G Spot
July 2005

I would like to talk about metronomes this month (…okay, okay, I know you’re groaning.. just hear me out). I’ve only really just realised in the last year or so exactly how imperative they are to musical development. Sure, you were forced to use one at school in order to play your Brahms with more accuracy and, like me, you were probably frightened away from this horrific little ticking (or beeping) box for many years. Well, time to dust it off, because I’ve got two key reasons for you why the metronome should be your best friend.

1) Timing

I know it sounds obvious, but timing is something that always needs work, regardless of what level you are at as a musician. You might be playing relatively in time right now, but having an INSTINCTUAL understanding of where the beat should be ‘sitting’ is a tool that does separates the people at the top, top level to those below them. As a band, if you all do work with a metronome individually and as a band, you will be STUNNED at what a month or two of running your songs (and also just looping the ‘grooves’ of your songs) to a click will do for you. It will elevate you to a new level, I guarantee it.

2) Increasing your “Solo Scope”

The one thing I see more than anything at jam sessions is guitarists playing shuffles and being trapped inside the “dotted crotchet/quaver” trap. Basically, being stuck inside the basic rhythm of the shuffle (long note, short note, long note, short note etc). Your metronome can point out to you very easily the way to avoid this completely. Set your metronome at the speed you are wanting to play a song at; 1 beat per beat of the bar. Now, set it at 4 times that speed, so that every 4th beat is a single beat and the other three are sub-dividing it. Experiment with soloing phrases over this time sub-division.

What you are doing is playing in 16th’s or semi-quavers. This exercise works really well over songs with ‘straight’ grooves and I also like to use it over shuffles to occasionally break the ‘swung’ phrasing with a run of ‘straight’ notes, it really adds excitement and drama. Alternately you can try setting it at 3 times the speed and treating every 3rd beat as a single beat. This works really wells over shuffles and swing feels and is known as playing in ‘quaver triplets’. I always like to practise and use both of these ideas within my soloing as it opens up almost unlimited ‘timing tools’ for making solos (and rhythm playing) sound exciting and fluid.

That’s just a birds-eye view of metronomes really. If you have any comments or questions, please email me at meston@chariot.net.au

All the best,
Sweet Baby James

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