Improving Your Chord Playing by Using a Metronome

Imagine that you are learning the chords to a favorite song. You are placing your fingers on the strings the right way, and they are starting to sound the way you want them to. But, you are missing…something. What is it?
One of the most challenging parts of learning guitar, especially at the beginning, is being able to transition form one chord to the other without hesitation and without making the chords sound “tinny” or muted. A large part of this comes from learning how to time your fingering and stay in rhythm. Here is one important tool that will help you on your way to becoming a better guitarist.

Playing in time – it’s all about the rhythm

When you are beginning as a guitarist, your best friend – aside from your instructor, of course – is the metronome. This is an essential tool for your success. You can get the traditional pendulum type or a small electronic metronome that can fit easily in your guitar case. Learning to play in rhythm without a metronome is almost impossible.
Whether you are playing by yourself or in a band, the songs you play have a steady beat or pulse. Undoubtedly, you have found yourself tapping your foot when you are listening to music. This is a demonstration of pulse in action!  A metronome keeps a dependable, steady pulse which will keep you on track. It will click with each pulse, and give you a visual cue with each pulse as well. The pulse is completely adjustable – from what may seem like an eternity between beats to a maddeningly fast beat that even an expert violinist would find hard to keep up with. This gives you a full spectrum of beats to work with.

Starting out with the metronome

Before beginning practice with a metronome, here’s another concept: Music is broken up into measures. Most songs, particularly of the rock genre, have 4 beats per measure. If you tap your foot four even times, that would be a measure.

Let’s start. We will use a 4-beats-per measure song with 4 chords for this demonstration. The first four chords of the song are G-D-Em-C, with each of the chords lasting for one measure, or four beats.

Begin by playing the metronome at a slow speed. Don’t play anything yet, just count along with the metronome, 1-2-3-4. Now begin playing the first chord on the first beat of the measure.  If it still takes you some time to switch from chord to chord, you can use beats 2-4 of each measure to get to the next chord in time for beat 1. So, in the example above, you’d play the G chord on beat 1, and start switching to the D chord on beats 2-4. Then, play the D chord on beat 1 of the next measure, etc. You should do this until you can play the entire song comfortably with the metronome in this way.

Once you have accomplished this, you should start strumming chords on beats one and two. This allows you time to get ready to switch chords for the next measure. As you progress, strum the chord for each of the first 3 beats. Now it’s time to strum on all 4 beats, allowing just enough time to switch chords.

Keep practicing

Be patient with yourself! All guitarists have begun the same way as you. In time, you will be able to switch chords like a master.



Glenn Sutton
Ozzie’s Music
12222 Poway Road,
Suite #27
California 92064

Phone 619-306-3664


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