There are many skills to work on in your drumming aside from learning cool beats and monster fills. Your ability to keep steady and accurate musical time is the most important skill you need. Equal to that is your ability to synchronize with another musician. Practicing along with a metronome is especially effective and addresses both of these skills. It is a device that ticks a steady tempo at whatever BPM (beats per minute) you choose. That’s what makes the metronome a drummer’s most important practice tool. I’d like to give you some tips for practicing with a metronome so that you understand how to get the most out of it in your practice time. Every lesson at simpledrummer.com has a built-in metronome for you. For loads of lessons on grooves, fills, songs and more, start your 14 day free trial today!
Where Can I Find A Metronome?
There’s a metronome in every lesson and song on simpledrummer.com, so if you don’t have you own, just use ours! If you want to find your own however, there are many different apps that you can download for free or for a small fee depending on the features it comes with. All you need is a device that you can plug headphones into, such as a smartphone or tablet and you can practice with a metronome anywhere. This is especially handy if you play the drums where there is no internet access OR if you often play in different settings like rehearsal spaces, schools, churches and gigs.
Here are a few of my personal favourite apps that are free.
3 Ways to Practice With a Metronome
Playing with a metronome is all about synchronizing with it at any tempo, no matter what you’re playing on the drums. Every click represents a beat (1, 2, 3 or 4). Some metronomes allow you to accent the first beat so that you hear it differently from the others. There are a number of things you can do in your practice so here are some simple ideas in case you are new to this.
Single Strokes – If you start with a simple 1/8th note rhythm and play it with singles (R L R L), then all of your right hand notes should match the clicks of the metronome. The left hand notes would be played between the clicks. Try this at slow, medium and faster tempos.
Double Strokes – Play 1/8th notes with doubles (R R L L). Since 1/8th notes are two notes per beat, then the first note of each pair should match the click.
Paradiddles – Play 1/8th notes with paradiddle sticking (R L R R L R L L). Since 1/8th notes are two notes per beat, then the click will match the right hand on 1 (R L) and 2 (R R), left hand on 3 (L R) and 4 (L L).
* You can practice drills like these as 1/16th notes or any other rhythm, but if you are a beginner then start with 1/8th notes.
Backbeat Grooves – Most grooves that drummers start out learning are backbeats grooves. These are groove patterns that have the Snare Drum played on beats 2 and 4. A large majority of music features this style of groove which is why most of us learn these before anything else. Here’s an example:
The metronome is always clicking 1, 2, 3 and 4. Most of the time, we’re playing the Bass Drum on beat 1 (like in the above example). That note should always match the first click. Since your Snare Drum is being played on beats 2 and 4, each Snare hit should match those clicks. If there is a Bass Drum note on beat 3, then it matches the click as well. If not, then it would only be your Hi-Hats that are played matching the click. Use the notes that match the click to help you steady the rhythms you play overall.
Steady Your Fills
If you can keep a repeating groove locked in with the metronome then try playing any fills you learn from a book or worksheet along with a metronome as well. The process of thinking creatively can sometimes affect the steadiness of the rhythms we play. For this reason, if you practice to play a groove and then improv some fills, you might find that you speed up or slow down during the fills.
1/8th Note Fill Improvisation – Try playing a simple groove pattern in a repeating 4 bar phrase. In the 4th bar you will improvise a fill (See notation below). Start with 1/8th note fills. As long as you are playing single strokes (R L R L), then the click should always match the notes that your right hand plays.
Pay extra attention to beat 1 (Crash) after any fill. Did you arrive there on time with the click or did you get there early or late? That is your indicator. If you get to the Crash even slightly before the click then you rushed your fill. However, if you get there late, then you slowed down during your fill.
There is a lot more that you can do with a metronome when you have a little more experience. Just remember that every lesson at simpledrummer.com has a built-in metronome. There are many more features inside each lesson at simpledrummer.com.