make you very valuable and reliable as a musician.

    That said, metronome practice can be a PITA. It's hard, it's boring, it's not always musical and it can be frustrating, because it (for me anyway) can shine a bright light on my insufficiency in a way that "jamming" doesn't. it can be painful, but I still contend, essential.
  3. thanks troy. very informative and well said. i know that its what i need to hear but i keep trying to convince myself that a metronome is a nonessencial. maybe i confuse myself into believing that having fun is as good as discipline.
  4. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Both are good. I used metronome when working through books. Metronomes, like sheet music, can feel hard/dull. Suck it up - you're a musician and it isn't supposed to be easy. If it was, everyone would do it. :D
    Super_Mikey likes this.
  5. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Understandable and very common. Your post reminded me to stop shining myself and get back to it!
  6. DreamError


    May 30, 2014
    Set goals with the metronome and it's a lot more fun. Like, building 16th speed up to X BPM, etc. One of my favorite exercises, from my days in high school band, is to start on a whole note, and then split it in half every measure with a repeated staccato measure after each split starting at quarter notes. End on a whole note after 16ths (or whatever). It splits up the monotony of repeating 8th or 16ths, etc, and gets you used to changing to different note lengths.

    Just one exercise of many, of course.
  7. i have several debilitating handicaps where playing is concerned but i try and try to adapt what i am able to play into a usable accompanyment. i play some slow blues then try the same licks in a fasrer but still 12 bar old time rock. thats when i begin to notice that my timing needs vast improvement,
    i look at a lot of bass lessons on youtube and found what i think is an excellent lesson praising the value of using the metronome.
    thanks again.
    Super_Mikey likes this.
  8. Metronome aka click track is IMO a must to get you started with time. From that advance to drum tracks. What's the difference? The drummer's rhythm. Country vs Reggae what's the difference? The rhythm.

    If you have no drummer you are the click track for the band. However, if you have a drummer you and the drummer work together as a team. If the drummer is playing boom, boom de boom you lock your notes with that boom, boom de boom.

    Click track first, drum track next.
    Plucky The Bassist likes this.
  9. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead!

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Right on!!

    If you're playing super hard solo pieces or are warming up then yes, metronome is probably pretty useful. If you're a total novice who knows absolutely nothing about music in general then the metronome is probably useful too. Since you will PROBABLY be playing with a drummer in most band scenarios, you will need to learn to play with a drummer. What I would see as difficult if all you've done is metronome work, is focusing in on count while not being distracted by the accents of the drummer, like MalcomAmos said. For me, warming up is about stretching and getting limber, not practicing my timing. I have only practiced with drums or music tracks, thus I have usually clicked pretty well with the drummers I've played with. YMMV.
  10. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    Excellent answer.
    I would say playing along to a recording is one kind of practice--and is very useful, but metronome is different.
    It's kind of like needing to know the rules before you can break them.
    If you can play well with the metronome, but the song calls for not doing that it should be easier to get that groove if your timing is better.
    Remyd likes this.
  11. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    The danger in this is that you've essentially made time keeping the drummer's responsibility and you are aligning to them. What if the drummer has issues with their time? Or what if they have great time, but for some reason things fall apart when you play with a new band because their drummer doesn't and you realize the old one has been carrying you? It's very common.

    Bass and Drums have to both own the time AND synch with each other. Some people like to say that "everyone owns the time", but I find that a bit democratic for me. Between the bass seat and the drum seat, it has to be rock solid and investing in that ability is an absolutely essential skill. With a metronome, without, click track, Dr. Beat, nothing, it shouldn't matter. Can you play rock solid time if someone else is speeding up and slowing down and turning the beat around? I can tell within a minute of playing with someone new what I'm dealing with and good musicians will know the same about you.

    Example: How many songs can you sing along with in the car, but don't quite know if the song isn't playing?

    I "got by" for years and got a rough wakeup call one day and had to deal with it. Still do. The whole "when you're starting out" thing...I disagree. Everyone always needs to work on their time, the same way that top professional baseball players still take batting practice or golfers still see a swing coach or ... you can get by without really nailing this, but you'll always just be getting by and sooner or later...

    I can't remember who to credit this story with, but someone who knew him said that Ray Brown used to get upset when people said something to the effect of "I wish I had your time feel" or called him a natural or something. He would replay "I worked hard for that! If you want it, do your work!"

    In the rock world, guys like Duck Dunn...I'm sure he could play perfect time and drive a band outside in a hurricane with or without a metronome or a drummer.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2014
  12. Both are good, but I agree with TroyK, just playing along with recordings is not a sufficient replacement for metronome practice. Practicing with the 'nome will tighten you up, but I try not to do it too much or I find myself getting a bit stiff when playing with real people not on a click.
    Remyd likes this.
  13. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead!

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    True enough, but a shaky foundation is going to result in a wonky house either way...if the drummer wavers so bad that it throws the whole band off, time to get a new drummer! lol. I agree though, you don't want to be solely reliant on a drummer, but I'd be interested to see how many guys could play a line and actually be in dead-on accurate timing if it wasn't a song they had played several times over recently.

    When I said starting out, I mean when you need to play so slowly to get fingering, basic basic technique, and can't connect or keep time with a drum track. I also said if you're playing a difficult solo piece or warming up, so I'm not saying toss it out the door, just like you don't want to learn to slap only doing a straight C major scale and never do anything musical with it, the goal is to get yourself playing along with drums since nobody wants to go to a show where you are playing with a click track going "clack clack clack CLACK!" over the PA. A good analogy since you brought up baseball is graduating OFF the baseball tee. Sure you might need to brush up and make sure your form/motion is solid, but the goal is to hit a ball that is flying towards you, so you want to make sure the goal is focusing on that and making that what you're best at! ;)

    For me it's all about how the song comes out sounding as a whole, the drums and bass have a very strong influence over the music and sometimes they don't realize that. If you and the drums are solid, everyone else will sound off, not the rhythm section.
  14. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I'll just echo the sentiment that metronome practice is crucial and separate form playing along with tracks.
    Prerecorded tracks - whether just drum patterns or more - are far more forgiving of errors in your playing.

    If a team of 10 archers are aiming at the same target, and 9 of them hit it, its 90% accurate.
    But that evaluation is unhelpful for the guy who's missing.

    with a metronome there's just you and the tempo. With nothing extra artificially inflating your sense of accuracy, mistakes jump out, adjusting for accuracy is easier.
  15. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    I wish someone back in my student days had exposed me to the approach to time me that Hal Galper talks about in this video.

  16. Excellent example!

    Pwitty Pweese, Modder, telw us ah beddy-tyme stowee... :bookworm:

    Seriously, I'm interested as I'm sure are others, if you'd care to expound...

    Either way, looks like I'll be hitting the Metro-Gnome today, tomorrow and the next...

  17. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I don't know if there is one good story or a series of poor ones. I had some band troubles to be sure. My points about playing with people who had good time and being able to lock in with them and feel good about myself and then playing with someone, drummer, other...who didn't and realize that I couldn't lay it down, which people were counting on me for. I had bands fall apart over it. I directly or indirectly lost a job or two over it and I'm sure I didn't get more calls than I know because of it. But, when I was playing in the middle of a great rhythm section, things went fine, so it couldn't have been me, right?

    My ugly wake-up was really a teacher who just told me. I went to him wanting to work on some specific things and he said "we've got to fix your time first". I'd been playing for 20+ years at this point, so that was a big slice of humble pie. He showed me how he STILL practices with the metronome every day, which is why I reject it being something that you ever graduate from. And I had to admit to myself that I had basked in all the pats on the back that I had ever gotten, ignored the rejections as someone else having a problem, pointed to a good band or recording that I was attached to that I was an accomplished player and had to deal with the fact that I hadn't really done my work. Did I think I was special? Talented? What? It was stupid.

    I still have plenty of problems with my playing, but understanding that I had work to do and always would changed everything for me. I still haven't done the work I need to do. It's hard, it's unpleasant, life and even gigs get in the way, but it's there waiting for me and I don't expect to be better than I've earned. The work that I have managed to do has paid off in spades, every bit of it.

    I realize that in jazz, we push ourselves, we play with a lot of different people, the pressures are different and that's not everyone's situation. A lot of people are just in a band that rehearses a lot and that's their thing and it's cool. I still don't think it matters, though. A lot of that rehearsal is because people are trying to figure out how to play together when they haven't figured out how to play. It's easy to spot these projects once you see them from the other perspective.

    I remember panicking over whether or not my band was going to break up and see that panic in the Band Management forum every time I go there. I remember losing one player at the wrong time and sidetracking months of band work trying to find and train someone else. When you aren't dependent on other musicians, a lot of that panic goes away. A lot of the relationships get healthier. And, people start depending on you, which is a great position to be in and I think the very nature of bass playing. Better yet, when everyone knows what they're doing and can count on each other to do their work, it's very liberating and good music tends to happen. I don't think it matters rock, jazz or other. Or really instrument, a singer with bad time is worthless. It's not possible for a bassist or a drummer to get by without the firm command.

    I will still turn down projects that have certain amounts or types of syncopation in them because I know damn well what my limitations are. I'm working on it, but you can only do what you can do. I can do what I do pretty well now, but only because that teacher got me to do the work. Someday I'll do more and be more capable as a result.

    Ah, just my ramblings. See, I told you, no good story.
  18. Jamming to CDs is your wife telling you that she thinks your body is hot.

    Metronome work is standing naked in front of the mirror.
    Howlin' Hanson, Tupac, Remyd and 3 others like this.
  19. I am old school, metronome is a way of life...

    But I had drums in my earlier life and it was just drilled into me to practice with the click ... So for me it's a learned habit ...

  20. are metronomes available with earphone accomodations? i have a severe hearing loss. currently I use a small set of (in ear) earearphones connected to an ipod. over these is a pair of large earmuff earphones with a long chord hooked into my amp. this way i have a seperate volume control mix between music and bass. would like the same arrangement when using the nome.

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