How To Play Drums To A Metronome

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How To Play Drums To A Metronome –  What Are the Benefits for Drummers

A metronome is a vital tool for any drummer as well as other musicians. As it provides a constant beat that can you can use to keep time during a practice session or performance.

There are many benefits to using a metronome. Including the ability to maintain a consistent and precise tempo, its main advantage. But also, to develop a greater sense of rhythm. And improve coordination between hands and feet. But most of all, is using a metronome to develop a stronger sense of internal rhythm. You develop the ability to keep time with the metronome over time. Rather than relying on their own internal clock in the beginning. Regular practice can then lead to significant improvements in timing and groove.

So if you’re looking to take your drumming to the next level, be sure to learn how to play drums to a metronome and add it to your practice routine. And I realize that this statement can be somewhat redundant to drummers. Who consider themselves to be good timekeepers, and to them, I ask this question. “When you are practicing with a metronome, can hear the metronome clearly?” If the answer is yes, then guess what?

There’s room for improvement.

I say that because when you are playing bang on time. In the pocket, if you will. Then you won’t be able to hear the metronome as it clicks along. And it’s kind of a natural response to think that you did something wrong when you can’t hear it any longer. It’s quite unnerving. The trick is, to keep on playing or practicing with the knowledge that you are playing perfect time.

For absolute beginners, let’s begin by setting up the metronome for the first time. Learn how to easily adjust the metronome to your desired tempo and start your drumming journey on the right beat.

How To Set the Metronome To the Desired Tempo

As any musician knows, learning how to play drums to a metronome is an essential ability for keeping time. This is even more true for the drummer. But how do you set the metronome to the desired tempo? The answer is simple, but first… how do you know what the desired tempo is in the first place?

Well, the best approach is to know how to read a basic drum beat. This is so because you want to be able to sing the drum beat internally before choosing a tempo to practice too. If in doubt, start at 60BPM (beats per minute) which will give you plenty of time to think. Then if the tempo is too slow for you, kick the metronome up 10 beats to 70 BPM. You can then increase the tempo as your skills develop. Try to stick to 5-10 BPM increments if possible when it comes to increasing the tempo. This is so you perfect each item on your practice list before moving on too soon. And developing bad habits and faulty muscle memory along the way.

So let’s say you have chosen 60 BPM. Use the plus and minus buttons to adjust the tempo until it matches the desired speed. This is for an electronic metronome of course. For example, if you want to play a piece of music at 120 beats per minute, you would set the metronome to that tempo.

Keep in mind, that some metronomes can only be set in increments of 5 BPM. So if you want to play at 126 BPM, you would need to set the metronome to 125 or 130 BPM. And then adjust your playing speed accordingly. Setting the metronome to the desired tempo will become second nature pretty quickly. As suspected, it all depends on your particular metronome model.

The point is to get you to start off slow at first as you develop your coordination skills. and program the muscle memory.

If you happen to use a traditional dome-type metronome. Then you slide the counterweight up the pendulum bar to increase the tempo. Oh and don’t forget to wind it up.

Playing Along With A Metronome – Tips and Tricks

A metronome is a musician’s best friend. If it isn’t, then it should be. It’s an essential tool for practicing. It will help you improve your sense of timing and rhythm. And thus, your confidence. But how do you play drums to a metronome and use it effectively?

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started.

As suggested before, you first need to start slow. It’s tempting to crank up the tempo right away. But it’s important to start slow and increase the speed as you develop. Otherwise, you’ll likely make mistakes and get frustrated in a best-case scenario. Over the long term, you may end up with bad habits of slowing down. If you didn’t practice slow enough whilst learning and then handle the faster tempos. Or, speeding up. Because you didn’t have the discipline to play slow and get it “in the pocket” from the start.

Second, don’t get too fixated on the numbers. The metronome is there to guide you. But ultimately, you should be listening to the music, not counting the clicks. The clicks are there for the drummer to listen to, then move on and focus on the other musicians. And if they are rushing, you bring them in line with the actual count of the metronome clicks. You do this by not allowing them to pull the band away from the metronome time. Your time. In other words, lock them in.

That is unless they also have a click track blasting in their ears. And so are only pushing the song forward whilst remaining true to the click. Keeping it in the mind’s eye, (or ear) so to speak, as they push the music forward.

Last but not least, experiment with different settings and find what works best for you. For instance, I prefer a woodblock sound to a cowbell and an electronic bleeping sound. But you choose what you prefer. Some people prefer a regular slow tempo to practice too. While others find it helpful to change the tempo often. I myself prefer to practice everything at 60 BPM (which is quite slow). This gives me plenty of time to focus on the spaces.

That’s right, knowing where the clicks are, there is no real purpose behind focusing on them. The spaces are where the drumming pulls together and mistakes or errors get cleaned up. And in the end, better timing is the result.

Of course, using faster tempos can also help. But I find the faster tempos were pretty easy after spending so much time in the gutter of 60 BPM so to speak. But that depends on the style of drumming you are into. Thrash Metal may need practice at faster tempos but I tend to try t avoid thrash or heavy metal. I favor dynamic drumming over thrashing the * out of the drums. But each to their own and that’s fine.

The important thing is to find what helps you focus and play your best. So don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what works for you. So keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master of the metronome. And a master of time.

Advanced Ways To Use A Metronome

Okay, I admit it, that headline is somewhat of a non-sequitur. A metronome is a metronome is a metronome. There are no advanced ways to use one. But there are three perspectives to follow. As you go through the process of improving your playing and timekeeping.

One great way to start learning how to play drums to a metronome and then use one, is, as I suggested earlier, to set it at a slow tempo. And focus on playing each note as close to perfect as you can. This may seem tedious, but it’s actually a great way to build precision and control. Not to mention mastery. Once you’ve mastered playing at a slow tempo. You can increase the speed until you’re playing at your desired tempo. And to be honest, the desired tempo should be slow too. But that’s only my way. Try it and see how your playing improves because of this slow perspective.

From an advanced perspective. This slow practice gets you to focus on the space. Which in turn gets you to hear what you are playing from an external point of view. Much like (and begins the process of) Dave Weckl’s… “listen to yourself play as if you were listening to a recording” technique.

Another effective way to use a metronome is to practice counting odd time signatures. As you play them at random. This is a great way to challenge yourself and improve your sense of rhythm and time. Start by setting the metronome at a comfortable tempo with no accented first beat. And then play along with it, counting out the different time signatures as you go.

For example, if you’re practicing in 4/4 time, count “1-2-3-4” as you play. Then try 3/4 time by counting “1-2-3” for 8 bars, or 6/8 time by counting “1-2-3-4-5-6.” Write a line of time signatures and go through them all. Start with these taken from The Drum coaches book 5 in the Foundations Series. Odd Time Drumming Foundation.

  • 4/4
  • 3/4
  • 2/4
  • 6/8
  • 5/4
  • 7/4
  • 9/4
  • 5/8
  • 7/8
  • 9/8

As you become more comfortable with odd time signatures. You’ll find that your general sense of rhythm improves in relative increments.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get creative with your metronome practice. There’s no reason why you have to stick to boring old 4/4 time all the time. Or playing 1/16th note drum fills. Try Steve Smiths’ Part 1 – Odd Grouping Video, as well as the Part 2 Video, and practice playing, fills in groups of 5, 7, and 9. The links I provide may not work and you may have to do a little searching. But those videos are great for timing in general. And especially the odd grouping exercises. They will do your time keeping the world of good.

Another great technique to help your timing is the Dave Weckl videos. Especially The Next Step video as he includes a technique he calls “playing backward”. It’s a great technique to master.

It may surprise you how your drumming sounds when you start thinking outside the box. And begin using these techniques as timekeeping exercises and development. So go ahead and experiment – who knows what you’ll come up with! And remember, a big part of this is buying lots of drumming books. And trying the techniques to find the ones you like. In the end, you will come out of the experience as a great reader. Of drum music I mean.

In case you are looking to get yourself a metronome, below I linked to a couple of great options.

Donner DPM-1 Mechanical Metronome

The Donner DPM-1 Mechanical Metronome is a classic-style metronome.

Every drummer should own one or more of these different style metronomes. They are a simple mechanical option that allows you to sit down with your practice pad. Set your tempo, and start your practice session. Simples!

Ideal for single pad rudiment practice. Click the image to find out more.



Sondery Digital Metronome


The Sondery Digital Metronome is a classic digital-style metronome.

It has the capability to play in odd time signatures and has various sounds installed. It also has a USB connection for recharging the Lithium battery. And is a simple option and great for rudimentary or full kit practice via the headphone socket.

Click the image to find out more.



Boss DB-90 Metronome

The Boss DB-90 Digital Metronome is a fantastic option if you’re feeling flush.

Includes human voice count as well as having the ability to play odd time signatures. And so has to be one of the very best options.

It also has a headphone socket and PC connection capabilities too. Plus many advanced features.

Click the image to find out more.




Time To Stop The Metronome

So there you have it. A few simple ways to help you get the most from your metronome (your mechanical or digital friend). Experiment with each of these tips and see what works best for you. And don’t forget to share your own tricks in the comments below – I’d love to hear them!

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful. Be sure to let me know how you get on in the comments below and share your own tips for using a metronome. And don’t forget, if there’s anything you want us to cover in more detail in future posts, let us know. Happy practicing!

The Drum Coach

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