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playing with a metronome is difficult

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by reinofratch, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. Im having trouble playing anything besides 1/4 notes with a metronone. My trouble stems from me playing on beat, then I can't hear the metronome so I focus on hearing it, lose focus on my playing, make a mistake, stop and listen to the beat again and try to start over. Rinse and repeat.

    This happens at every tempo. And even with the viabrating ones.
    I have no problem keeping time with a recorded song and when I record myself playing solo and rewatch it, I find tempo consistent. So are metronone skills as crucial as everyone says? I find they make me focus and pull me out of the zone and I just can not do it.

    Any tips from anyone who had these same problems would be awesome
    Thanks in advance!
    Richard Boatwright.
  2. hands5


    Jan 15, 2003
    good 'ol USA/Tampa fla.
    forget about playing in time if you don't know the music anyway, It's been my experience over the years is to first listen to the tune, then find the notes in the chorus/bridge, then once I got that down,then I focused on the tempo....but that's just me YMMV.
  3. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    It can be a handy skill for recording sometimes, but don't kill yourself over it.
  4. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
  5. chuck norriss

    chuck norriss Banned

    Jan 20, 2011
    turn it up & try 8 or 16ths. Or get beats online and play along. There's also drumgenius if you have apple phone. first 3 beats are free. I recommend funky #'s 06, 15, 19
  6. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    Those who say not to worry about it too much, I disagree. I lead a band for my church and have for years. The team members with the worst time issues all think they are playing on time because when they play along with the MP3 they think they're on time but not until I turn the metronome on and ask them to play along do they acknowledge and recognize their time issues. Playing with a song can sometimes mask a time problem which becomes painfully clear when "naked" with only a metronome.
  7. put down your bass. turn on the metronome and sing (As best you can) your bass part, until you have it lined up with the click. Now play your bass to the click.

    Try this, too: put down the bass. Get your tempo and clap (or pat your foot) quarter notes, then sing your part. Then play your part while you pat your foot.

    AKA- internalizing your bass lines and developing a sense of "groove". .
  8. experimental bassist

    experimental bassist

    Mar 15, 2009
    One of my favorite practice techniques is just noodling with a metronome.

    I admit I rarely use it to work on an actual song.

    I have carried many a gig without a drummer, the most recent was an acoustic gig right before christmas our drummer couldn't make, and not only did I carry the rythym section that night the unanimous opinion of the band, the audience, and the bar owner was that I nailed it. :)

    Since I fully admit I'm one of those bassist with zero natural talent and every dang thing I'm reasonably good and successful at I've had to work my tail off for, so yeah, I'd say metronome work is worthwhile.

    My advice, make it less a formal exercise and more of an unlimited noodle and experimental session. The timing WILL sink in, even if you're having fun.

    Good luck! :)
  9. LeeNunn

    LeeNunn Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2012
    Charlottesville, VA
    I agree with Art. Playing with a metronome (not the MP3) can reveal sloppiness. I used to fake my way through rhythmic patterns. When the rhythm got complicated, I was just stabbing in the dark. Because bass provides fundamental rhythmic support, it's important to be in control and confident rhythmically. Transcribing bass lines and practicing without the MP3 is an important part of a practice regimen. I'm still working on this, and I'm making progress.
  10. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
  11. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    +1 to the suggestion of working on this without the bass at first

    Do the following without your bass




    Do these along to a metronome

    Here's a great book that will guide you:

    Rhythm: What It Is And How to Improve Your Sense of It.

    Andrew C. Lewis, Tad Lathrop
  12. Barisaxman

    Barisaxman Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 17, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    Not going to lie, I rarely touch a metronome anymore. Back when I was playing saxophone, it was fine for figuring out timing on long runs...but as a bass player I put way more emphasis on being able to hook up with the drummer, and I naturally play (intentionally) at the back of the pocket. Very tough to simulate that with a metronome. You can effectively work on tempo with drum tracks if that's your thing, it might fit your playing style better. Just make sure you understand when and if you ARE having timing issues so you can find a way to work throught hem.
  13. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    My guess is that you walk in a steady tempo. If you're having trouble playing with a metronome, chances are you're trying to do to much at once. Learn the music first. That includes solving all the technical problems of fingerings etc BEFORE you turn on the metronome. Likely at this point you'll find you don't really need it.
  14. Dave Curran

    Dave Curran Lilduke

    Jul 27, 2013
    I'll say it, "Don't try so hard. Trust yourself, don't try to follow the metronome anymore than you would a specific downbeat in a recording. Know the material. There's no hints when playing by yourself. Let yourself swing in and out of the tempo. You'll find how quickly and smoothly you transition back."

  15. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Playing with a metronome isn't harder than playing without it. YOu just hear the mistakes better.
  16. TrevorOfDoom

    TrevorOfDoom Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    if it helps, think of the metronome as a percussion instrument (cowbell, perhaps), and play along with it instead of trying to stick to it so tightly. you'll loosen up a bit and find the pocket easier, which will tighten up your sense of timing and meter.

    Another trick I picked up from a drummer is to sleep with a metronome under your pillow. Every night, set a different tempo.

    and last suggestion: Put the metronome at a slow tempo, say 60bpm, and practice all your stuff that way. It'll build hand strength, and you'll start to find ways to subdivide the beat, which will (again) tighten up your sense of timing and meter.
  17. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    There are two skills sets, one is listening the metronome, the other is the task of playing within the metronome.
    It is not unusual for those to mess up because playing with a metronome/click because the metronome is their focus, not what they are playing.
    The metronome is not the focus, your playing is the focus, it is in your peripheral hearing range, you are aware of it, but not letting it overly influence you, your own sense of feel and rhythm is stronger than the metronomes so to play within its tempo you have to give in to it and allow it to give in to you.

    If you can get the concept of playing in time is not playing on every beat but playing within the metronomes tempo you take away the pressure of finding every beat.
    For example sub-division is playing in tempo but not on beat.
    Classic example is a drum beat, the hi-hats, snare and bass drum do not play all the beats, they share the tempo to create a beat, and so it is when playing with a metronome.
    Do not play to it, just play along with it and feel its influence.
    It can be done with or without a bass, clapping tapping a foot etc so you learn to hear it is a great way to learn how to play in time.
    When you add the bass you just play along with what you hear and let the feel of the tempo take over.

    Check out the link as i play with 32 metronomes to make the point.


    and check out this about the difference between the beat and the tempo

  18. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Use the metronome to CHECK your time, not to keep it for you. If you can't play with it at 100 BPM, slow down until you find a tempo you CAN play with it.

    Start with very simple things and turn down the bass until you can hear the click. Gradually speed up the tempo as you get better. You want to be able to play with the 'nome only supplying some of the beats. A good example is to only have the machine give you bests 2 and 4. This forces YOU to supply 1 and 3, which is your job.

  19. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    Find it easier to use the metronome if I have a music sheet with what I have to play on it. I can read the rythm and know what it should do so the metronome just help making sure I don't wander on and off.
  20. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA