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Practicing to a metronome: problems!

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Rockin John, Dec 13, 2001.

  1. Well, not actually a metronome, but an electronic clock with a loud tick....:D

    Quite by chance I was practicing (not amplified) at home in a room where my young son had put his Christmas clock. At first it's ticking was an annoyance. But then I realised I was subconciously playing along to the 'beat' but - and this is the awful bit - I was not doing a very good job of keeping time.:rolleyes:

    I'd usually be speeding up so leaving the tick behind. To be honest I was a bit horrified, particularly as the band have been a bit unhappy at the rythm section being not very tight. In the past we'd put it down to the drummer (with some justification, I should add). But now... But now I'm wondering whether it might be me that screws things up.

    So I wondered whether anyone else has played along with a metronome and come across the same problem, and how they put things right.

  2. PRACTICE ;)
  3. well since it sounded like he had a practice routine, but he could not play it with the "click" I didn't think i needed to tell him exactly what to do. I am sure he knows what to practice (after all he is in a band) so I go back to my original peice of advice. PRACTICE. You will eventually get it in rythm with the click and it will become second nature and you will always be "in time"
  4. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    ain't 'nomes grand? :D seriously, if folks weren't horrified by the revelations of the holy 'nome, nobody'd use them.

    something that worked with me very well was to record my practices with the metronome and listen to them to gauge where i was going wrong. an exercise that i would try to follow was to set the metronome at a fairly slow speed and then try to play just behind each click. i found when i did this that certain plucking combinations naturally favored me speeding up, without me knowing about it.

    try this - try to play even 1/4 notes (dynamically consistent and the same length) with the click and tape it. try again, only this time try to anticipate the click by just the slightest margin. try it a third time laying back on the beat a bit. practice this until you can consistently hit the spot you are aiming for (front edge, trailing edge or right on the beat). it's hard, but by polishing your ability to target the beat like that is what enables a solid groove. get good at it, and you'll never play with a bad drummer again - you'll be able to make a bad drummer sound better.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    This is excellent advice. I own three metronomes - one for both teaching studios, and one to carry around. A while back, I typed up a label for the one at the studio where I teach a lot of younger folks...it reads, "SUCKOMETER", and everyone is forced to check their SUCKITUDE (or lack thereof) at least once a week.

    I refer to my second metronome (home studio) as "THE JUDGE", and I use it every time I practice. In sillier moments, I sometimes wish I could find a tiny little powdered wig for it, a la the British judicial system. Maybe a tiny little gavel would be cool too. :D

    One thing that I do when I'm having a tough time with a particular new thing or tempo I'm working on is to plug the metronome into a bass amp via the earphone jack. If you roll off the treble and crank the bass tone controls, it turns the wimpy little ticking sound into the BASS DRUM FROM HELL, a sound it is almost impossible not to keep with. I call this the "UBERNOME", and while it sounds like a stupid joke, it's actually quite effective.
  6. I don't do a whole lot of B.Guitar any more, but I can offer my experience on practicing good rhythm and good time (two different, distinct items).

    To get good time just requires two things: the desire to learn good time, and a metronome to practice with.
    Assuming you have the first, the next thing is to invest in a SERIOUS metronome. You can get an average metronome for $20 - $40, but if you really want something that will be loud and helpful, and also has the tools to help you work on *Good Rhythm*, I recommend _Dr Beat_ by Boss. Dr Beat is expensive, but has a very loud speaker (and an "out" jack!), offers many different beat patterns and rhythms, and has a digital dial to find any whole-number tempo, and some models have an octave + of tuning pitches so you can practice good intonation (good intonation is even possible with frets, despite their immobility!).

    Back to the basics, pick a very "regular", moderate tempo (which will probably be similar to your heartbeat,the rhythm your body "hears" all the time"), say, about 70, and practice basic scales at one quarter note per beat. Simple, maybe, for the hands, but it's your brain that's working here. Imagine hearing four sixteenths for every quarter note you play, so that you divide the big beat up into small, easily moderated and counted beats. This is called: SUBDIVISION! Subdivision will "keep you regular" at any tempo, so it's important to start hearing/feeling all the little notes within the beat.

    Start to subdivide that quarter note = 70 tempo into three triplets per note, still playing the same simple scales, one note per beat. Start to practice at slightly faster and also SLOWER tempos, and your brain and your musical feel will be doing great things!

    It is especially important to start practicing with really, really slow tempos, at, say, 40, still only one note per beat, and mentally put the subdivisions into that slow beat. Slower is harder for good time, faster is easier. Be sure to feel the subdivisions, and you'll be on your way to good time.

    For good rhythm, get a Dr Beat to lay down a beat, then add one of the other functions where it plays different rhythms within the beat; say it's playing four sixteenths per beat - you can practice playing the first and last sixteenths of each beat, (dotted-eighth + sixteenth rhythm) and play 'em along with the Dr Beat.

    Make tempo and rhythm a part of your life. Whenever you walk somewhere, take your metronome with you and walk at one step per beat at, say, 70. Or pick a tempo of 40 and walk at a *rhythm* within that tempo. Work on this constantly, and it will become a part of you. Good Luck.
  7. !
    SUBDIVISION, not volume, is the key to developing good time.
    Feel the beats within the beat.
    *Then* crank up the volume!
    Doesn't matter what style you play, you have to have good time.
  8. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Coupla thoughts:

    The clock may have not had the best timing. I'm not sure the clicks are necessarily in time on a clock, even if after a minute they all add up to 60.

    I would highly recommend practicing to a real metronome at lots of different speeds and making the click loud enough so you can easily hear it. Most metronomes you can plug headphones into, which would make it even easier.

    Something I used to do that really helped my timing was use my stereo as a metronome. I'd play single notes on the bass along to whatever was playing on the radio, or along with my favorite cds. Didn't matter what I played on the bass actually, as long as it was unplugged.

    Lastly, if I couldn't keep with the clicks I'd probably practice tapping my hand or foot along with the beats till I was dead on.

    Hope some of this is helpful.
  9. My name is Geoff, so my 'nome is called the G-nome. Beat that! :p

    Noming is defintely a useful thing to do. Playing guitar along to the gnome, the idea is to get the sound of the pick and the sound of the tick into "one glorious whole". It's very satisfying. It takes a lot of practice to be able to make the tick disappear at different tempos, different numbers of beats per bar, consistently, over a number of minutes.

    To stop being bored, I usually listen to the radio (not music) or read a book while I do it. I'm sure that's a terrible habit.
  10. 'nome work is bad. It can be boring and only shows you how 'off' you really are ...

    As an x-drummer I used to(and still do with the bass) come up with short warm up routines(3-5min). A routine that I did EVERYDAY before I played. The routine would be played 3 times at different speeds(pretty basic stuff);
    Once REAL SLOW(painfully slow)
    once 'regular' tempo(whatever that may be)
    once REAL FAST(painfully fast)!

    The idea being that you get OUT of your comfort zone.

    This would give me my work that needed to be done with a 'nome, and if done everyday!!! can be VERY effective. You will be shocked if you do something like this everyday the progress that you make in just one week.

    The previous idea about plugging in the 'nome and making a big ol' floppy bass drum is a good one - i have to try that tonight...

  11. here's my input...
    start SLOW. Not meaning tempo, but start doing very simple things. Like plucking one note, trying to match the metronome click. Try to get a rythym going with your right hand. Close your eyes, and concentrate hard. You'll get better.
    Also, my former bass teacher told me to get a pair of drum sticks, set the 'nome tempo and try to make the 'nome 'disappear'. If you get right on the beat, you won't hear the metronome.
    Try just making your timing better in general. WHen I'm driving, I listen to music and tap my hands/feet to the beat. I call it 'having the pulse'. Do I have the pulse today? Lately, after a lot of practice, I 'have the pulse' more often than not.
  12. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
  13. John to be a simple man with a simple answer how about 1/8th notes. Try to see how long you can play 1/8th notes with out falling out of time. Not fast but at a speed you can handle. Do you have a real metronome? If not get one, this way you can mark your progress. Playing flashy riffs is not going to get you anywhere if you can't groove. 1/8th notes may sound simple but I have yet to play with a guitar player that can keep them steady for as long as I can.
  14. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Knows what he is talking about. "Practicing" your favorite licks or songs you know how to play is pointless.

    So, after practicing that song for the 1000th time, you can play Zeus Piercebody's line in that Fisk Triscuit song pefectly. What else did you learn? NOTHING!

    Practice your time with scales, or single notes played over and over until you can't stand it anymore, or play pieces of music that challenge you rhythmically and technically, and make you think about why this works, i.e. theory and harmony, instead of learning Sid Sputum's latest slap solo.

    To truly grow as a musician, you need to constantly challenge yourself, and be your own worst critic. I don't mean to get down on yourself, but be honest with yourself about your shortcomings, and work to make them your strengths instead.

    ::Rant mode OFF::;)
  15. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    playing other people's music can be very beneficial, but you have to maintain some kind of external control/absolute reference mechanism, such as a metronome. playing to a recording is only good if the recording was made with some kind of solid timekeeping ref, which most aren't (ours will be, though, so when they're done, buy our cds and practice to them, every song was done to a sequenced click - :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :D)

    seriously, though, practice what you want to learn to a click. make it swing - it's possible, believe it or not. a simple beep...beep...beep can be made to sound like it's grooving with a solid bass performance going on with it.

    another good exercise if you have a sequencer available is to program in a click of varying speed, increasing and decreasing, or varying every few measures by a few bpm, and practice to that. record it and listen, and make sure you're lining up with the click. you can train yourself to be tight with varying tempos that way.
  16. www.trypticsoy.com/TSOYsounds.html

    There ya go ed, feel free to listen and see if I am just "flailing away at my instrument" put it up against a nome if you want to check if I'm in time. :rolleyes: And the way I got to be that "in time" is by Practicing what I already knew, with a nome. But you can make it sound a alot more difficult than it is if you want. But the bottom line is that's how I got in time and I though my advice would help him. But I don't have nearly as many post as you so I guess I don't know as much about the instrument either:eek: Well I better go back to flailing on my bass now. Oh yeah, Relax man it's just the bass!!!
  17. What usually helps me is counting out loud, this is kinda off subject but if you have a little keyboard anywhere it may have some drum tracks on it so try playing with that, that helped me alot
  18. Dudes, you can play with the beat all you want, but until you learn to SUBDIVIDE and hear all the divisions of the beat you won't have the accurate time you want.

  19. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    yeah, sure, but first things first. too many folks try to fly airplanes before they can sit unassisted. ;)
  20. Phew:eek: Seems I unleashed some fury.

    I've read Ed's post a few times and I'm not that certain if he's taking a pop at me for not knowing my time keeping was a bit suspect, or whethet he's more annoyed with FatFunker for his input.

    Y'see, guys, I'm 48 years old and have come back to the bass after 25+ years. I find it a struggle to practice because there's just not the time and the other domestic stuff. Music is, I'm affraid, quite well down on my list of priorities. Before that comes trying to deal with a bad marriage, serious financial difficulties, trying to raise a 6 year-old and a whole load more stuff. To be honest, it does my head in sometimes, especially the bit where she's continually on my case about playing bass and all that's involved with it.

    :( Not moaning at you guys or looking for the sympathy vote, I'm just telling it how it is:(

    I've tried hard - real hard - to pick up where I left off all those years ago, then to improve as a player. The fast licks stuff is just my way of improving finger dexterity, that's all. And I joined a band - just a couple of lads from the old days - for some fun and a bit of light relief from the domestic stuff: I'm not trying to pretend I'm anything special or that being in a band makes me somehow better than I am.

    The business with the clock I guess showed me I really to hone my practicing and that's what I'm trying to do, both personally and with the help of guys on TB.

    C'mon, guys, if I don't come up to expectations then please go easy and give me a break. I'm trying to sort this out, y'know:confused:


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