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How to really use your metronome: 9 creative ways

Bron, in Music lessons
Jan 22, 2021 | 3 min read

Most of us probably use the metronome to hit every beat in the bar – to keep us in check. But, there are more creative ways to use the metronome, which develop your timing more effectively and help you internalize more complex rhythms. Here are some of our favorite ways to set up our metronome for rhythm practice:
(Pro tip – we save all these presets in a setlist, a feature available in our free Metronome App!)

1. Alternate bars on and off

Creative way to use the metronome: Set alternate bars on and off

Removing metronome beats will test your ability to stay on time independently.
Double the number of beats in your time signature (we have 8/4 here) and remove the beats in one half of the metronome cycle.

2. Displace the beat

Creative way to use the metronome: Displace the beat.
Displacing the beat by one sixteenth note.

Displacing the beat might take some getting used to at first, but change brings about growth, right? Feeling the accent in a different place will really help lock in your sense of time.

We’ve manually put in the 16th note subdivisions here (so you have a visual prompt to keep you on track) by setting 16 beats in the bar (for 16 sixteenth notes in a 4/4 measure). Of course, you can also play around with displacing the beat by 2 or 3 sixteenth notes as well.

3. Son clave

Creative way to use the metronome: Son clave.
How we like to set up the 3-2 son clave beat.

The 3-2 or 2-3 son clave rhythm is the most common pattern used in Cuban music and a great one to get in your bones.

We’ve set up a 3-2 clave beat here, with a small accent to keep the pulse on the 2-side of the cycle. Of course, you can customize the subdivisions as fits your needs. You can easily set up the 2-3 clave beat too by adjusting the accents within this 16-beat grid.

With the 16-beat grid here, we’ve essentially set up a two measure cycle of eighth note subdivisions (There are 16 eighth notes in two measures of 4/4).

4. 3:4 Polyrhythm

Creative way to use the metronome: Polyrhythm.

Can’t quite figure out how 3 fits against 4? You can set up the composite rhythm in a 12-beat grid like so. With the exception of the first beat (where both patterns start), the 4-pattern is marked with the medium accent, and the 3-pattern is marked with the smallest accent.

Use this grid as a refresher of how this polyrhythm sounds or when you want to improvise over this.

5. Beats 2 and 4

Creative way to use the metronome: Beats 2 and 4 only.

An oldie but a goodie. Set your metronome beats on 2 and 4 only to really feel the backbeat – It’s almost like you’re playing with a live drummer.

6. Alternate between meters

You know when you’re playing nice and steadily in simple meter, and suddenly a triplet comes your way that throws you off completely?

You can practice your fluidity between meters by alternating between duple and triple time: you can treat this 12-beat grid as a two-measure cycle (alternating between 6/8 and 3/4), or as a 12/8 grid with strong 2-beat swing.

This is also a fun grid to improvise over!

7. Downbeat every two bars

Creative way to use the metronome: Downbeat every 2 bars.

Same concept as alternating bars on and off, but you can keep taking out beats until you only have a downbeat every two bars. This is hard!

8. Odd tuplets

Creative way to use the metronome: Odd tuplets.
Grouping odd tuplets or odd meters in 3s and 2s help give more shape and phrasing to it all. In this example, we have a 3-2-2 grouping with the accents.

Odd tuplets aren’t the most common in most people’s rhythmic vocabulary, but they can really add some heat to your music and make it more interesting. Get used to counting in groups of 5s and 7s with the help of the metronome – with habit comes familiarity.

You can also set up a 10-beat or 14-beat grid if you want to play with two groups of 5s and 7s, respectively.

9. Ballad with no downbeat

Creative way to use the metronome: Ballad with no downbeat.

You could set up a 6/8 ballad feel with the triplet subdivisions in our app, but we think it’s way more fun to customize your own subdivisions.

With this setup where you just get the off-beats, you’ll have to really provide that secure, locked-in downbeat, instead of relying on the metronome. Try it out with a bunch of 6/8 songs!

Try out these metronome settings in the Metronome App by Soundbrenner! Don’t forget to save your favorite settings as presets (setting up the clave rhythm from scratch is quite a pain – try it yourself if you don’t believe me).

Soundbrenner is a company dedicated to help musicians stay focused on what truly matters: their music. By creating innovative devices, such as Soundbrenner Pulse and Core, our goal is to deliver the best possible practice experience for musicians. Click here to find out more.

Got a question about Soundbrenner wearables? Reach out to us at [email protected], we’re happy to help!

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