Love them or hate them, metronomes are a vital part of modern music, and being able to stick with one separates good musicians from pro musicians. Here are 7 signs that you need to spend more time working with a metronome:
1. Your parts sound “fuzzy” in the mix.
Even great musicians sometimes struggle to really “pocket” their parts, which can result in tiny rhythm problems of just a few milliseconds. This shows up as “fuzzy” sound in a mix, which when stacked with other slightly out of tempo parts can create a washy sound that lacks punch and clarity. Don’t rely on the quantize function to fix this- work with a metronome, and your parts will need far less touch up.
2. Something doesn’t feel right onstage.
The same thing that happens in the studio can happen on stage, as well. If you’re having trouble with clarity, many times it’s not the mixer’s fault. If you’re a band leader, take apart the section the sounds washy and have the musicians work with a metronome to get it tight.
3. You have a hard time playing with backing tracks.
A great test of rhythm is having musicians play their parts with backing tracks- if you’re having trouble keeping your part locked in, you might need to work a little more at home with your metronome.
4. Syncopated rhythms mess with you.
A musician with good rhythm can play with a simple four on the floor rhythm and keep time, but a great musician can play with syncopation. If you struggle with staying locked in with syncopation, use a metronome that allows you to add syncopation and practice at home.
5. You have a hard time keeping the beat when other musicians start playing.
If you’re having a hard time with staying locked in with other musicians, it’s a sure sign you’re having rhythm problems. Try practicing with backing tracks at home to simulate playing with other musicians, and you’ll see yourself improve in no time.
6. When you’re asked to play solo, your tempo drifts.
Even great musician’s tempos can drift when soloing since they’re trying to push their skills to the limit. Practice with a metronome at home on your soloing and record yourself. Listen back, and make a note of each time you drift off the beat. If you’re drifting too much, try slowing down the speed until you can comfortably solo without falling off beat.
7. You have a hard time remembering the speed of individual songs.
Tempo memory is a difficult skill to master, but will help you internalize the rhythm. I recommend setting your metronome, noting the speed, then practicing at the tempo for 5-10 minutes. Then adjust by about 10 bpm, and repeat. Over time you’ll be able to lock in various tempos without needing the metronome and stay consistent onstage.