So far, we’ve addressed some of the biggest pitfalls of metronome usage––not using one at all, using one as a top speed indicator, setting it too loud, and being unaware of where our notes fall in relation to the beat (aka feel).
Today we’re going to tackle another one of those pitfalls with an exercise I like to call the Two-Legged Table.
Your First Bike
When you were a kid, your first bike probably came equipped with training wheels––an extra pair of wheels out back to keep you upright.
So let me ask you––how much riding on a training wheels-equipped bike did you have to do to before you were an expert at riding a normal two-wheeler?
Did being held upright by training wheels improve your balance once you switched to riding without them?
Did the training wheels help you intuit the connection between forward motion and stability?
Maybe you can see where I’m going with this. Just like no amount of riding with training wheels teaches you to ride without them…
Practicing with a click on each beat improves your ability to… play with a click on each beat.
What it doesn’t do is improve your internal sense of time.
And as we talked about previously, a badass musician sounds great with or without a click.
Which is why we’re going to spend most of the rest of this course working on strengthening our internal clocks.
The Two-Legged Table
The way we’ll do this is by selectively knocking out some of the “legs” on our “table.” We started with four legs (one click for each of four beats).
Now we want the metronome to click only on beats 1 & 3.
If you look at the tempo markings on an old school metronome, they can seem a bit random. They start out orderly enough: 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60.
But then they start going up in threes, then in fours, and then in sixes.
Although it’s not immediately obvious, it’s actually a pretty slick solution for what we’re doing today. Once you get to 80 bpm, there’s always a tempo setting that’s exactly half as fast.
Of course, with Tempo we have a modern powerhouse in our corner, and we can adjust tempi in tiny one-beat-per-minute increments.
If we wanted to halve the 50 bpm tempo we were using yesterday, it’d be easy to adjust that tempo down to 25 bpm.
What wouldn’t be easy is finding our way into the groove with such an infrequent click. Seriously, try playing Bury The Click (or that scale fragment from yesterday) with a 25 bpm metronome clicking on 1 & 3.
Thankfully, Tempo gives us a few other options here.
Setting Up The Two-Legged Table
Start by putting the tempo back at 50.
Now change the Meter to 4/4.
And then cycle the LEDs so that beats 1 & 3 are unaccented and beats 2 & 4 are silent.
There. Now you have a metronome that gives you visual cues for each beat, but audio cues for only half of them: The Two-Legged Table.
Here are some things to practice with the TLT:
- Quarter note Bury The Click
- Eighth note Bury The Click
- That C major scale fragment
- Any short riff that’s all eighth notes (like the Peter Gunn Theme, Oh Pretty Woman, or Crazy Train).
Finding Your Way Into A Groove With The TLT
- Start by looking at the metronome, tapping your foot with the visual pulses.
- Begin counting “one, two, three, four” and then “one and two and three and four and.”
- Then play your exercise (or riff) while watching the pulses.
- Once you can do that successfully, look away from the metronome.
This will be hard, and you will fall down frequently.
That’s ok though––it’s the entire point of this exercise. The more times you catch yourself losing the groove, the better. The more times you fail, have to stop, and then redo that whole process of counting yourself in, the more benefit you’ll get from this.
At some point, you want to be able to count yourself in without having to look at the metronome for visual cues.
- When you think you’re ready, listen to the click, then count with it: “one – three, one – three.”
- Then intersperse the other two beats: “one, two, three, four” and then the divisions: “one and two and three and four and.”
- Finally, try playing your exercise or riff.
If You Feel Discouraged
There’s a really good chance that you are going to flat-out suck at this exercise, especially at first. I just want to reiterate that that’s actually a very good thing––it means you’ve uncovered an area that needs improvement.
Your job is not to be amazing at this. No, your job is to show up and keep sucking at it, and bit by bit you’ll get better. (And then we’ll go in search of the next thing you need to work on.)
It’s funny, but the unspoken lesson we learn in school is that it’s important to have the right answer, that it’s better to be good at something easy than it is to struggle with something hard.
But everything in life that’s valuable is on the other side of some messy process that’s fraught with failure––starting a conversation with that attractive stranger, asking your boss for a raise, figuring out how to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, starting a business, doing the work necessary to have an opinion.
So I want to take a moment to salute you for being the sort of person who shows up to do the hard, messy work of being your best self. It ain’t easy, but damn is it worth it.
I hope it inspires you to know that you inspire me. Thank you.
Next up: a better two-legged table.