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Fun With The Metronome – Play Right On, Ahead, Behind


            Yes I know, playing with a metronome can be about as exciting as watching paint dry or watching the grass grow. Here’s a different challenge to try when playing with a metronome. Set your metronome to a medium tempo. Somewhere around 80 – 112 should do it depending on your current abilities. Now choose a one-measure sequence to work with. This could be a short riff, lick, scale pattern etc. For our example I’ll say we’re playing eighth notes using a minor pentatonic scale pattern. Play the scale so that the eighths are “locked in” to the tempo. You should be playing the downbeats exactly on the click. So much so, that the sound of the metronome virtually disappears, the sound of the notes you’re playing buries it. Now, without stopping, “push” those eighth notes so that they occur ever so slightly before the click. This is called “playing in front of the beat”. Believe it or not, it helps if you lean your body (or at least your head) forward while playing in front of the beat. Now let’s bring the beat back to center or “locked in”. Now, the other way. Pull those eighth noted slightly “behind the beat”. Your downbeats should sound ever so slightly after the click of the metronome.

            If you can start playing locked in, push a little ahead of the beat, then pull back and play behind the beat, you will gain a strong control of timing, groove and feel. This is a difficult challenge. Take some time with it. For a great example of playing behind the beat, listen to the way John Bonham plays drums, or Lenny Kravitz for that matter. It adds a really cool feel to the groove. Playing ahead of the beat adds a feel of anticipation and urgency. Try them all! Have fun and good luck with it! 

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