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Metronome Strategies

JDRookeJDRooke New
edited January 11 in Technique Posts: 30

Hi all,

I wanted to post this question to the hive mind. I know this overlaps with recent and not-so-recent discussions concerning practice approaches. But, I wanted to home in on metronome strategies and create a post that could be used to gather as much.

Conventional wisdom around here says to start slow and increase speed gradually over days and weeks. It's also widely recommended to break songs and licks into digestible pieces. Persistence, repetition, and elbow grease enhance one's efforts, of course. My main thesis about metronome use is that hitting whatever you are working on at different speeds and timings limbers you up and enables mastery in a way that simply working up from slow doesn't.

I've poked around a bit (on youtube) and absorbed the input of a few metalheads combined with the insights of a few violin players. Here's what I do based my summing of available wisdom on the matter. I memorize whatever the heck it is before I hit the metronome. I, yes, start slow. I break the piece into lick-like chunks (or smaller). I practice the chunks 3-10x (or more if I daze out), incrementing 3 clicks on the metronome each time. I work up to my top speed. I push past that speed until I crash and burn. I cut the metronome back to half my top speed and work back up. I should move by one-click increments when hitting top speeds. But, by the time I hit the top, I'm sick of it.

My results have been good. It's like steroids for my playing. All my sh*te gets tighter and faster, both on a per-session and over-time basis.

Down side is.. sometimes I feel like it takes too much time and and that I should just practice fast and slow. But still, no matter what the metronome approach is, I believe, it boosts playing and is essential for any true advancement in the genre.

So, do tell y'all. How do you think the metronome thing should be done?

Thanks in advance for yer input.



  • crookedpinkycrookedpinky Glasgow✭✭✭✭ Alex Bishop D Hole, Altamira M,
    Posts: 837

    I agree. I don't use my metronome as much as I should so my new years resolution is to practice more - using my metronome. It reminds me of a gypsy friend who, when I was playing rhythm for him, said that he didn't care what chords I played but that I must "play like (a) watch". In other words like a metronome.

    always learning
  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 274

    To me, part of the usefulness of a metronome is to learn to play songs at different tempos than you would want to play them if it were only up to you. You don't always get to count off each song! It helps make you more flexiible.

  • ScoredogScoredog Santa Barbara, Ca✭✭✭✭
    edited January 12 Posts: 745

    I don't know if any of you have seen this but it is pretty I am throwing it out there.

    I can do some of these but to do all would take more work than I am willing to put in at this time. Still a great resource.

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,991

    @JDRooke I've certainly used that gradual ramping technique with metronome practice a lot over the years. However, more and more I find the most effective thing for me is extremely slow practice, with 100% control and awareness of every motion, sound, phrasing, etc. A dozen quality reptitions like that, repeated on a regular basis usually ends being a lot more effective for me. Probably because even at medium tempos, you may be able to play the line but there are little technical and phrasing things you're glossing over which prevent you from playing cleanly at faster tempos.

    John Williams does much the same, focusing mostly on very, very slow practice.

    JDRookeBuconomadgtrBill Da Costa Williams
  • JDRookeJDRooke New
    edited January 12 Posts: 30

    @MichaelHorowitz Good stuff, thanks. I'll watch the Williams video shortly. I'd like to get some specifics on how your approach plays out in practice when working on shorter licks or longer pieces. How long do you find yourself working at this extremely slow pace? How do you approach bringing what you are working on up to speed? Do you keep multiple licks/pieces on the docket that you practice for short periods?

    My previous method had been to practice with backing tracks paired with some slow metronome work. I got frustrated that I couldn't get to the speed and tightness in my playing that I wanted to. After taking in some recommendations from various sources, I paired slower practice with some pushing the speed to uncomfortable levels as I describe above. So, apart from the incremental notching up the metronome, I focus on going back and forth between comfortable and uncomfortable tempos. I push the speed to expand my brain's sense of what is possible and to explore difference in technique required for fast playing. I then slow back down to tighten up. I'm a real metronome junkie nowadays and I'm achieving my playing goals now in a way I hadn't before.

    That said, I'm interested hear from others and try out whatever approaches will allow me to improve as efficiently as possible.

    @Scoredog Thanks for the tip, I'll check out the metronome technique video once I get a few minutes free.

  • Posts: 3,732

    I've been harping on slow practice around the forum for years now. Slowing down gets you there faster, I'm a firm believer. Can't say I can claim I've made many believers that went with that approach. Usually I get cautious scepticism.

    A lot of what you mentioned is the basis of my two minutes article on practice. I don't claim anything there is original. I just synthesized what I found works for me from multiple sources. Many said sources are referenced in the article.

    There's an actual study done on musical practice directly comparing incremental increase in tempo vs going half to full performance tempo. My recollection is half to full had the edge in this study. I tried to find it a few times with no luck. I'll try again, I'd like to add it to my article.

    Here's what I had to say about all that if you're up for the read

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • nomadgtrnomadgtr Colorado Bumgarner Corazon, Olivier Marin
    Posts: 104

    The slow practice approach was also identified by Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code. An excellent and insightful book. He spent a lot of time studying "clusters of talent" in various disciplines. Slow practice was something he found to be a common element in these clusters.

  • swiesslerswiessler NorCalNew Dupont MD20,Gibson L5,Bumgarner F hole(DiMauro type)
    Posts: 69

    Really good info/techniques in both the Barnby YouTube and the Williams interview as well as personal methods shared by all contributors to this string! Thank you.

  • JDRookeJDRooke New
    Posts: 30

    @Buco I have read a lot (if not all) of your thread. Good stuff. I know there is some overlap and that you hit the larger topic pretty exhaustively over there.

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,991

    @JDRooke I do a variety of things but generally I tend to just keep practicing things very slowly until they feel and sound right at faster tempos. I think if you focus on the really slow practice the speed will come. But at some point you do have to just go for it and try things at tempo and see what happens. One thing that I've learned over the years is that even if you have it nailed at a slower tempo, it just feels different when played at speed so you have to get used to that. Also, the phrasing at tempo can often be slightly different. They are many Gypsy type licks, especially ones with lots of consecutive downstrokes, that get phrased differently at faster tempos, often so all those consecutive downstrokes will work. Some licks will work when played totally evenly at a slow tempo but have to be adjusted a little to work when played faster.

    nomadgtrJDRookeBill Da Costa Williams
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