TOP 10 GUITAR LESSONS MYTH #6 | I will get better at timing by using a metronome: FALSE!

Hearing the sound of that clicking metromy thing is like Chinese water torture!  I really just want to take a sledge hammer and smash it. There are few things more soul killing for your music than trying to play to one of those things. I just I can’t discourage the use of them enough! And this is true even and especially for music where you would think your timing needs to be really precise such is EDM electronica or Latin music!  It’s easy for people to go accept this with the blues as their timing is “sloppy” whatever you want to call it. This video features Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter and it ain’t clocked to a metronome…

You can actually walk students through that but it’s the playing over tighter genres that really throws them.   If you play right on the beat or the click to Latin music or EDM the whole purpose of your live guitar instrument is negated.  It has to dance around that beat to sound “organic” and bring something to the ensemble.  Otherwise it’s “welcome to Midi World” and sounds like a Casio playing in a department store!  It’s rather amusing when you listen to one of my mixes of my original songs: you “solo” or and listen just to the tracks of my guitar solo in a vacuum without the rest of the track playing.   And you go “wow that sounds totally out of time; we need to redo this!” turn the track back on and it ebbs and flows in a way that really surprises you: this supposed to be super tight electronica. But it’s not.  Even players like Yngwvie Malmsteen have incredible feel.  Certainly when you get into classic rock and the blues the last thing you want to do is try to learn timing as a beginner by playing to a click.

I thought I was alone as a guitar teacher in this but one of my guitar students sent me a video where Keith Richards talked about this very thing and it’s great and included here so definitely listen to it:


I recommend students play over jam tracks for several reasons.  The first is that you’re getting very high-quality rhythm sections.  A lot of jam tracks are like the professional ones and that’s going to ebb and flow in a way that has good timing but also has feel. It’s the closest thing to play with world-class players such as Keith Richards discusses his interview!  And not only that but as a soloist you need a moving harmonic background: changing chords so that you can hear how your blues vocabulary for example is going to sound as those chords change.   Without a moving harmonic background just playing in a vacuum with a metronome is never going to give you this experience.  The only thing I use a metronome for in guitar lessons is a beginning chromatic exercise so the people contractor speed when their first learning an alternate picking and just 16th notes. Right after that, I move them away from it as fast as possible: it is the worst thing you can do to develop the kind of feel you want in a lot of pop music!  The only exception to this is from prog metal or extreme death metal where the timing is super precise and it’s actually ProTools corrected and a lot of metal records now are made just like electronic dance records, complete with blended drum samples and everything is just like totally mechanized and corrected.  Fear Factory is a band that openly admits and embraces Pro Tools corrected precise timing.

John Petrucci of dream theater is a big metronome advocate.  He’s a fantastic player and far more technically capable than I am.  And I am not disputing his approach per se.  What I would say to students as always: model the people who have found the success you would like!  If you want to sound like Jimi Hendrix you’re not going to get that sound learning time with the metronome.  If you want to sound like John Petrucci, well he practices with one.   If that’s the sound you’re going for then that’s what you should do. Always look at the players that you want to emulate and then learn how they got good at playing guitar and what they did and that is the direction you should go every single time!

Play it your way.

The Cypher way.

Rock on.

Jimmy Cypher out!