Friday, August 7, 2009

Top 10 Practice Tips: Use a Metronome (4 of 10)

I may take some heat for saying this, but I think it's a true statement: 90% of all drummers' timing sucks. They can't play to a metronome. They can't play to a click. They may not even own a metronome. And that, of course, is exactly why they can't play in tempo. Okay, granted, music is supposed to "flow" a bit, and that is definitely evident in almost all classic rock (think Zeppelin). But no matter, as a musician, your job is to be able to keep it together - at whatever tempo - no matter what your instrument.

For the guitarist, I try to play with a metronome for everything: scales, chords, sight-reading, and even rehearsing my own music - especially for sessions. I challenge my students to have better timing that 98% of the musicians out there. The remaining 2%? Well, they better be drummers.

Top 10 Practice Tips: Listen... and Learn (3 of 10)

You've heard it said that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Well, I'm "hear" to tell you that you will sound like what you listen to. Seriously.

I'm not just talking about that average, mediocre, undisciplined, unambitious, lazy musician, listening to his favorite bands. I'm not talking about visualizing the success you want to achieve in your life. That stuff doesn't work for musicians.

If you listen - truly listen - and try to imitate the artists you want to play like, eventually - eventually - you will begin to sound like that artist. Learn a lick. Learn a riff. Sing that catchy, unforgettable melody. Try to get your amp tones right, too - and your vocal tone. Just try.

You need to be a musician listening to music - not just an ordinary person listening to music. Listen for that progression, that interval, that string bend, that energy, passion, and quality that makes your favorite recording artist so unique, then learn how to do it.

Top 10 Practice Tips: Take it Slowly (2 of 10)

Probably the number one mistake that young guitarists make is playing too fast when first learning a new exercise, scale, or song. By playing too fast too soon, the player is, essentially, trying to circumvent the laws of music:

First comes technique, then accuracy, then speed. For as long as there have been musicians, that's been the sequence for mastery of an instrument. As several of my old teachers have said to me, "If you can't play it slowly, you can't play it at all." And if you can't play it slowly, you certainly can't play it fast. It makes sense to me.

Set that metronome on the slow side, make sure you can play that sheet music accurately and with perfect technique, then speed it up - slowly. And just in case you think I'm running low of wise sayings, "Slow and steady wins the race."