Training the inner metronome

Hi everyone,

I’ve had some really useful feedback from @tommo on a TC about focusing on repeating note single string patterns to increase my speed. That’s already helping me quite a bit.

However, I notice that my ability to differentiate or track blocks of notes or accents falls apart once I get above subvocalisation speed. I think it was @Tom_Gilroy who described the need to tie everything back to your “internal metronome” (apologies if not). I totally agree but internal or external, it all quickly becomes an indistinct blur of 16th notes.

Does anyone have any tips or links that might help me with this?

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What happens when you use a regular metronome at speed?

So, I have two failure modes!

If it’s set to a click per 16th note, as it gets faster, I get overwhelmed/can’t tell if I’m hitting the marks from around 80. That I can understand, I guess.

If I switch to 1 click per quarter note, then I struggle to keep tabs on the number of strokes around the same bpm. It’s marginally better if I’m changing notes on the click. But even actively trying to accent the quarter note stroke it is quite a challenge for me to distinguish.

I’m not a huge fan of exercises but this was a case where I knew I needed something. This did wonders for my hand sync. The accents are key, and the fact that we’re playing a pattern of repeating 3’s but in 16ths helps really get to heart of the issue…which is that the picking hand has to be a little motor that never stops and the same is true of the fretting hand. But it’s a separate motor and this drill works the coordination of the 2.

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I find if alternate picking I tend to find anchor points. For example, groups of two is every downstroke. Groups of four is every other downstroke; DOWN up down up DOWN up down up. Groups of 3 is alternating down and up; DOWN up down UP down up. Groups of 6 is two groups of 3.

Most people anchor their first downbeat to a downstroke, but if you do it with an up, just reverse what I wrote above.


What happens if you slowly go up in speed by one bpm at a time?

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Er also, sorry, this may be a dumb question, but do you know how to count rhythms? Eg

8th notes:
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

16th notes

1 e and uh 2 e and uh etc

8th triplets

1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let
1 and uh 2 and uh 3 and uh

16th note triplets

1 trip let AND trip let 2 trip let AND trip let

Not a dumb question, appreciate you asking. Yes, I do.

To me the problem is that I can’t “feel” the rhythms once I’m beyond the (slow) speed where counting the rhythms out loud or as an internal monologue.

Thanks, I need to spend a bit of time repeating this but broadly about 95bpm I start to feel unclear about whether I’m hitting the intervals and whether my timing/pick direction has flipped direction.

So without having like a total picture of everything going on in your situation, throwing out a few more recommendations:

Obviously trying to just nail these things on one note is helpful so that you can just think about rhythms and picking and take out the fretting hand as well as L/R sync issues.

But creating super simple figures that emphasize the note grouping is also useful. Joe’s examples get in the ballpark of what I mean, but I’m thinking much simpler than that.

note the ACCENTS for all examples:

eg this is nice for 4s:

even simpler for 4s:

for 3s:

for 6s:

I also like this kind of thing for 6s:

But the other piece I wanted to throw out there was just doing this stuff with your HANDS and the metronome. “down up” becomes “right left” or even just little finger taps. I spent a few years learning how to play drums and it helped me a lot, you just feel the note values in a different way. Maybe something about having to coordinate the right side and left side of your body for downbeat/upbeats, I don’t know, but anecdotally I feel it helped.

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So what happens at 93 and 94?

Assuming this isn’t a physical issue (meaning, you have some sort of smooth picking motion), have you spent any time trying to transcribe music at full speed? It needn’t even be transcribing the pitches, just the rhythms. For instance, can you figure out the rhythm for the melody starting around :21 here?


Possibly I’m over-simplifying this… but as a guy who doens’t normally tap his foot in time while he plays, I’ve found when I make myself do this, it makes my playing perceptibly rhythmically tighter.

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Oh yeah this is spot on, accents are key for keeping coordination, sometimes I’m messing something up techniquewise but it gets fixed by paying attention to accenting in order to keep coordination of both hands.

Now if you are really struggling with keeping time with the guitar it might be a good idea to also practice rhythm with out a guitar in order to develop your internal metronome. Maybe it’s just too much to think at once so dropping the guitar and clapping along or using both hands to clap on your legs might be helpful, I’d say try something like that with a slow metronome speed for starters and get really familiar with your subdivisions and accents.

Work on the basic ones at first whole, half, quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes and then triplets, quintuplets, sextuplehts, septuplets for example. Getting really good at identifying the subdivion of a musical piece is great aswell since you can think of the subdivision to help you stay in time better.