Beginners often under-appreciate just how difficult it is to play evenly in time but playing in time is as important as any other aspect of playing an instrument because a universal common denominator in all music is time.
Technology has availed both metronomes, drum beat apps and videos with drum beats for free or nearly free. The best free Android metronome I've tried is called “metronome beats”. And for Apple devices, “metronome plus” is great.
The first thing to consider when practicing with a metronome/drum beat is volume. Your metronome needs to be louder than you are so that you can clearly hear each click.
Another great option to make practicing more pleasant is to play along with drum beats. An advantage of this is that drum beats contain more parts you can take cues from to maintain good timing as compared to a metronome which is typically either clicking in quarter or eighth notes plus it simulates the real world experience of playing with a drummer. YouTube has an incredible number of drum beat backing tracks available and you can specify the genre of music and tempo you'd like, for example: a Chicago blues shuffle at 120 bpm. (beats per minute)
Lastly, here's some advice for playing with a metronome: As a beginner, you should practice primarily against quarter notes, that means you will play one note per click of the metronome. Then, when you're consistently good at that, practice playing eighth notes against the metronome in quarter notes and practice quarter notes against the metronome in eighth notes.
A common denominator off all music is rhythm/time - it's the glue that holds everything together!
Developing an ability to keep solid time is surprisingly challenging. I believe it's critical for beginners to work on their rhythm with as much attention and priority as any other aspect of learning their instrument. Your main tool in this endeavor is the metronome, a device or phone/tablet application that beeps or clicks to keep the beat/time.
The 4 basic rhythms (note values) I have students initially work with are: whole notes (= 4 beats) half notes (=2 beats) quarter notes (=1 beat) and eighth notes (one half beat or 2 notes per beat)
Underlying the rhythm is the beat, the beat (for beginners) will be determined by the metronome. Every time the metronome clicks equals 1 beat. Once you've obtained decent proficiency with your picking and fretting hands and exercises you can set your metronome at 80 bpm (beats per minute) and play 4 picks per string across all 6 strings, beginning on string 1, progressing through all 6 strings then coming back from string 6 through string 1. Then play the same exercise with 2 picks per string. You'll play 1 note per beat, (click of the metronome) those are quarter notes. Quarter notes are the best note value to practice at first because the margin of error playing them is the lowest of any note value due to the fact that for every metronome click you hear, you play a note. Once you become proficient at this, move the metronome up to 90 bpm and repeat the process.
Finally, play the same exercise with the 3 other note values. (whole, half and eighth notes) Then work on every possible permutation of the note values.
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