How to Use a Metronome or Click to Improve Your Timing on Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary 26th June 2018
In this video practice diary, I’m using a metronome to improve my timing. I learned this cool metronome trick from a great bass player called Michael Mondesir. I’m playing a simple eighth note bass groove from my book Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove. But, the trick is that I’m displacing the click by a sixteenth note.
Advanced Metronome Exercise
Most musicians practise with a metronome at some point. If you find it easy to play in time with a metronome, how can you continue to improve your timing. There is a huge leap from being able to play in time with a click to having perfect timing, and the exercise in this video is designed to bridge that gap.
The concept is, that the metronome doesn’t have to always count on the beat. The example that I’ve played in the video features me displacing the metronome onto a sixteenth note subdivision. But there are so many potential variations of this idea that one post or video couldn’t possibly feature all of them.
In order to play this exercise you need to start with a bass groove that has a fairly simple rhythm. Preferably one that you know very well. When Michael Mondesir demonstrated this to me he used the bass line from Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. I’ve used an example from Chapter One of my book because it’s not dissimilar. Click here for more info. Here is the example.
Once you have your bass line, simply play it with a metronome as if the click is a sixteenth note off the beat. In the example in the video, the click is effectively playing this rhythm.
You could also play with the click a sixteenth after the beat, meaning the rhythm would be like this.
Another variation would be to play with the click playing once every three sixteenth notes. Like this.
More Advanced Metronome Exercises
There are so many potential variations of this that I can’t list them all. But an obvious one would be to do the same thing with triplets rather than sixteenth notes. You could play with the click a triplet before or after the beat. Or you could play with the click counting triplets in groups of four.
If you practise in this way, your timing will improve. It’s so much harder to use a metronome like this rather than the conventional way.
The next step would be to slow down the metronome and play with fewer clicks. For example, If you’re playing a bass groove at 120BPM. You could set the metronome at half speed, 60BPM, so it would count two clicks per bar. Then, you could play as if the two clicks were playing a sixteenth after beat one and a sixteenth after beat three.
That’s just one more example and obviously there are so many variations. One step further would be to set the metronome to 30BPM and you would have just one click per bar. You could play with that one click on literally any beat or subdivision in the bar. If you can do that and still make it groove then you will have an incredibly advanced sense of time in music.
However, learning to keep such amazing time on any instrument is a lifetime’s work. Just like learning harmony or any of the other fundamental aspects of music. You need to start slow and gradually build it up over time.
How Long Does it Take to Get Perfect Timing?
Michael Mondesir first introduced these ideas to me about 10 years ago and I still practice them regularly. I don’t think I will ever stop practising like this because my timing isn’t perfect and it never will be. All we can do is try to keep improving each time we practice. Enjoy!