It was the day after Christmas, and our drummer’s flight from the small airport near his parents’ home was cancelled.
While the rest of us had spent the past two days debauching ourselves in New Orleans, he’d flown home to be with his family. And now he wasn’t going to make it to our sold-out show… which was in eight hours.
But we weren’t worried yet––our drummer had subbed out before, and he had the whole show meticulously charted.
We just needed someone who could read music and play with a click––maybe a tall order in rural Nebraska, but this was New Orleans. The place is lousy with great drummers, and the city’s strong music education meant we wouldn’t have much difficulty finding a strong reader.
So we made some calls. We called everyone we knew who might know a drummer in NOLA. After several dead ends (out of town or already booked), we found our guy.
He could play. He could read. He was available.
He was hired.
Our problem was solved. Or so we thought.
Later That Night
What followed was the most difficult gig I’ve ever played.
While our sub drummer could play, and he could read, he was disastrously bad at playing with a click.
He sounded good warming up, but he completely fell apart when playing to the click. His tempo rubber banded back and forth. He got spooked. He began to play cautiously and make reading errors.
What do you do in that situation?
The drummer drives the proverbial bus. If he can’t keep it in his lane, do you take away the lines on the road? Let him drive wherever he wants? Do you follow the guy who doesn’t know where he’s going? Perhaps straight off a cliff?
The rest of us on stage had him completely off in our in-ears, and the click all the way up.
Normally we’re all smiles, but that night we were all making faces of extreme concentration: Ignore the drummer. Focus on the click. Ignore the drummer. Focus on the click.
The Modern Reality
As I write this, it’s April 2015, and the writing is on the wall:
You need to sound good with or without a click.
Sure, there was a time when you could get away with being crappy at playing to a click. But that was 30 years ago.
These days, every song is recorded to a click track. With the advent of in-ear monitors, bands are increasingly running a click at their live shows too.
Far from being a tyrannical dictator, the click is a warm reassuring blanket that keeps you consistently in the groove night after night.
And here’s the thing: if you don’t sound good WITH a click, you probably don’t sound good WITHOUT one either.
Maybe you think you sound just fine without one, but that’s something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect––the thoroughly human tendency of the unskilled to mistakenly overestimate their level of expertise.
The best players I know are obsessed with time and feel.
They absolutely slay with a click… and they’re still working to get even better at it.
Blah Blah Blah
I know, I know––this isn’t anything you haven’t heard before. Like flossing and learning to read music, you know you ought to be doing it, but you haven’t gotten on board yet.
I’m not here to guilt trip you. I’m here to help.
Which Brings Us To The Damned Point
Let me quit rambling and get to it:
If you’re not a devotee of the metronome, you need to be.
(Even if you already are, I may still have a few tricks I can teach you.)
There is nothing that will make your playing better faster than becoming obsessed with your timing.
I know (from painful experience) that getting started with a metronome can be tough, frustrating, even humiliating.
Metronome Boot Camp is my little gift to you. It’s a two week blast through the ins and outs of metronome usage.
- get you set up with Tempo, the best metronome around,
- teach you how to get started,
- help you neatly sidestep the #1 pitfall of metronome use
- hip you to the subtle-but-important distinctions between the many ways you can use the metronome,
- show you specific exercises to use,
- prepare you to create your own exercises from whatever it is you’re struggling with,
- dial in your timing, and (most importantly)
- create the habit of using the metronome.
As the Chinese proverb says:
The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today.
So please: join me. You have nothing to lose (it’s free) and everything to gain.
Nothing will make you better faster than consistent metronome usage.
How It Works
You sign up here. You’ll set up a login & password. Each day the magical mail chimps will send you an email with a link to your personal dashboard, where you'll find the day’s lesson. Each one ought to take you 15 minutes, maybe less.
That's all there is to it. Show up for 15 minutes a day for two weeks and you'll be vastly more comfortable with a metronome (and noticeably better at guitar).
I’ll see you inside,
(did I mention it's free?)