Is it Good to Practice Guitar with a Metronome?

Practicing guitar with or without a metronome is a hot-button topic with guitar players. While the metronome is a very important part of what actually “develops” your ability to play guitar in time, it can also drive you crazy when trying to build basic technical skills...

When beginner and intermediate guitar players first start to come up with melodies and lead guitar parts, their patterns on the neck are generally played in “straight” divisions of the beat.

For example, this might be long runs of sixteenth notes, triplets or quarter notes. Even though the ideas players invent might sound good, and more or less be in time, the phrasing can begin to sound somewhat robotic and predictable, even if the player is using different scales.

An excellent solution to avoid getting stuck on the same rhythms in your music is to practice using a phrasing technique known as “rubato.” This timing technique refers to intentionally playing melodies without a clear rhythm by expanding and suddenly contracting the duration of pitches. In other words, you steal some time off of a few notes, then add that time to other notes.

Rubato is not about playing out of time. Instead, it is about developing a high level of rhythmic control. There is a noticeable difference between playing in the style of rubato and playing in a manner that reflects “not being in time.” It all comes down to developing phrasing technique and having great rhythmic control.

When you play using rubato, it becomes obvious that the notes of your phrases “intentionally” do not stick to any predetermined rhythm and the phrasing sounds more expressive as a result.

In contrast, if you play notes that are (or should be) played in a strict rhythmic pattern, but are not played in time, the music then sounds “out of time."

If you are always practicing guitar with a metronome, or always practicing without a metronome, it will limit your ability to reach your full potential as a guitar player. In other words, there are specific times when you should be using the metronome, and then there are other times when you shouldn’t.

The metronome is a rhythmic practice tool and it should be used “when necessary” to overcome specific guitar playing problems. The way a metronome is to be used will depend on the musical goals that you are trying to reach, and it will depend upon the specific problems that you are trying to overcome in your playing.

Below are examples of when using a metronome can be very effective.

- As you develop accuracy with scales and arpeggios
- If you need to memorize scale or arpeggio layouts with pre-set fingerings
- When developing speed for a line, lick or statement
- For timing and feel development (i.e., rhythm guitar)
- When you need to understand the flow of time in a piece
- Mastering the sense of meter required to record against loops
- When creating loop tracks

The above list is a general one, however the points given are some of the most important areas of timing that can be developed to higher levels with a metronome.

If you lack experience in knowing which guitar practice strategies to use, work with a guitar teacher who can guide you toward making your practicing time more effective.



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  1. This helps tremendously.I don't think alot of students use the metronome,but timing is important!