Practicing to a metronome not only turns you into a precise drumming machine, but it helps you improve your sense of internal time so that even when you aren’t playing to a click, you’ll still be spot on.
All you need is patience and a simple metronome (we used this free one from Google) to revolutionize the way you play the drums:
If you’re practicing at slower tempos, a quarter note click is going to have a lot of space between each pulse. Double the tempo of your click track (for example, from 60 BPM to 120 BPM) to get more reference points. It’s much easier to play along this way and there’s less room for error.
If you can have the click line up with every subdivision – for example, every 8th note in a fill or groove – you’ll lock in even tighter. Try playing a shuffle with 8th note triplets at 70 BPM. Now triple the tempo (210 BPM) so every hit of each triplet is emphasized. Doing this gives you more reference points to grab onto.
Rather than adjusting the click to what you’re playing, adjust what you’re playing to the click. Let’s say you put on a metronome at 75 BPM. Switch between rudiments and their respective subdivisions, like single stroke rolls with 8th notes, 16th notes, and 16th note triplets. You don’t need to be on a kit to practice this; as long as you have a pad or a pillow, you’re golden.
For an intermediate/advanced practice tool that’ll really help you lock in your sense of time, assign the click to a different position within the subdivision. We’re used to hearing a pulse on every quarter note (ONE and TWO and THREE and FOUR and). But why not shift the click by an 8th note so it falls on the off beats? (one AND two AND three AND four AND). Since it might throw you off at first, get used to listening to it on its own before you sit down on the kit. Once you’ve mastered this, you can try putting the pulse on the Es or the As as well, or on triplet partials.
This one is more difficult, but it’s worth it. Most drummers only have a quarter note reference but this exercise will help you learn to internalize different pulses by interpreting the click as an odd note grouping. You’ll get better at internalizing polyrhythmic pulses, improve your internal clock, and create implied metric modulation. Think of grouping three 16th notes, so instead of hearing the pulse on every quarter note, the pulse sounds like this: ONE e and A two e AND a three E and a FOUR e and A. Really listen to how the click outlines every three note grouping. With this implied metric modulation, it’s a great way to practice moving between a quarter note click and an odd note grouping click.
Like the first hack in reverse, leave more space in between each click. Quarter the tempo so you only hear a click on the first beat of each bar. This will test your internal clock and expose where you tend to rush or drag. It’s a humbling exercise, that’s for sure!
Hopefully these hacks will make metronome practice more interesting and challenging while giving you a new sense of confidence in your drumming. The best part? They really work!
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