Playing guitar to a click-track or a metronome is very simple, although, it’s hard to put into practice, especially if you’re not accustomed to it yet. Believe it or not, it took me years before I finally started playing along to a metronome and a click track. At the time, I didn’t even realize how bad my timing was.
If you’ve never done it before, it might take a bit of practice before you’re accustomed to it. One of the best ways to learn how to play along to a metronome/click-track is to use and play along to music from Guitar Pro, which is an editor that is used to notate guitar music, however, we’ll start with the free way first.
How To Play Guitar To A Click-Track
1) Open up your DAW
2) Select the Metronome Option
3) Make sure the metronome/click-track matches the tempo of the song
4) Slow the song down to get used to playing it slowly and in time
5) Use the clicks as a frame of reference for your playing
The method I just laid out for you is the way of doing it, but there are some other things that are worth exploring in a little more detail. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to play to a click-track as well as some tips and tricks so you’re prepared to use one whenever you need to.
Guide to Playing Along To A Metronome/Click-Track
The key to using a click-track, as I mentioned earlier, is to use it as a frame of reference for your playing. It’s a way of keeping the tempo in the back of your mind. Increase the volume of the click, if you can, that way you can always hear it, and it doesn’t simply fade into the song.
Choose the click-sound that you like. If it’s incredibly annoying, you’ll find yourself not enjoying the process at all. Repeat this process indefinitely, slowly increasing the speed as you practice more and more and familiarize yourself with the way the song is played at particular speeds.
Remember, that you’re playing guitar “with” the click-track, rather than “to” the click-track. The same thing goes for playing along to a backing track which I’ve said before.
In other words, the click is merely a frame of reference for where the beats are. It’s a guiding light that keeps you on tempo with the song. Don’t necessarily focus on playing exactly on the beat, just keep the tempo of the song in mind and don’t waiver from it.
There are a number of benefits to playing along to a click-track or a metronome, but in the case of recording, the greatest advantage is that it’s going to ensure that you’re playing is on time, and you won’t have to go back through the recording after and edit all of the rushings and slowing.
Additionally, it just makes you a far more solid musician to play with, and people will seek you out because it’s so rare for guitar players, and probably musicians, in general, to be able to play on time.
In fact, one of the things that makes Travis Barker such a great drummer is the fact that his timing is so solid. This is incredibly useful for the recording process because, as I just mentioned, going back through and editing the timing of the drums is very tedious and annoying.
How To Prepare For A Click-Track
1) Use a Metronome regularly!
Truthfully, a metronome and a click-track are essentially the same things.
They’re different in the sense that a click-track is played in combination with the actual song, whereas the metronome is typically used for playing the instrument on its own without any sort of backing track.
If you’re looking to get your hands on a metronome, I recommend checking out the relevant prices on Amazon. Here is a good one that you can pick there.
Assuming that you’ve never played with a metronome before, the best way to approach it at first is to play simple scales and exercises along to the metronome while closely paying attention to the “tick” sound and making sure to play the notes exactly on the beat and between the beats.
2) Jam over Hip-Hop/Rap and Pop Songs
This is actually one of my favorite things to do. What I do, is I just load up a Spotify Playlist and I jam over the songs as they come. Normally, the first thing that I do when doing this is I figure out the song’s key-signature as well as the chords in that scale, in addition to the arpeggios that go along with each scale degree.
If you want to learn how to figure out a song’s key signature as well as how to improvise over them, I recommend checking out the following articles that I wrote on this site.
The reason why I suggest hip-hop/rap and pop songs, is because these songs are typically uncomplicated. They don’t have key signature changes or tempo changes randomly, unlike some of the more underground music scenes like Jazz and Progressive Metal.
My favorite Playlist to jam over: RapCaviar.
This is an idea that I actually got from Travis Barker from Blink-182 as well as August Burns Red’s Matt Greiner. Both of these guys say that they love practicing along to hip-hop songs, and I imagine that it’s for the reasons I mentioned above.
These tunes typically don’t have many time signature or tempo changes, so you solidify your ability to play on time with other pieces of music in addition to other musicians.
3) Play your favorite songs along with the original.
When I was a lot younger, I used to play randomly and spontaneously, without the accompanying song, and without a metronome. Looking back on it, it was actually quite disastrous because I either played things way too fast or way too slow.
Whenever you play your favorite songs, you should either play them at the exact same tempo with a metronome, or you should play it along with the original, that way you’re not too fast or too slow.
It’s really important to be able to play at the appropriate timing because when it comes time to work with other musicians, you’ll pay for this inadequacy.
You won’t be able to play along to the drummer or the bass, and you’ll find yourself either rushing or going to slow.
4) Use Garageband’s Drummer Track or another Drum Machine
If you don’t have an Apple Computer or Mac Software, just use a drum machine on another DAW, for instance, from FL Studio.
Garageband’s drummer track is perhaps one of the more useful aspects of the software.
In the software, there is a ton of different drumming options, including the ability to change each part of the drum-kit individually; you can change the tempo; you can change the style; and you can change the amount of syncopation, as well as the sophistication of the drumming.
The amazing thing about this method is that you can really get used to the sound of the drums, assuming that you’re the type of player who wants to play with drummers, which you probably are.
Moreover, another great aspect of this method is that you can actually, if you so choose, change the tempo of the drumming at various parts of the drummer track, that way you can familiarize yourself with real songs that typically aren’t the same thing over and over again.
5) Buy a Cheap Drum Machine or Drum Machine Plug-in
Let’s say that you don’t have the Drummer Track at your disposal, or you don’t want to use a DAW for this. You could always get your hands on a classic drum machine, such as the Arturia DrumBrute Analog Drum Machine.
Assuming that you want to play along to a click-track, however, means that you do have a DAW at your disposal. Just use a Drum Machine Plug-in that utilizes automation. Really familiarize yourself with playing along to the beat as much as you can.
6) Make sure you know how to actually count the beats in a piece of music
For instance, can you count the beats in between the notes in relation to the key signature?
Can you identify whether your part is quarter notes, eighth notes, or sixteenth notes?
It’s very useful to be able to count these things because you’ll have a better idea of how your playing should sound in relation to the rest of the song.
YouTube Video Tutorial
I hope this was helpful to you. In all honesty, I would say the best way to familiarize yourself with playing on time is by utilizing a metronome on a regular basis in addition to Garageband’s Drummer Track, or some other type of drum machine.
If you’re always practicing along to some type of beat or rhythm, you’ll see the benefits when it comes time to record the actual song or play with other musicians.