Rut-Busters for Guitarists, Part 2 of 8: Metronomes and Acoustic Guitars

Welcome to Part 2 of my new series of lessons, "Rut Busters for Guitarists." You can find Part 1 under RELATED CONTENT, just below my photo.

These lessons are aimed at breaking through barriers that might be preventing you from improving on the guitar.

Some of these lessons will simply give you some good food for thought, and some will be more hands-on. Written to help you get past that plateau, these lessons are here to help you mix things up and keep your relationship with the guitar an interesting one.

This second lesson discusses how using a metronome and acoustic guitar when practicing will help you achieve more speed, strength, coordination and dexterity, helping you break down any physical barriers that might be slowing you down.

There is some debate as to whether practicing with a metronome is beneficial or not. I think the crux of the argument is whether playing to a metronome will improve your timing. I don’t think it will. I do think the process of playing in time to a metronome does, though. To play in time requires that you engage your mind and your body.

To engage your mind, subdivide the pulse by counting in eighth notes i.e., “One & Two & Three & Four &." Subdividing the beat helps you anticipate the next beat in an more even and manageable manner. If you can count and play at the same time, you are well on your way.

To engage your body, move to the beat. You need to internalize the pulse, and the simplest way to do that is to tap your foot to the pulse. If you can count, tap your foot, and play at the same time, you are very well on your way to having great musical timing.

Once you have a grasp of how to play in time, using a metronome becomes a valuable tool for gauging your progress. Anytime you are learning material, whether it’s a scale, phrase, rhythm, arpeggio, etc., start at a tempo that you can manage to play the part correctly. This may be a slow tempo, but its important to learn the material correctly before accelerating it.

As mentioned in the previous “Rut Busters” lesson, make your practice session is goal-oriented. If you are starting at 60bpm on the metronome, your goal may be to play the material at hand at 70bpm by the end of your practice session. It should feel like you are pushing yourself to your limit by the end of the session, and you may hit a ‘wall’, but rest assure that over time, you’ll become stronger and the tempo will continue to rise.

If you are practicing on an electric guitar and are hitting that proverbial brick wall, having plateaued at a certain metronome setting, I highly suggest you try practicing with an acoustic guitar. The acoustic’s higher action and tighter string tension will surely make things more difficult—but that’s good. You might find at first that you can’t play the musical passage at the previous tempo, but give it a few days, feel the burn, and when you do return to the electric guitar, it will feel much easier. The trick is to mix it up, keep your fingers engaged and keep pushing.

Take a look at the accompanying video. I hope it inspires you to start using a metronome more regularly, and to mix up your practice routine with an acoustic guitar.

Guitarist Adrian Galysh is a solo artist, session musician, composer, as well as Education Coordinator for Guitar Center Lessons. He's the author of the book Progressive Guitar Warmups and Exercises. Adrian uses SIT Strings, Seymour Duncan Pickups and Effects, Brian Moore Guitars, and Morley Pedals. For more information, visit him at readers can enjoy a FREE download of Galysh's song "Spring (The Return)" by clicking HERE.

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