Deconstructing Your Metronome

If you're like me, you are not a fan of the tic-tic-tic sound of a metronome. You probably don't like the robotic, mechanical feel either. I'm not against working with a metronome, and have put in plenty of hours working with one. But I've also come up with some great alternatives that often work better for me.

My trusty, well used, 20 year old metronome

One is to use a drum machine or computer program, and have it play some sort of funky drum beat. I much prefer playing my Pratt or Wilcoxen rudimental solos to a funk beat than a metronome. Besides being more interesting, I can also get a bit funky with my rudiments. This is also great for practicing hand drums, shakers, and even drum set. Program some sort of percussion part, with congas, shakers, and bell, to play along to. 

Another thing to do, is play along with recordings, but not play along with the song. What, you say? Find a song/recording at the tempo you want, and then just play along to it with your snare, percussion, or drum set. Don't worry about trying to copy anything that's on the recording. In fact, try to ignore any sort of drumming on the recording. Just listen to the music and tempo and then play along. Play your rudiments to James Brown, or Michael Jackson. Practice your congas to old '60s pop tunes, or hard rock. Play your drum set to anything: play a half time or double time beat to a song that isn't either. Also, find recordings without any drums or percussion, then create a drum pert, or play along to it.

Another advantage of playing to recordings is that you get phrasing and song form to work with. You can get creative—play paradiddles on the verse and ratamacues on the chorus. Try and be creative, moving beyond the standard rote style of drum practice. Another nice thing is that you can change the music often, so that practice never becomes a boring routine.

This goes for click tracks too. I prefer to use a programmed drum set or percussion part to the traditional click-click-click in my headphones.

How have you worked with metronome alternatives?

~ MB

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