There are two reasons why a drummer would want to learn how to play along to a metronome (or “Click” track) and both reasons are essential for good drumming.
1. To develop steady and solid timing. This allows the drummer to keep a steady beat without speeding up or slowing down.
2. To be able to record music in a studio along to a click track. This ensures the recording is perfectly in time and means that any editing (usually carried out by the producer) can be done easily and quickly. Especially when the recording consists of multiple instrument parts that need to be lined up with each other.
Reason number 1 is probably the most important as not every musician gets to record their music but every drummer needs to keep steady time. It should be a drummer’s priority to play in time without having the tempo vary or slip. Practicing along to a metronome will teach a drummer timing and accuracy, this is almost impossible to learn without the aid of the click.
You’d be surprised by just how many drummers can’t play along to a metronome. A lot of drummers presume that they can but when they actually try to do it find out they can’t; usually at the recording studio when it’s too late to do anything about it!
Playing along to music in practice sessions can improve a drummers timing as the music is keeping the drummer in time. The problem with this method though is that while playing along to the music the drummer is concentrating on the song form/parts and not their internal clock. So setting time aside to play only with a metronome will give the drummer an opportunity to focus purely on their timing.
Most drummers don’t realise that they push and pull the tempo when performing but every musician suffers from this problem, even if it’s a little. Adrenalin or lack of concentration can cause big changes in tempo, it is important that a drummer finds time to practice to a metronome to reduce the size and frequency of this problem.
Here are some tips and ideas for practicing along to a click…
- Set the metronome to a slow speed and try playing basic beats and fills along to the click. Use every beat of the metronome as a reference point to line up your playing with.
- Vary the speed of the click so that you are able to play beats and fills at ALL tempos. Some drummers find that certain tempos are more difficult to play along to than others so work at these speeds the most.
- Imagine the click is actually another musician playing behind you. It’s sometimes easier to pretend the click is a band member and not an electronic noise. If your metronome has different sound settings then try them out to see which one makes you feel the most comfortable.
- Relax and try to put the click to the back of your mind. Eventually you want to be able to play to the click without really focusing on it.
- Some drummers find that they are able to play a drum beat along to a click but then go out of time when they play a drum fill. Make sure that you don’t rush or slow when playing your fills as this is a common problem.
- If you are planning to record music then practice the material along to a click before heading for the studio. Practice each of the songs drum beats and fills to a click at home or at band practice and identify all the sections that timing is an issue for. Try and get together with the band before you go to the studio and decide on tempos.
Playing to a metronome isn’t as hard as people think and with a little practice becomes second nature. Including the metronome in your practice session doesn’t take much effort as it can be simply turned on in the background when practicing your exercises/beats/fills.
Timing is everything to a drummer and should be every drummer’s focus, that’s really what the drummer’s job is! Learning and then mastering how to use a click is the best and most effective way to develop steady timing.
Give it a go if you’ve never used one, it’s not as hard as you might think and will help to make you a better musician!
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