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Thread: need help understanding counting speed on metronome

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2009

    need help understanding counting speed on metronome

    I am unsure what it means when a guitar player says that they can play (for example) 160 beats per minute.
    I have never concerned myself with how many BPM I could play but I see alot of posters touting how many BPM they can play so I thought I would measure myself.
    So what do I do...set my metronome on something and then play a note every time it clicks? Is that what it means? Or is it playing quarter or eight notes between clicks.
    Any help understanding this speed measuring phenom would, as always, be much appreciated.

    Thank you and a safe and Happy Independence day to all of my fellow americans !

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Twickenham, UK
    Quote Originally Posted by daystar
    I am unsure what it means when a guitar player says that they can play (for example) 160 beats per minute.
    It's meaningless, unless they say whether they are playing quarter notes, 8ths or 16ths (or whatever) at that tempo.
    BPM figures indicate "beats" (er, duh), which are normally represented by quarter notes. 16ths at 160 bpm is 4 times as fast as quarter notes at 160!

    As a rough guide, 8th notes at 120 bpm means 4 notes per second (not very fast). 16ths at 120 would be 8 notes per second. (Shredders often give figures in "nps", which is a true measure of speed.)
    16ths at 240 would be 16 nps - about as fast as physically possible with alternate picking, but legato (using pull-offs and hammer-ons) can produce higher nps rates.
    However, those speeds are a little insane, IMO.

  3. #3
    Registered User zildjidan's Avatar
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    Oct 2007
    St Paul, MN
    I think you can use a metronome in a variety of ways, as long as it stays consistent.

    For example, instead of playing 8th notes on every beat at 120 beats per minute (2 notes per click) try practicing with the metronome on the off beats (the "and" of the beat).

    You will still play 2 notes per click, but now the click is on the 2nd note, not the first note.

    Once you master this.. try putting the click on the E's and the A's (tricky!), but keep the same tempo, and start whatever phrase you are practicing on one.

    This will drastically tune-up your inner rhythmic clock!

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  4. #4
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Twickenham, UK

    The purpose of a metronome is not to increase your speed. It's to train you to play in time (with a consistent pulse), at any tempo.

    The easy (beginner) way is to have it clicking on the beat (quarter notes), at whatever tempo you want to practise at.
    If playing really slow, and having trouble with keeping time - eg on a tricky lead riff, you could set it to click on the 8th notes (double the bpm).

    Once you're comfortable playing to 1/4-note clicks at various tempos, do as zildjidan says, and halve the bpm, so the metronome only clicks on half of the beats. Feel it as beats 2 and 4. This means you have to guess where 1 and 3 are falling, which trains your inner clock.
    Jazz musicians go further and set the click on beat 4 only. This is tough!

    Also tough (and therefore good training) is to set the bpm slow anyway. Say 40 or less. Try and play a note on each click.
    This is all about imagining (feeling) the intervening beats or sub-beats, so you end up with your own internal clock.

    Don't worry about increasing your speed. The more play the faster you will get anyway. Keeping good time is more important than playing fast.

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Great advice and exercises as always! Thanks for the direction and instruction guys!
    I played with a metronome for 3 years solid back in 1976 when I was taking classical lessons but after that I never used one again untill about a week ago. I have basically been playing in my room for the last 6 months trying to learn to play again after about a 10 year lay-off. Using the metronome/ drum machine I just bought has been eye opening-to say the least, but I am now finding that it is REALLY helping with creativity in my phrasing. Whereas I was getting kinda stuck in a rut now my lead lines are opening up and advancing.
    I suppose I had slightly forgotten that timing/rhythem is integrel to music...lol.
    Thank you again for your thoughts and time on time...lol

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