29 July 2008

How to Play Guitar in Time

The Importance of Good Time

Playing guitar in time makes the difference between a great sounding song and a song that sounds bad. It's that simple. Music sounds good when it is played in time. If you listen to a player or a band that slows down and speeds up it will sound very strange.

The bottom line is that if you want to be a good guitar player you've got to get good timing. But how do you ensure that you develop this skill?

Get in Time, Stay in Time

There is only one way to get good at playing in time and that is to play in time, all the time.

Practice everything you do in time: chord changes and progressions, scales, licks, solos, exercises, and whole songs. Do this and you will develop the habit of playing in time so you won't need to think about it when you perform.

Practice without worrying about timing and you are sure to develop bad habits. You will slow down or speed up a little in different places without noticing it. And you know that bad habits are difficult, but not impossible, to change.

To practice in time you use a timekeeper to set the beat for you...

Tools of the Trade

There are several time keeping tools you can use to get your practice beat. Set a tempo, expressed in beats per minute, and get a sound on each beat. That's all there is to it. You listen to the beat and play in time with it.

You can get the beat from a metronome, rhythm box, computer software that simulates one of the previous, or a playback CD. But you should really opt for the metronome; it's the most useful of all the tools.

Why A Metronome is Best

You should use a metronome for practice because it is the easiest to use and provides the most flexibility.

It is easy to use. Just switch on, select the desired tempo on the dial or using up and down buttons and you're ready to play. You don't wait for the computer to start up and fiddle with menus to start the metronome software.

It has a built-in loudspeaker. You don't need an additional amplifier as is often the case with rhythm machines.

It is small and easily portable, you can fit a metronome into your guitar case or pocket. This is essential if you don't always play in the same place; you can take your metronome to your lesson or band rehearsal.

Are You Afraid of the Metronome?

Although the metronome is an essential tool to build good guitar technique some players are afraid of using one. This fear seems to arise from incorrect use of the metronome. There is of course a right approach to the metronome and a wrong one. But that's the subject of another post.

Want to learn about the wrong and right way to use a metronome? Get the posts from Not Playing Guitar that will show you delivered by email or to your RSS reader.

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