Try as I might, my creative juices just haven’t been flowing lately. To top it off, we’ve lately had a weekend guest contributor, but they’ve gone on vacation. So, that means I need to fill the Sunday slot myself.
I’m gonna guess you’ve noticed that I try to get something out to you every single day – and have done so for more than a couple of months now. In Internet-years, that’s pretty much a lifetime’s worth of site articles.
Speaking of which, I got the strangest email the other day. I wasn’t going to tell anyone, ’cause I really don’t want to encourage this behavior. But, it amused me and I’m going to share it, before I get to the article.
This person had done their homework, as they referred to me by my real first name. (It’s David, I don’t actually hide that. I know, you were probably thinking my real name was TheBuddha, but it’s not.) They offered to buy my site.
I sent them a reply letting them know that the laughable amount of money they’d offered wouldn’t even cover purchasing a single article. Shit, the only reason I have ads is ’cause I want to automate the site’s payment. They offered me a grand sum of $75.
No, I’m not kidding. Part of me thinks that’s actually more than the site is worth, but another part of me is pretty damned sure it’s worth more than that due to the traffic alone. Really, however, I think it’s priceless, ’cause these fucking articles are pretty damned awesome. (I admit my bias!)
So, in the harsh world of the ‘net, we’ve been slapped in the face and told our contributions to the world of guitar are worth a paltry sum. Harsh, man. Harsh.
I told you I was out of creativity – but I’m not out of things to write. No, no… Those that know me well will tell you that I’m very seldom at a loss for words. Which means you get a boring article today.
My Secret to Sounding Tight?
When I first decided I’d jump back into being a performing musician, I brought all the new band members in and auditioned ’em. They were all going to make it into the band, but I wanted to put them under pressure and see how they dealt with it.
I also wanted to give them a gift.
After each audition, and playing my role of prick, I conceded that they “would do well enough” but they really had to commit themselves to practicing and rehearsals – if they actually wanted to work venues better than a bar.
I played my role to the letter. To audition, I did things like bring in people they didn’t know, set up cameras too close, gave them uneven surfaces to stand on, and gave ’em music that they’d never play – sometimes having them play it in a style that we’d never actually even consider playing.
I wasn’t auditioning them to see if they could play their instruments. I knew they could, or I’d have not considered it in the first place. They’ve all been to various camps, schools, and even some have gone to college for music. I wanted to see how they did under pressure – so that I could tell what I had to work on with each individual.
Where am I going with this?
Well, up above, I mentioned a gift. What was that gift? A shiny new metronome.
I’m gonna tell you a secret. My timing actually sucks. “But you played drum long before you played guitar!” You might say. “That demands precision timing!” And you’d be right.
Let me elaborate…
My timing sucks as an innate trait. I’ve trained myself by using a metronome. My first metronome was one that was a hand-me-down from another drum student. I was maybe six years old. I’ve been using a metronome ever since.
It was mostly useless for me, way back then. We had an actual conductor and/or I had other band members I could rely on for timing. Eventually, I’d march with the drum and I’d use that to keep track of the timing.
Left to my own devices, I’ve got the timing of a drunken chicken. If I go very long without using a metronome, I’ll fuck it all up. No, that’s not a joke. It’s pretty awful and is abated when I play with other people, to some extent.
So, we all use a metronome when we’re rehearsing by ourselves – and sometimes as a group. That’s why we sound like what you hear on the album. That’s why we sound “tight.”
I’ve probably said it before, but being told we sounded tight is pretty much the greatest compliment we can get. We put our hours in to get that sound.
Now, I’d like to share another little secret.
When you’re learning a new song, turn that metronome’s speed down. Turn it down to 60 or 80 BMP, if you want. Turn it as slow as you need to and then turn the speed up when you’ve mastered that speed. You can even practice like that (do your drills that way).
If you want to build some serious muscle memory, turn those drills up even faster. Get them up into the 170 BPM range and then start working your way up over 200. That doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen – so long as you put your hours in. 200 BPM sounds like a lot, but it’s not too bad – and you will find songs that require you to be faster. Anything marked as “Prestissimo” will be 200+ BPM, for example.
So, have fun with one. Unless you’ve got a built in metronome (you probably don’t, even if you think you do), you really should have one AND actually use it. Trust me. I haven’t steered you wrong yet. Until next time…
Shut up and play us a song!