Those old metronome blues

I am trying to play (finger picking, not strumming) with a metronome. The trouble is, a song I can play at 70-80 bpm pretty steady without the metronome becomes a disaster as soon as I try the metronome, even slowed down to 45 bpm. It is like the metronome turns my hands to stone. I often fumble the very first few notes.

Turn off the “nome” and I do pretty well again, although sometimes I am shook for a while.

I do need to get on the metronome. Although it goes ok without, I know there are inconsistencies that need to be ironed out and I drift a lot. I also need some way to slowly grow towards full speed play.

Strumming is less of an issue.

I am sure it boils down to practice, slower.

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Joshua, as always practice. But also perhaps try to match the tempo on the metronome with your play without. Too slow may be more difficult if you are used to a slightly faster tempo.

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I have tried, and agree it could be helpful, but the hands of stone rebel.

I also feel like I make more mistakes and I want to slow down to the point I don’t.

I think the lesson here is to use the metronome earlier in one’s journey.

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Hi Joshua, I find it a good exercise whatever the BPM to use beat drops and bar breaks on Justin’s Time Trainer. I always include the latter to ensure I’m in sync with the rhythm of the metronome and not anticipating or waiting for the click.

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Joshua, it seems to me that you may have learned to fear it, it’s not uncommon!
Maybe it might be worth trying something else, for example a drum beat - I had the same issue and started using a simple drum track with just kick drum and snare; it works for me.


Good ideas! Thanks! I would like to think I am mature enough and confident in my own id that I don’t fear the metronome, but you are right, I fear…

I will try a less ferocious and fearsome drum beat.

“That’s no ordinary metronome (rabbit), it’s got big nasty teeth and a mean steak a mile wide”

Who said the original, unmodified quote?

When I started playing some years ago, my first attempt at the metronome was similar to what you described and it took all the joy out of my practice sessions. So I gave up on it.

Tried it again some months later. Same thing.

Third time again months later and it worked.

I’m now a big fan of the metronome and it’s helped me heaps. It may not be your time yet?

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Depending on what already works or doesn’t it’s hard to know if this will help but adding the metronome (initially) is giving you another level of complexity for your brain to think about so if it’s possible to simplify or reduce the number of things. Eg

  • if the rhythm isn’t on every beat, clap or tap to the metronome without the guitar
  • listen to the metronome and count or tap along so you sync / internalise the metronome and can anticipate it on its own
  • if the finger pattern is complex or changes then just play one part over or slightly simplified
  • if the fretting hand has lots to do then can simplify eg hold same chord or mute
  • try a simpler song to get used to metronome in general
  • if using tab or notation can mark the counts to follow vs the notes

Other things like find a metronome sound that stands out and you ‘get on with’, blend it into play at same time if playing along (some software and websites have notation, midi and metronome integrated and support changing tempo) and then turn down to just metronome overtime.

Some rhythms will be harder to adapt and some divisions will be harder to listen for and accommodate eg start with 4/4 and quarter notes or even whatever the ‘pulse’ of the piece is eg could be beats 1 and 3 so have a different tone for those and listen for them.

If you are learning by ear then it can be difficult to reconcile to the metronome and different speeds.

I guess it boils down to practice the metronome as a skill / layer in itself and build up to using it as a tool on a newer piece you are learning?

It may not be, but I do think I am limiting myself by not using it.

What I think happens is that playing without a metronome or beat measure, encourages or allows breaks in timing. Like a series of flow then hesitation. The hesitation is allowed without a beat to follow and I am learning a permanent bad habit.

So, ready or not, I think I need to persevere lest I have a bigger problem in the future.

Thanks @grayal, those are good thoughts. I have been trying to simplify and slow down, but that is hard too! I want to move forward, not backwards.

But I have taken some simple picking patterns and taken just the bass notes to hit with the metronome before adding in the melodic notes. I need to do a lot more of this. I need to quit my day job…

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Sounds good, go for it. Goodness awaits you

I would second the suggestion to play along with a drum beat. I struggle with a metronome - I am guessing that the tick is supposed to be of a very short duration for super accuracy, a nice fat drum beat may give more margin for error whilst still keeping time?

My playing along with drums isn’t perfect either though, I always get ‘intensity’ muddled up with speed and race ahead when the chorus drops…

I agree that drum beats are somehow more ‘natural’ to use as a steady time keeper in many respects.

Here are a few that I have created - people may find these useful.



Came back to this topic and spotted this, which makes me think Holy Grail … the Monty Python version

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African or European :wink:

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I don’t know….ahhhhhhhhhhh!



The metronome of Caerbannog!

The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog is a fictional character in the Monty Python film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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Bring forth the Holy Hand-grenade of Antioch

It wasn’t real ??? :scream: