Tag Archives: Metronome

Metronome Ideas and Tricks

Having a strong foundation in rhythm can help a pedal steel player’s musicality. Using a metronome is one of the best ways to build a player’s rhythmic skills, and can go a long ways on and off the bandstand.

Here are some ideas and tips for practicing with a metronome…

-Speeds

Most of my practice with a metronome involves using it at a slow tempo. This allows me to really calibrate my attack on the strings with the beats of the metronome.  I am usually in the 55-75 BPM range, often in the 60’s.  By calibrating my attack, what I mean is I try to hear sonically if I’m slightly ahead of the beat, right on top of it, or playing behind it.

These three modes of attack can allow one to have more options rhythmically when playing with others. Playing ahead of the beat, without rushing it, can help drive certain parts of songs and give them more flare.  Playing on top of the beat is more common, and entails playing on time with the music surrounding you — you’ll be in time without accentuating the time too much and drawing attention away from the lyrics or song. Playing behind the beat can be fun too, and add more tail end to the percussive attacks of other instruments, without losing timing.  When doing this, your attack on the strings will very minutely follow the immediate sound of the beat.

WatchHands

-On 2+4

This is a good trick for working on your timing, and can help when learning jazz rhythms too.  Set your metronome real slow (I usually set it between 40 and 60 BPM).  Then allow the beats you hear on the metronome to act as beats 2 and 4 of the measure (4/4 meter), and beats 1 and 3 will be in between these and inaudible on the metronome.  Basically, you are using the metronome only for beats 2 and 4, while allowing your brain and mind to hear and interpret beats 1 and 3 on your own. When you do this, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of when the snare drum usually hits, and you’ll be able to accentuate beats 2 and 4 more within your playing. Having to fill in 1 and 3 on your own will give you practice and understanding of the function of these beats too.  After all, you are the one “making” these beats happen in your mind. For more practice ideas and exercises, switch it up: have the metronome only sound beats for 1 and 3, while you interpret 2 and 4 on your own.

ClockFace

-Get a good timbre

Finding a nice, pleasant sounding metronome is important for getting the most out of your practice. After all, who wants to continuously listen to a repeating noise that is annoying sounding It’s like playing with a drummer: it is much more enjoyable to play with one that sounds good, than one that doesn’t, ha!?

I recommend downloading multiple metronome apps that are free on your phone, then experimenting with them to see which one sounds best to you. Also, I recommend the app called DrumGenius. It has a great selection of drum loops in many music styles, which all sound great. It is a great way to practice rhythm, while adding a more realistic aspect to your session – with a good sound system it can feel like you are practicing with a drummer. This can really help when you get on the bandstand.

-Using with a drone

When practicing scales, intervals, arpeggios, etc. it is often very beneficial to have a drone track in the background. Try to use a metronome when practicing with a drone, as this will be beneficial in many ways: improving intonation, solidifying your timing, training your ears, making your practice more musical, etc. For more on practicing with a drone, check out these articles:

Practicing Music with Drones

Creating Your Own Drone Track


I hope these tips and ideas on using a metronome help players get more out of their practice time. Often, the best way to calibrate one’s timing on and off the instrument is to practice with a metronome.

For more practice ideas check out this page!!!

Pedal Steel Practice Tips

Here’s a couple tips for how to get the most out of your practice sessions.  Useful music practice tips for pedal steel or other instruments…

Practice Rigs & Tools

Using a Metronome


PRACTICE RIGS & TOOLS

Music Practice Tips - A good practice rig with all essential tools

If you are going to spend a good amount of time practicing, and want to get the most out of it, then having a well-organized practice rig will benefit you.  This includes having the necessary tools for your practice session nearby, and being able to easily grab/use them while at your steel. 

Let’s say you’ve spent 15 minutes practicing that bluesy riff that you heard a cat play last night, and you’ve finally got it down.  You are focused, it feels good to finally nail it, and you want to try it at a faster tempo, with a drone track (continuously sounding note/chord) behind it.  If you can play your drone, and fire up the metronome, within seconds of deciding to use them, then you can keep your focus and nail that lick at up tempo.  However, if you spend the next 10 minutes looking for your metronome, or hooking up your speakers, or checking your email, or eating animal crackers, then you will lose this important moment in your practice session.  You will have lost the one moment you truly felt you could nail that lick.  It may take another day, or hours, or weeks, before you feel that focused/confident again at your instrument. So do yourself a favor, keep the right tools at your disposal when practicing, and make the most of it!

Important practice tools: metronome, speakers or playback system, pencil, blank tablature paper, a clock/timer, tuner, headphones, a power outlet, and whatever else may be necessary. Click here to see specific tools I use when practicing.  

Music Practice Tips - Headphones for silent practice - Also pencil, stopwatch, stereo, and power outlet

Above is a player’s view from the left-side of the steel.  You’ll notice that with my left-arm, while comfortably seated at my playing position, I can reach/use the following at any point in my practice session: my headphones, tuner, iPod and speakers, headphones, pencil, and extra outlets from power surge protector.

Here’s a closer view of the front left-side of my practice rig…

Music Practice Tips - Stereo, Timer, Metronome, Power Strip, Pencil


Below is a player’s view of the right side of my practice rig.  This side includes less, as I have a harder time utilizing tools when picks are on my fingers.  You’ll notice my tuner/pedalboard, and I have room for other things.  Sometimes I will utilize my recording console on this side, or my laptop, or iPad.

Pedaltrain pedalboard w/ TC Electronic Polytune


Here, one can see my recording console is positioned by back right leg of pedal steel, so I can access this and my computer with my right arm.  Having your recording equipment ready to roll can help with memorizing riffs, recording song ideas, hearing your timbre, and learning how to record pedal steel.

A side-view of home recording equipment for pedal steel players.


Pedal Steel Practice
A back-side view of practice rig for a small room

Music Practice LED lamp

It’s also a good idea to get an LED desk lamp.  Good light can help with bar control practice when aiming for visual targets (fret markers).


USING A METRONOME

The best way to get a good sense of timing, is to practice most of the time with a metronome. It is usually more beneficial and worthwhile practicing at a slower tempo. This will help your muscle memory be more defined, precise, and accurate, and you will be “crystallizing” your good habits, instead of mistakes (you are less likely to make mistakes when going slow than fast).

Using a metronome for pedal steel practice

I use free metronome apps on my phone, since they’re free and handy all the time. Some of them have harsh tones, so I recommend finding one with a beat tone that you won’t get sick of after practicing with for a long time. If it’s annoying sounding, you won’t want to practice with it, and your ears will get fatigued. Practicing a lot with a metronome will help you deal with a click track when you get into the studio too! And your drummer will respect you on a more subconscious level!


Pedal Steel Headstock with Bar, Headphones, and Metronome

Look at how much room our headstocks have to hold practice items.  Here I can easily fit my bar, metronome, headphones, picks, etc.


You can find more practice tips and suggestions here!

Remember: practice smart, not hard.