If you want to develop a good sense of timing in your drums playing, the use of the metronome is essential. By practicing with a metronome correctly, you would always stay in time and keep the overall flow of music in the band consistent.
While most drummers have a hard time distinguishing when or where they get “off time”, I have seen the common scenario of blaming the other members in the band.
There is a simple solution to this by playing along to a metronome. Setting up a metronome, or click track to a predefined BPM will help you stay on time when you practice. Not to mention the fact that it also helps your band keep time as well.
At the end of the day, using a metronome will help you play all the different kinds of off time beats, uncommon time signatures, drum fills and soloing on time.
In music, every note happens at a precise moment in time with relation to the underlying rhythm. If we cannot feel the beat, we cannot express it physically on the drums. And this will mean that you have no groove.
The metronome can help you change all that.
When practicing drums to a metronome, you should start with a moderately slow tempo – for example at a BPM of 80 and clap your hands or tap your feet along to it. When you are doing this, you have to make sure that each foot or clap is perfectly in time with the click of the metronome. You can also count out aloud when you do this. It sounds simple but is actually harder than you think it is.
When you are comfortable in doing the above, try playing a simple drum rudiment that you had learnt at this tempo. When you are able to play the rudiment perfectly in time, the next thing for you to do is to set the click to a lower tempo (for example, half of what you are currently playing).
Believe it or not, slower tempos are actually more difficult to manage. Beginner players will perpetually rush the slower clicks and play faster than the intended time. Playing at lower tempos will force your body to inculcate a sense of internal clock.
The metronome is also a useful tool when you want to increase your drums playing speed with consistency. Noticed that I said speed with CONSISTENCY. If you were to play a drums rudiment at high tempos but you are unable to keep time, the end result will be garbage to the ears. Speed is nothing without control when it comes to playing drums.
Here’s how you would do it. Always start slow. Bring the tempo of the song down to a manageable level say 92 BPM. Once you can play the rudiment perfectly on time at 92 BPM, raise the metronome speed by 8 BPM and start at 100 BPM now.
Do this slow increase until you can hit you limit that you can keep time consistently for example 160BPM. To overcome this plateau, go down back to the speed that you can play perfectly – 152 BPM.
Practice in this tempo again and take a break of 5 minutes. After your break, it’s time to take on the 160 BPM again. Rinse and repeat this to improve your drumming speed gradually.
All in all, practicing and learning to play drums with a metronome can be very frustrating but it is a huge learning experience. If you want to progress fast in your drumming experience, a metronome is a MUST. Practicing with a metronome will reap huge rewards in the long term for you as a drummer.
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