By Lila Karash

Playing guitar with a metronome can be disorienting at first. It can seem like more of a distraction than an aid. When you are new to it, you might be listening only to yourself and focusing only on what your hands are doing. To use a metronome, you have to take the focus off of your hands a little bit so that you can move your awareness to the clicking sound of the metronome. Here are a few steps that will help you do this:

1. Set the metronome to a moderately slow beat, somewhere between 60 and 75 beats per minute.

2. Begin to tap your foot to the click. Your foot should go down on the click and up on the space between the click. You are tapping quarter notes. You can count them out loud: "One, two, three, four." Do this for a minute or two.

3. Do a muted strum by placing your fretting hand lightly over all 6 strings of the guitar so that you are deadening the sound of the strings. Do no press down - just rest. When you strum across the strings there should be a scratchy percussive sound but no notes. Begin to strum down on each click as you tap your foot and count the quarter notes. Do this for a few minutes. Listen for the click and try to be right on top of it with your strumming. If you are perfectly on the click, you might actually notice that it disappears because you are covering it with the sound of your guitar.

4. Now try strumming 8th notes: "down-up, down-up, down-up, down-up" or "one and two and three and four and." Keep your strumming arm moving like a windshield wiper - no stopping! Strum down on the click and up on the space between the click. Keep tapping your foot also.

5. Once the above exercises feel natural, try more complex strumming patterns like down-(skip), down-up, down-up, down-up  or: down-(skip) down-up, (skip)-up, down-up where the strumming arm keeps moving (remember the windshield wiper), but skips the strings in the right places. 

6. When you master step 5, try adding chord progressions.

You can also do the above exercises with notes instead of chords. Start by picking an open E string. One more tip: Use headphones. You'll pay more attention to the click if it's right in your ear!

November 14, 2020 — Carrie Bell

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