The dreaded metronome! How to stay in time when playing syncopated rhythms?

Been playing for a long time and am really lazy when it comes to using a metronome.

However, I’ve been recording myself a lot lately and can really hear my timing issues and don’t like it.

I’m ok playing to a metronome when playing on the beat but as soon as I start playing a syncopated rhythm (where you miss down strokes) or a rhythm that covers 2 bars I am all over the place.

Any advice or suggestions on exercises to overcome this?

Keep strumming / picking even if you dont make contact with the strings on those missed strokes, and count

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My approach would be to slow the metronome down until you reach a point where you can play it, then play it and gradually speed up the metronome as you master it.

And slow to start out might be (or feel) ridiculously slow, and that’s ok - you probably won’t stay at that pace long.

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I would also recommend some time not on the guitar, but counting, tapping, clapping and air strumming to the metronome.


I have a messy relationship with metronomes too! Some people here recently suggested that I use a drum track instead of a metronome. It could add a little fun and spice to the practice, and I might be able to “groove” with it more closely. Along with the advice above, maybe this suggestion could help you too. Happy playing! :sunglasses:


Agreed Donna, I find drum tracks much easier for this… and more fun! :joy: Heaps of options on YouTube at almost any bpm you want. In saying that there is something to be said for locking in with a metronome. I don’t probably do it often enough, but when I do, I find it worthwhile. Getting the foot tapping and hand constantly strumming seems to be the key (damn multitasking… always struggled with that! :joy:)


Justin’s Rhythm Reading Book did miracles on me. You start tapping the Rhythm and your foot on the beat at 50bpm, don’t be in a hurry, stay on 50bpm as much as you need, it’ll pay off! Do the exercises in the book with the metronome and without guitar. And repet the exercises several times. Hope it helps.

Thanks for the recommendation I will check it out

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Hi @ScottSullivan, obviously to master different strumming patterns and keep time is key. JG also featured a more ‘fun’ metronome app called time trainer, that has different practice options. One option is that you get the rhythm going with the metronome, and then it switches off, for you to continue in the rhythm, and to see if you have kept it going correctly, which is way more challenging than just follow the metronome. Then the key advice is indeed

, and "

An interesting and fun concept, if you have some spare money to burn, or have an especially forgiving Santa, is to use a pedal like TRIO Plus - by Digitech (Band in a Box). You provide the chord sequence and the speed by playing it into the pedal, and then IT will generate a proper percussion and bass track for you, to which you can practice your strumming, you select the music style, and hey presto. It also has a looper, so on top of it, you can record the loop of you strumming, and you can practice lead guitar to your hearts content. I got myself one, and for strummy songs I like to use it to figure out how a song might sound when played with a real rhythm section.

it took me a number of attempts before the metronome started to work for me. first time i tried the metronome it sucked all the joy out of my (badly timed) playing. So i put it aside for six months or so and then tried it again. Same result. The third time i tried was again some time later and it started to work very well for me.

Hang in there. Also if you are doing covers, try playing along to the youtube video of the original. when I was first learning, this was nigh on impossible for me. now it’s just natural. or use a drum track as others have suggested.

With a syncopated strum perhaps try having the metronome only beep twice per bar.

Justin recommends that you practice the pattern muting the strings so the chord changes dont come in to play. I find this really helps.

Hi Silvia. Got the Rhythm Reading book for Christmas. Started working through exercises and was wondering if there is any recommendation how long to spend on each section for stuff to sink in.

For example is it best to spend a week on each section before moving on or to just work on each exercise until it becomes easy?

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Hi Scott, I did all the exercises in the section starting from 50bpm and I graduaĺly increased the speed when I felt I could do them confidently…it was not actually easy at the beginning, read the Rhythms, tapping the foot along with the metronome and the hand on the Rhythm, got way more complicated with ties ( I did the rests chapter before the ties one because I found rests easier to read for me), but I made it eventually to get the exercises right at a slow speed. I built up to 100bpm in a few months, and that was more than enough for my purposes.

My advice would be to go as much slow as you need for you to feel comfortable and increase speed or move to another chapter when it becomes easy.

Check Justin’s Rhythm Maestro Course, on Grade 4. As a beginner I found using the book was better an easier for me than using the patterns on the course, but in the lessons he explains how to tap and it’s definetely worth checking those lessons.

Thanks a lot for your message, it came just in the moment I was going to write my new practice routine for January and you reminded me that I should find 5 minutes a day to restart working on the book…:sweat: I started with 30 minutes/day, I was quite desperate :joy::sweat_smile:
… let me know how it goes!! :blush: