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I really need to work on my right hand technique and timing. I've tried to use a metronome but I find that it is not working out all that well for me. I've heard some pretty good players say that a drum machine is better to use to build timing. Does anyone have any thoughts on drum machines vs. metronomes?



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Hey Jim. I have trouble with a metronome too. I have GarageBand on my MacBook and like to set it up to play shakers. There's something about the feeling of the shakers that seems to get the rhythm into my body instead of listening to a metronome that only seems to get to my ears. So if I had to pick metronome or drum machine, I'd probably go with the drum machine. Trying to play with a metronome was just plain frustrating for me.
Thanks Mark. I was going to use the drums in garage Band. I did not think of using other sounds.
I use a metronome regularly in my practice. Also, I have a click track running in my in-ear monitors when I perform (I am the acoustic guitarist for country star Tim McGraw). The secret with using a metronome is that we naturally don't follow such things well by nature (speeding up, slowing down). It takes practice, believe me, but it's well worth it to develop 'pocket'. I do like some of the rhythms in Garageband as well. Also, most flatpickers are used to a limited amount of rhythm patterns, meaning that there are only a few common patterns in most flatpicking tunes. Using some of the others in Garageband develops skills that are useful in many areas of flatpicking, in a rhythmical sense. Good subject to discuss...
Man what a good topic! I never used anything to keep time and as you guessed it, I was all over the place. It is amazing how well you think you can keep good time without it but you will never know for sure until you use one. I prefer the simple click with the first beat accenutated to help me stay in time. I find myself lost if I don't use it now, especially on some tricky passage. Keep trying to use it, it will make you a better player guaranteed!

Hi Jim,

I'm a lefty playing right-handed and often feel I have problems with weak rhythm, timing and speed. I found that drum machines or similar help greatly for 'remedial' training. A metronome seemed to fail me at the times I needed it most, i.e., when things got hard or too fast, I'd just start ignoring it. Drum machine can be turned up so loud that you can't ignore (also you can program in measure, phrase and section endings, if the intent is keeping in sync in the bigger picture). That said, as soon as you get comfortable with playing it 'right' with a drum machine, you might want to do the same piece with a metronome to better develop your own sense of timing with only a 'guide', and when that is 'right', do it with only what is in your head, or with foot stomping and/or being very conscious of metronome-like action in the right hand.

Hi Jim. I use a metronome, a drum machine, Band In The Box and The Bluegrass Band as well as Steve Kaufman's rehearsal CD's. The metronome advantage is that it is simple and you can log your progress i.e. 85  BPM in week one to 90 BPM in week 3. It is useful to push yourself to concert tempos. You would never hit those tempo by yourself.

One tip to improve rhythm playing is to record a guitar rhythm track by playing and recording a good drum machine on a separate track. A good drum machine will have been programmed by drummers and have a groove or feel that will lift your rhythm playing. Then, take out the recorded drums. Your rhythm will have good time and hopefully you will have absorbed the groove of the machine. I prefer this method to using a click track for my own recordings. I have included an example - the guitar rhythm track was played to  a drum machine, which was then deleted from the mix.


Cheers, Steve 


Hey, I just wanted to reply a second time to this discussion.  I got "The Guitar Player's Guide to Developing Speed, Accuracy, & Tone" by Brad Davis & Dan Miller and started using a metronome as suggested.  I am getting used to the metronome.  It takes a while but I feel that I am becoming more able to adapt to the rhythm.  It can't help but improve my ability to play at a steady rhythm, and improve my flexibility in a jam.

At the suggestion of Tim Stafford at a workshop in Granville, Ohio (Denison University), I got an old fashioned windup mechanical metronome with the weight that swings back and forth on the arm.  I actually like it better than my electronic metronome.  You can see the arm swing back and forth and it gives a visual indication of the rhythm.  It also sounds better than the click of my electronic metronome.


I have been thinking of doing the same thing. The lack of visual cue makes electronic metronomes difficult for me to use.



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