Learn How To Play Drums With A Metronome
The Metronome is one of the most essential tools used to develop a drummer’s sense of timing. Using a metronome correctly will enable you to always stay in time when you are playing the drums, this way you can stay on time, and keep your band in time as well. There are many great metronomes on the market, the more advanced you get at drumming, the more advanced features you will need from your metronome. Some metronomes are able to play triplets, and different time signatures, while others are only good for quarter or eighth notes in 4/4 time.
Most drummers have a difficult time distinguishing when they are “off time”, and will usually be the first to blame the other members of the band. The solution to this is to simply play with a metronome. Setting a metronome, drum machine, or other click track to a certain BPM will not only help the other members of the band, but it will also help you stay on time. Eventually, this will train you to be able to play all sorts of off time beats, unique time signatures, and solos all on time.
Playing or practicing the drums without a metronome can cause more harm than good. Many famous drummers recommend that you never practice without a metronome. If you must practice without a metronome you should be listening to a CD or playing with a band. So how do you actually play the drums with a metronome?
A Metronome Or Drum Machine?
First things first, what exactly is a metronome? Well, for those who are unsure, a metronome is a device that keeps time for you. There are many different kinds of metronomes, they come in all shapes and sizes, but all perform the same function. They produce a click track that plays at a certain tempo (BPM- beats per minute). Different metronomes have different sounds, some have a high pitched click, and others sound like a wood block. Some metronomes can give you different time signatures, and even play accents for you. Most basic metronomes simply play quarter notes, or sixteenth notes in 4/4 time.
A drum machine is basically the same idea, only it has a few more advanced features. A drum machine will basically play full drum beats for you. This isn’t always essential as a drummer, but this is always a nice feature to have, as it will teach you new grooves. The price for one of these isn’t justified because it is your job to be a drummer, not the machines. Since a drummer’s main job is to keep everyone in time, it seems necessary for every drummer to own a metronome rather than a drum machine.
When to Use A Drum Metronome
You can incorporate a metronome into both playing a show, as well as practicing on your drum set at home. Playing live with a click track is a little harder to set up, and you will find it sometimes can hinder your performance, but nevertheless, it is still good to try, you can always turn it off if you find it distracting.
Playing With A Metronome At Home
When you are practicing at home you should definitely use a metronome. Not only will it help you stay in time, but it will also help you keep track of your progress. When you are practicing on a practice pad, simply have the metronome in front of you, and set it to a certain tempo. Because you are playing on a practice pad, you will be able to hear your metronome no problem. If you are playing on a full drum kit, a metronome may be hard to hear. To fix this, you will need to plug your metronome into a stereo, or earphones. Make sure you have bought a metronome with a plug for ear phones so you can plug them in.
Playing With A Metronome At A Show
When you are playing a show with a metronome, you have a few options. The first option is the simplest to set up, and will keep the sound guy happy. Simply keep the metronome behind your drum kit and use earphones. You must let your band know that they have to follow you for timing. If the band starts slipping off of time and you cant get them back into time, then simply turn off the click track half way through the song.
The next option is if you are lucky enough to have your own monitor mix and either have an in ear monitor system or your own monitor on the floor beside you. This way you can mix the metronome into your personal monitor mix. This is a little more complicated because even if you are able to set the tempos yourself, you are trusting the sound guy doesn’t accidentally change your mix and make the click too loud/quiet compared to everything else. Also if you have a click coming through the monitor on the floor, then depending on the venue, your audience might be able to hear the metronome, which isn’t good.
How To Practice With A Metronome
Now that you know how to hear your metronome, its time to adding it to your practice routine while playing beats or drum rudiments. This may be boring, but it is very beneficial. There are a few different ways you can play along to your metronome that will teach you how to stay on time.
First is the basics, make sure you know how to count time. Next, set the metronome to a specific BPM, and play along following the click. This is the most obvious way you can practice. Another method is to set the click to half of what you are playing. For example, if you are playing at 120 BPM, try setting your metronome at 60 BPM. This will force you to use your internal clock a lot more. You will really notice how hard it is to keep on time this way when you try it! The third way to practice with a metronome is to have it set to a certain tempo, and play triplets overtop. Say the click is set at 140 BPM, and you are playing a sixteenth note beat overtop of it. Instead, play a sixteenth note triplet beat over top. Again, this will force you to think outside of the box, increasing your skill in keeping time. If you are into playing solo’s, and long fills, try playing them to a metronome. Drum fills and drum solos are where most drummers will lose time and either fall behind, or speed up. Practicing these with a metronome will fix this problem!
Practicing and playing the drums with a metronome is a huge learning experience. Every drummer should own one, and every drummer should use one. Try playing a live show with a click track in your monitor a few times; you may be greatly surprised on how “on time” you really are! A few times on the practice pad with a metronome will go a long way!
By: Dave Atkinson
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