If you’ve been working with a metronome for any amount time, but aren’t seeing the benefits you expected, try the Superclick.
Oh, and if you haven’t been using the metronome? GET ON IT. Your playing isn’t going to improve itself.
First, the Why
There are actually two skills that come from regularly playing with a metronome. The first one is the ability to play with a click.
This sounds a little strange, like saying that the purpose of math homework is to teach you how to do math homework.
But it’s true. Playing with a click is a skill in and of itself, and it’s a skill that you want to have.
Why? Because every time you set foot in a recording studio, every time you fire up the DAW on your computer, you’re going to use this skill.
And there’s a huge (and growing) number of live bands that run a click in the ears, or incorporate samples, or use tracks.
What kinds of bands? The ones that will pay you real money to play with them.
The Second Skill
The second skill is perhaps more obvious: to improve your inner sense of time. Obvious yes, but far trickier.
Trickier because just the act of playing with a click doesn’t improve your inner sense of time (much).
A metronome clicking on every beat is a bit like riding a bike with training wheels, or helicopter parenting––when you make it hard to mess up, you take away the opportunity to learn self sufficiency.
Enter the Superclick
This is where the Superclick comes in. What we’re going to do is keep the tempo steady, but take away some of our training wheels.
Let’s say we’re playing a song at 120 beats per minute. If we set the metronome for 60 beats per minute, we’re giving ourselves a little bit of extra room to make mistakes and correct them, and thus build our strength.
Once that doesn’t seem all that challenging anymore, we can cut out more of the training wheels, and set the tempo to 30 beats per minute.
Now our metronome is clicking just once per measure, and we call that a Superclick.
How To Set Up a Superclick
While it’s possible to do this with an old school metronome, we’re going to use the utterly badass Tempo Advance.
- First pick a song, lick, riff, etc to work on.
- Now find a tempo you’re comfortable with.
- Instead of dividing this number in half, set Tempo Advance to two beats per bar.
- Cycle through the sounds on one of those beats until you find the silent setting.
- Now you have a metronome clicking on half the beats.
- Get comfortable playing along with that.
- Then up the beats per bar to four, and set three of them to silent.
- Now you have a Superclick.
- Save it!
One of the benefits of using silent beats in Tempo Advance is that, if you’re having a tough time getting started with so few clicks, you can always look down and get a visual reference to clue you in.
How To Get Way More Out Of The Superclick
Let’s talk about which beats you’re going to set your metronome to click on.
If you’ve been playing with the click on all four beats, it’s tempting to turn off beats 2 & 4, leaving the click on beats 1 & 3.
But you’ll get vastly more out of it if you put the click on beats 2 & 4 instead. This is the backbeat, where the drummer puts the snare in over 90% of songs.
Feeling the beat on 2 & 4 is much more musical, and does way more to improve your sense of time.
Where To Put The Superclick
If you’re just getting started with the Superclick, try putting it on beat 1. This gives you a whole measure to drift before the click comes in to remind you that your time is unsteady.
After a time, Superclick on 1 won’t be terribly hard anymore. This is when you change. Remember, when we’re practicing, our goal isn’t to feel good about our musical skills. Our goal is to improve them.
So once Superclick on 1 is manageable, move it to 2. When that no longer feels like drowning, move it to 4. Then try once every other bar, or maybe on some random beat like the & of 3.
Learn to play with a click.
If you’ve never done it, pre-commit to working on it for a set number of days. It increases your ability to stick with it through the suck.
The ability to play with a click is its own skill, separate from improving your inner sense of time.
Once you don’t feel awful when playing with a click, work on improving your inner sense of time by incorporating silent beats.
Work your way up to a Superclick.
Move the Superclick around.
We’re all counting on you.
I was planning to include a little post script, giving credit to my friend Patrick for naming this exercise. But when I called him about it, he said that he’d never heard someone call it a Superclick. So I guess I made it up?
Oh, and have you seen this video of Harry Connick Jr? The audience is clapping on beats 1 & 3, so at the top of his solo, he adds an extra beat and––voila––they’re clapping on 2 & 4, right where they ought to.