For all practicing musicians — this is one of the most important things you should be doing, whether you’re a beginner or tenured in the world of music.
Click, Click Boom — The Metronome
Come closer my friend and I will tell you the most well-known secret in improving your musical skills – practicing with the metronome.
I was twelve years old and I remember Pat Dossett (my saintly piano teacher) telling me that if I wanted to get better at playing the piano, I needed to use a metronome. The problem was that I was twelve and I knew better than her and that I didn’t need that stupid, ticking thing. (Nice one little ‘Legs, we could have been the best, you scrub).
The only thing Pat ever did wrong was she undersold just how important the metronome was…and still is! I will make the comical mistake of making a weightlifting analogy in a music blog and say, “Practicing with a metronome is like running with a weighted vest on.” When you practice with a metronome you are getting twice as good twice as fast. If you’re bad at math that’s four times as good in very little time!
With all this said, why is it we are not using this thing more? Probably because it’s hard to get into at first. It feels like you’re fighting with it for a while. But let me tell you, this will pass and before you know it you won’t even notice the darn thing.
I cannot stress the importance of this little clicking sound. If you’re recording, you’ll have the metronome going. If you’re playing with a group, you’ll have to be solid at keeping time. It needs to be going when you practice. Even those with outstanding natural rhythm need to work with the metronome.
There are creative ways around the “knock” or “tick” sounds. Most apps have variations to the sound. You can also get a digital drum-kit metronome to prevent you from going slowly insane from the monotony. However, I still highly recommend playing with the click sound enough to be comfortable with it since it is universally used. This will be invaluable in recording situations.
When searching for an app, I highly recommend Pulse. It’s really easy to use and it’s easy on the eyes with its visual cues. It’s also free! (Ahh, now I’ve sold you on it). Another option is through GarageBand – it’s a super easy and free way to have an in-tempo drum loop set on repeat.
If you feel that you’ve plateaued with your skill, this is what you’re missing. I’ve always seen accelerated improvement in my students who actually use this God-given invention. Just simply use it when you’re playing that old song you know or when you’re burning through scales. I promise you that if you start putting in more time practicing with a metronome you will see vast and very fast improvement in your playing.