Metronome and Practicing (Guitar Lesson)


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Orville Johnson

Metronome and Practicing

Orville Johnson explains why it is important to practice with a metronome. He also covers some practice strategies that will help minimize your frustration.

Taught by Orville Johnson in Beginner Acoustic with Orville seriesLength: 21:35Difficulty: 1.0 of 5

Scene 1: Metronome

A metronome is a device that keeps a steady beat. It is very important to incorporate a metronome into your practicing to help you develop a sense of timing. It will help you maintain a steady tempo and know how much time to give to and between notes.

This is a good way to practice scales using a metronome that will help you get a feel for subdividing beats:

- Start with playing one note per beat (quarter notes).
- Once this is mastered, move on and play two notes per beat (eighth notes).
- Finally move on and play four notes per beat (sixteenth notes)

Improving your speed with a metronome:

- Find your “comfort zone” (the tempo that you can play without making any mistakes) for the piece that you are working on.
- Increase the tempo slightly (3 clicks).
- If you can still play the piece without mistakes, gradually increase the tempo until you can’t. Go back down to the fastest tempo that you can still play the piece perfectly and make this your new comfort zone.
- Repetition of this process will help improve your playing speed.

Here is another, less common technique for increasing speed with a metronome:

- Start the same way as in the previous exercise by finding your comfort zone.
- Play the piece five times.
- Increase the tempo slightly and play it five more times.
- Drop the tempo slightly below your comfort zone and play it five more times.

This exercise is beneficial because learning to play music slowly will help you develop a better sense of the time given to and between each note and will actually help you play better.

To make playing with a metronome more interesting you can make the click the upbeat rather than the downbeat. This gives the exercise or piece that you are playing a swing feel that is heard frequently in many styles of music.

Scene 2: Practicing

Here is a summary of Orville’s tips to get the most out of your practicing:

- Practice, it’s the only way to improve.
- There isn’t a rule for the amount of time that you need to set aside for practice. The responsibilities in peoples’ lives vary and so does the amount of time that they can set aside for guitar. If you have a busy lifestyle it can be helpful to break your practice up into intervals throughout the day, making sure that you are completely focused for the time you do take to practice.
- Concentration is the most important thing. You don’t learn if you are not focused. A shorter amount of time practicing with full concentration is more beneficial than a longer, less focused practice. Even if you have the time for a long practice, it can still be helpful to break it up.


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Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


freefly8freefly8 replied on July 12th, 2017

I notice that the C scale is in the E scale that I practiced forever, across the neck. Just a smaller part of it. Learning those notes (#,b and whole notes) will take time for me to pick them out. I see it is important in reading and playing. The metronome info was good and I can see how that will help. The practice tips are good. The only thing that having the TV on is to make calluses....to distracting. Thanks

pmbfairfax@comcast.net[email protected] replied on December 10th, 2015

Enjoyed first three lessons, then get to playing scales with metronome. No explanation of how to play scale notes, strings, or frets. Feels like I missed a lesson.

4everfretting4everfretting replied on January 13th, 2015

I appreciate your practice advice as I am one who does the TV practice as you mentioned and when I practice for a long period of time my mind does wander off.Thank's

guloguloguyguloguloguy replied on November 16th, 2014

Good advice about working slightly above and below (faster, and slower) than One's 'comfort zone' speed! [I've got to find a metronome that sounds like a simple drum, (bass drum, or drumstick or brush on a snare, or cymbal.

guloguloguyguloguloguy replied on November 16th, 2014

.....There are several "apps" available that function well as metronomes, (for use by musicians). I'd like to find, get one that sounds like a 'backing track', with a simple drum sound, instead of the typical ANNOYING 'electronic "Beeps".... LOL! Also, I think that it might be good to find/use a visual (strobing/flashing) light, instead of the dreaded electronic "Beep"!

blackbearmikeblackbearmike replied on August 18th, 2013

Hi Orville Like your patient manner I've always played the C chord with my pinky on the G note of the low E string Is this still considered a C chord or does it have a different more proper name?

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on August 19th, 2013

No, that would still be considered a C chord. If you wanted to get extra-technical it could be referred to as C/G (C over G) meaning a C chord over a G (5th) in the bass. You see symbols like that in chord charts sometimes when the arranger has a specific bass line he/she wants to be played. It indicates the chords and which bass notes should be played with each chord.

rasedanrasedan replied on June 17th, 2013

I have been playing guitar for a while but I find it so interesting to listen to Orville and his advices. Dan from Belgium

rivalrival replied on April 26th, 2012

I like you.

blixblix replied on March 9th, 2012

Hi Orville i am having a hard time tabing in the cord c and piking the right string's

samuncle004samuncle004 replied on September 1st, 2011

Insightful!!Helped me much...I have been playing for 3 years and and not a good guitar player but your tips have helped me a lot...Thanks..........

fourwheelerfourwheeler replied on November 13th, 2010

I just bought the same boss metronome,and I can't believe all these years of playing I was really not keeping good time.It's like starting over,but worth it!! Thanks for the cool lesson.I'll keep looking for more on the metronome.

jnc51jnc51 replied on August 21st, 2010

I really like you philosophies in you lesson like you reasons for using the Metronome and breaking up you practice sessions to stay focused.

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on June 27th, 2010

This is one of those things that just takes a lot of practice to make it happen. Trust me, if you keep at it things will get easier...oj

gilbert714gilbert714 replied on May 1st, 2010

Great instruction . You say that you can mentally make your fingers better that by repetition and tha makes sense however I am learning fingerpicking and It is impossible to mentally think about two things at the same instant and to get thumb independence you just cannot think about the thumb while playing melody. Would you talk about this some please. Gil

Beginner Acoustic with Orville

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Discover the essentials with Orville Johnson by learning some of the most popular topics and techniques in beginner guitar.



Lesson 1

Overcoming Beginner Challenges

Orville talks about some challenges you will likely face as a beginner and offers some advice that will help you overcome them.

Length: 13:05 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Flatpick and Strumming

Orville talks about flatpicks, how to hold them, and how to strum with them.

Length: 13:29 Difficulty: 1.0 FREE
Lesson 3

Fingerpicking and Patterns

Orville Johnson introduces some basic fingerpicking patterns.

Length: 6:58 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Metronome and Practicing

Orville Johnson explains why it is important to practice with a metronome. He also covers some practice strategies that will help minimize your frustration.

Length: 21:35 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Practical Theory Part 1: Intervals

Orville dives into part 1 of his beginners' guide to practical theory. In this lesson, you will learn the basics of intervals.

Length: 17:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Practical Theory Part 2: Scales

Orville Johnson takes a look at scales in part 2 of his practical theory mini-series.

Length: 18:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Practical Theory Part 3: Chords and Construction

Orville Johnson jumps into part 3 of his practical theory mini-series. This lesson is about chords and their construction.

Length: 21:08 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Practical Theory Pt. 4: Modes

It's now time to tap back into the practical music theory portion of this series. Continuing on with part 4, Orville now discusses what modes are and how they are really just scales with Greek names.

Length: 19:50 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Basic Blues Shuffle

Orville Johnson demonstrates a basic blues shuffle. This incredibly easy rhythm piece will have you sounding like a blues great in no time!

Length: 12:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Connecting Chords with Bass Runs

Orville Johnson demonstrates how simple chord progressions can be spruced up with bass runs. The classic song "Oh! Susanna" is used as an example.

Length: 12:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Voice Leading

Orville Johnson talks about the concept of voice leading. This concept will help you play chord progressions that flow better and sound more harmonious.

Length: 10:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 12

Major Chords

Orville Johnson teaches the basic major chords in this lesson. He also explains the best way to change from chord to chord, a challenge for many beginners.

Length: 19:23 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Note Values

Orville Johnson jumps into some light theory with a lesson on note values.

Length: 7:51 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

The CAGED System

Orville Johnson takes a beginner's look at the CAGED system.

Length: 8:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

Open D Tuning

Orville Johnson introduces open D tuning and encourages exploration of its possibilities. This tuning is great for a broad range of playing styles.

Length: 24:04 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Open G Tuning

This time, Orville Johnson introduces open G tuning. This tuning is great for a broad range of playing styles and sounds pretty without even fingering a chord.

Length: 21:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Beginner Fingerstyle Techniques

This lesson is perfect for the beginner looking to develop dexterity and independence in the right hand fingers. Orville guides you step by step through basic rhythm concepts and fingerstyle exercises.

Length: 26:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

How Does a Capo Work?

This lesson presents any beginner with the information needed to understand how a capo works. This tool enables you to change the key of a song without learning any new chord voicings.

Length: 22:07 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Beginner Lead Techniques

Orville introduces basic techniques that can be used to play lead guitar. This lesson includes a primer on hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends and harmonics.

Length: 22:14 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Orville's Guide to Practicing

Orville dispenses a lifetime of accrued wisdom on the subject of practicing and learning. This lesson is only 16 minutes long, and it will not only change how you learn the guitar, but can also be applied...

Length: 16:38 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Creating New Chords

This lesson is all about creating different types of chords. This does steer the lesson towards music theory, but the information is invaluable and infinitely applicable.

Length: 23:05 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About Orville Johnson View Full Biography Orville Johnson was born in 1953 in Edwardsville, Illinois and came up on the St. Louis, Missouri music scene, where he was exposed to and participated in a variety of blues, bluegrass and American roots music. He began singing in his Pentecostal church as a young boy, in rock bands in middle school, then took up the guitar at 17,with early influences from Doc Watson, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Chuck Berry. In the early 1970's, Orville spent several seasons playing bluegrass on the SS Julia Belle Swain, a period-piece Mississippi river steamboat plying the inland waterways, with his group the Steamboat Ramblers.

Orville moved to Seattle, Washington in 1978, where he was a founding member of the much-loved and well-remembered folk/rock group, the Dynamic Logs. Other musical associates include Laura Love, Ranch Romance, File' Gumbo Zydeco Band, Scott Law, and the Twirling Mickeys. Johnson, known for his dobro and slide guitar stylings and vocal acrobatics, has played on over 100 albums. He has appeared on Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion, Jay Leno's Tonight Show and was featured in the 1997 film Georgia with Mare Winningham. His musical expertise can also be heard on the Microsoft CD-ROMs, Musical Instruments of the World and the Complete Encyclopedia of Baseball. He teaches as well at the International Guitar Seminar, Pt. Townsend Country Blues Week and Puget Sound Guitar Workshop.

Orville released 4 recordings in the 1990's: The World According to Orville (1990) Blueprint for the Blues (1998) Slide & Joy (1999) an all-instrumental dobro tour de force and Kings of Mongrel Folk (1997) with Mark Graham. He also appeared on 4 discs with the File' Gumbo Zydeco Band and produced Whose World Is This (1997) for Jim Page and Inner Life (1999) for Mark Graham. In the 21st century, he has released Freehand, a new Kings of Mongrel Folk disc, Still Goin' Strong, and been featured in the soundtracks of PBS' Frontier House and the Peter Fonda flick The Wooly Boys as well as the compilation cd Legends of the Incredible Lap Steel Guitar.

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