If I had a time machine, I wouldn’t play the lottery. I would go back to my 14 year old self and teach him this. Not working on my time & feel earlier is the biggest regret I have. Don’t be like me.
Having a tough time getting a metronome incorporated into your practice? Finding it tricky to play songs to the click? Confused about the distinction between time & feel?
This exercise is a great way to get started using a click, and it’s a perfect illustration of the difference between time and feel.
Bury the Click:
A How-To For An Essential Exercise
- The first step is to get a metronome. Specifically one that lets you set its volume. I really, really like this one. But if you already have one on your phone/iPad/computer, just use that.
- Set your metronome’s tempo to 80. It doesn’t need to be exact for this exercise, but somewhere near there is good.
- Adjust the volume so that it’s not too loud. How loud should it be? It should be quiet enough that a percussive strum on your guitar is slightly louder.
This may take a small amount of experimenting to get right. Put the metronome near your guitar’s sound source. If you’re playing acoustic, on your lap is good. For electric, put it on top of your amp.
If you’re running an electric through headphones, see if you can get both sounds in your ears. I plug my metronome (phone) into my Line 6 POD HD500, OR practice inside of my DAW, OR run Tempo Advance in the background while plugged into GarageBand on my phone. Do what works for you.
Now balance the sound levels so that a perfectly timed percussive strum (mute the strings with your fretting hand and strum) makes the click “disappear.”
Important Final Step That Gets Skipped
Now set a timer. You’ll be bored and/or discouraged by this exercise long before you get the maximum amount of benefit from it. So set a timer for say, ten minutes.
Now bury that click! It’ll be tough at first, but keep at it. See how many clicks in a row you can make disappear. If you start getting good at this, slow the metronome down. Slower = harder.
The Difference Between Time & Feel
Keeping your strums evenly spaced, without speeding up or slowing down, is playing in time. Where you place the notes in relation to the beat is your feel.
Badass musicians talk a lot about feel, how “this guy has great feel” or “that dude is alright, but his feel sucks,” or “hey, let’s watch the feel on this one, we’re rushing the beat.”
You won’t be able to truly bury the click unless you get your strum directly on top of the click. This is way harder than it sounds. Being right on top of the beat (having good feel) is all the way important. Playing in front of the beat makes everyone around you want to speed up–it sounds bad. Playing behind it can make a song drag.
Learning to play
is the number one
MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO.