Monday, October 26, 2015

Metronome Love, pt. 5: Soloing

If you've been soloing for longer than a month, I will bet money you've gotten off the beat at LEAST once.  Even if you're a cyborg and can nail any set tempo without fail, you're playing with other human beings and the tempo is never mechanical with people, it's organic.  It shifts and bends with and without you.

So I say to you, play your solos along to a metronome!

"But Adam," I hear you saying, "didn't you just say we're playing to something organic, NOT mechanical?"  Yep, I did say that.  Here's the thing - learning to solo to a metronome teaches you to know your tendencies.  Do you tend to rush?  That's very common.  Do you tend to play late?  Are you inconsistent?  Even if you're able to stay steady, are you able to tell where the downbeat is or are you just "using the force"?

Playing to a metronome means you can play without the pressure of having anyone else watch or judge your solo.  You can play with headphones if you need to, ensuring you'll definitely hear the downbeat.  You can play at any tempo you want, any volume you want.  But what you have to focus on is staying on tempo more than anything else.

If you tend to get off-tempo, it's all-too-easy to play to the metronome, get off, get back on, and repeat.  That might teach you to recognize when you get off more quickly, but it would be even better to learn how not to get off to begin with, right?

So get the metronome going at whatever tempo you want, imagine the song you're soloing to (or just solo to the beep/click), and FOCUS ON THE TEMPO.  If you can't hear the metronome, play softer or turn it up.  That's the gist of the drill, but it can be a lot more difficult when you add in movements and effort and oops, where did the downbeat go?  So if you find you're having trouble staying with the metronome, stick with a base tempo and keep things mellow.  Add more later.

This will translate to playing with other people, because you'll have learned how to listen, learned what your tendencies are, and can make the adjustments that you need to, so much easier.

A solo that gets off tempo is like pasta with overcooked noodles.  You might have the best sauce, the best presentation, and the best wine to go with it, but it winds up a disappointing experience.  Once the pasta is perfect, everything else makes it so much better!

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