How to Use a Metronome for Efficient Practice

metronomeThis Sunday, February 26th, marks what would have been the 80th birthday of Johnny Cash.  To commemorate, several projects and events are scheduled throughout the year to remember the country legend’s contribution to music.  A project to preserve Cash’s childhood home in Arkansas, for example, will officially begin on Sunday, and later this year a new Cash museum will open in Nashville.

His legend still lives on, and his raw talent is beneficial for any musician to study.  But what if you can’t exactly “Get Rhythm” like the American icon?  To improve your rhythm, timing and tempo, using a a metronome is indispensable.  Moreover, it can help you keep track of your progress.  Tackling a tricky section?  Turn on that metronome and you can really measure how much you progress each week.  It may seem boring, but practicing – slowly – with the aid of a metronome will sharpen your muscle memory and help you see results.

Here are more great tips from Brass Musician magazine about how to use a metronome while you practice:

Practice at a Tempo Out of your Comfort Zone
Good listening skills are something musicians strive for their whole careers. Adapting to others’ tempo is an important part of ear training. Playing faster or slower than you normally do will teach you to listen and adapt to what others are doing. In this case, it’s a machine you are adapting to, but these skills translate well to ensemble playing, and especially following section leaders.

Set the Metronome to NOT Play on Every Beat
Get bored quickly with metronome practice? This is an easy way to mix things up, and test that you are maintaining your tempo without having to rely on a machine to keep the beat.

Jazz musicians, try to practice with the beat on 2 and 4, which is where the hi-hats would be in a swing beat. Do this for your scales and etudes, not just when practicing a tune. Classical musicians can try the metronome only on beat 1. Practice the same thing over and over with the metronome on random beat settings to keep you on your toes.

Use the Metronome to Help you Gain Speed
Musicians can especially benefit from metronome use when doing tonguing and lip slurring exercises. Try to go through your normal etude books, one exercise or page at a time, gradually increasing the tempo. It takes some serious practice time, but the result is well worth the effort. Tech savvy musicians can keep a spreadsheet of the exercise and tempo as they go along.

Try A Different Metronome
Lastly, find a metronome that works well for you. There are countless free apps for cell phones, computers and other devices that give you great features and a variety of sounds to choose from. There are also many sites online that have free metronomes or drum loops at any tempo.

How do YOU practice with a metronome?  If you have helpful tips for the community, don’t be shy!  Stop by our Facebook page and leave a comment! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

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