PHOTO: Mike Duffy

Should You Use a Metronome to Practice?

That relentless click can help develop you into a more well-rounded musician.

Click … click … click … click …

There are differing schools of thought as to whether you should use a metronome while practicing guitar.

Some might think it’s an unnecessary addition to their routine. Some might think it takes some of the fun out of a relaxing and oftentimes spontaneous activity, stifling creation. Some might just be intimidated by the watchful sound of a metronome’s telling ticks.

The reality, however, is that a metronome can be a valuable addition to your practice setup.

Timing and rhythm are both very important factors in playing guitar. You’ll need those to be a well-rounded guitarist.

A player who can master every scale, chord inversion and arpeggio is great, but not being able to stay in the “pocket” is a serious detriment to your development. It’s important to be able to freely express yourself on your instrument—and learning patterns and chords is super important to start—but many instances call for the guitarist to lock in step with the tempo.

That’s where a metronome can help. It can help establish the time of a piece of music and ensure that you’re organizing the pulse of the rhythm in your head and your hands.

A metronome is also beneficial in building speed. It’s a classic tortoise-and-hare situation. If you set out to play like Yngwie Malmsteen immediately after getting a good handle on the basics, there likely will be a crash and burn near on the horizon.

Using a metronome at a slow speed while learning new songs—once you’ve got the basic notes down—and then gradually building up to the appropriate tempo will allow you to grasp the exact technique and movements needed to master it. The goal is to get comfortable at the ground level and then bring yourself up to tempo when you’re ready. This will keep you from catching bad habits.

It will also aid you in sniffing out the trouble spots that you need to address. Say you’re playing a song and notice a mistake. Did a finger slip? Does the motion feel awkward? Using a metronome will make it easier to pick up where you left off and not force you to start from the absolute beginning to really focus on what went wrong. It’s just more efficient.

Eventually, you’ll develop an internal metronome … whether it’s a tapping foot or a beating heart or just an internal clock. A lot of guitar playing has to do with muscle memory, and you don’t want to become dependent on a metronome to develop solid technique.

But incorporating a metronome into your practice at times will shape a more balanced musician.

Click … click … click … click …