You’ll never be a worse guitar player for “wasting time” ripping through your favorite licks. Music is about having fun, so feeling like you have to whip out the metronome and run scales whenever you pick up your ax isn't healthy for a guitar player, beginner or advanced.
There’s a way you can optimize these inevitable moments of non-practice, too. All you need is some kind of time-keeping device at the ready, no matter what you’re playing. This doesn’t have to be a metronome, either. In fact, I’d use a metronome only when you’re trying to clean up certain techniques or master a lick.
Otherwise, I like my practice sessions to be musical, or else I can’t get excited about what I’m playing. This means using a loop pedal or backing track as the canvas for whatever mayhem you’re about to inflict on your guitar. These types of time-keeping tools will not only enhance the music you’re making; they’ll also improve your playing, because you’re motivated to stay in time with whatever music is happening behind you.
A loop pedal is my Number 1 preference, because it encourages composition and builds your rhythm chops, all in one stomp of the foot. Once you have an idea rolling, you’re free to noodle any way you want, just as you would if you hadn’t had any accompaniment. This time, though, you’ll be benefiting from a nice groove that can help you reign in your ideas and refine your skills as a guitar player without that monotonous, dreaded metronome click.
Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win (opens in new tab). His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.