How To Work With A Click/Metronome

The time to get acquainted with using a click track is not in the recording studio. For many drummers, that's their 1st time having to play along to a click. It's a recipe for disaster, and for an inexperienced drummer, it will be a futile waste of time (and money).

I've met way too many drummers who do not practice to a metronome, let alone even own one! This is not good. Whether you play rock, pop, country, classical, hip hop, marching, etc., you need to be able to play in time. Working with a metronome, drum machine, or click track can help you develop a solid sense of time. For the unsure, or uninitiated, let's take a look at how to play along to a click.

Ear to Brain to Arm and Foot

The most important thing to realize is that most drummers try to follow the click. This just doesn't work, because by the time you hear the click, and react to it, you are already behind.

From my experience teaching, I find that most students wait for the click. They wait to hear it before they react, thus they are always behind the click, as in the above example. There is just no way to react fast enough to hearing the click to be in time with it.

The next example shows what happens when they get frustrated being late. They tend to over compensate and anticipate the click, which usually means they are ahead of it.

Then they get frustrated even more and their time jumps all over the place as they hope to somehow find the click and sync with it.

The key to working with a click (or metronome, loop, backing track) is to play along with it. Ideally, when playing with a click you shouldn't hear it because you are right with it. If you hear it, you are either ahead of, or behind it.

The time to start practicing with a click and/or metronome is now, in the privacy of your own practice space. Don't wait until a pressure situation to try it, because that's a sure recipe for disaster.

How To Practice

Start your metronome/click track/drum machine and listen to it for a while, getting the feeling of the time/tempo in your mind and body. Once you feel it, count off and start to play. Don't listen for the click! Just relax and breathe, playing along to the click. If you can hear it, or feel out of sync, adjust your playing until it feels right again. Keep working at it until it feels natural and you play in time, never thinking about the click.

Remember to practice at various tempos and in various styles. Also realize that this is a long term endeavor. You can't become an expert in just a week's practice. Keep at it. Then, when the time comes to record in the studio, or some other situation, you will be ready.

~ MB

Deconstruct Yourself™


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