So here you are.
You’re reading this course, you bought a metronome, you learned how to use it… now what?
Believe it or not, this is where many––if not most––people go awry. I don’t want that for you, so let me be perfectly clear:
Although your actions up until now have been commendable (committing to this course, buying the app, figuring it out, showing up to do the work), they won’t do you any good unless you get this one subtle thing right.
No matter how diligent you are about showing up to work with the metronome each day, it won’t really help you unless you get your ears right.
Humans suck at perceiving time. Most of us have a natural inclination to rush.
Unfortunately this natural inclination to rush, when combined with the way most people use the metronome, leads directly to people hearing the beat (and placing their notes) ahead of the beat. Which sounds like complete and total crap.
Most people are training their brain, ears, & hands to sound crappy.
Needless to say, this is a problem. It’s a little like paying money to get your ass kicked.
Not only does it sound bad with the click, but when you turn the metronome off to just play music with other humans, your inclination will be to get progressively faster as you go (which also sounds like crap).
To nip this problem in the bud, I’ve developed an exercise that will both let you know with certainty that you’re not rushing the beat, and also train your ear to hear the beat in the correct place.
(We’ll talk more about this idea of “feel” in Lesson Four.)
The exercise is called Bury The Click, and it’s simple to do (at least with a modern metronome like our beloved Tempo).
Bury The Click
- pick a tempo that’s neither too fast nor too slow––try 70 bpm
- (going much slower may be too hard at first, and going much faster won’t teach you as much)
- toggle the LED to unaccented (turn the “>” off)
- mute your strings with your fretting hand, then strum them––how loud is it?
- pick a metronome volume that’s slightly quieter than that
- now, strum your muted strings in time with the metronome
- when you’re right on top of the beat, it will disappear under your muted strum (you’ll be burying the click)
- once you have the basic mechanics down, SET A TIMER
- happily for us, there’s a timer built into the Tracker section of Tempo
- today you’ll set it for 5 minutes (which will feel like an eternity)
You’ll probably need to spend some time adjusting the volume of your click & guitar to find the right balance.
I also find that where I place my phone (iPad, whatever) makes a difference––it works way way better if both sounds are coming from the same direction.
On top of your amp for electric, on your leg for acoustic, or into the Aux In if you’re playing through some sort of modeler or headphone amp.
When your’e strumming, don’t cheat yourself by slowly rolling your way across the strings (thereby making the strum extra long so you can be sure to bury the click).
Your attention will wander, which is totally normal. It simply means you’re a human.
The important thing is to recognize that you’re now thinking about what you should have said in that argument this morning (or whatever) instead of the alignment of your strum with the click. Then––without getting mad at yourself––bring your attention back to task at hand.
USE THE DAMN TIMER.
Also like meditating, you’re going to feel completely foolish doing this, and the clock is going to feel like it’s stopped completely. The timer is there to keep you from cheating yourself.
Congratulate yourself when you’ve finished. Take that you stupid metronome, I showed up today and wrestled my unease with you into submission.
Seriously, you have to use the timer.
Seriously, you have to congratulate yourself.
Did you get your five minutes in? Great job!
Next we’ll get mildly philosophical about what exactly it is we’re doing here.