Do you practice with a click? (metronome)

Hia . :slight_smile:

was initially looking for " Off Topic " category - though I hope this one fits under General topics :slight_smile:

So I was looking for Beginner and Intermediate jazz arrangements that I can try to learn and play today and once again, brought a smile to my face each time I would hear/listen to the arrangements and recordings here on Piano Groove.

I am not much of a fan of using the metronome when I was a student back in the uni… then 2015 came and I joined a drum community to learn drumming - where " almost " everything uses a click during practice or playing to tracks…

When I started sight reading, listening to the Emily song today - I noticed that there is no option to listen to a track with a click for example… - on another note, have fully enjoyed listening to that track - everything was well felt - and i loved it.

So a question comes to mind about jazz players - plus knowing (is it some? or all?) jazz scores for example or lead sheets sometimes do not reveal fully how a song is played (swing, triplets etc)

I know that a jazz pianist is part pianist, part composer, and part arranger :smiley: apart from the many other skills (harmony, improvisation etc) each one possesses …

As beginner, intermediate, advance or professional jazz players, you use a click/metronome when initially learning or practising a certain jazz tune/song? or when mastering and polishing your playing?

  1. is it a requirement/necessary or not? when playing jazz tunes?

would greatly appreciate your responses - based on your experience as jazz players … Big Thanks in advance!

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I’m only a beginner (6 months) but here’s my answer.

I don’t use it for learning, but definitely use it for polishing.

Using a metronome really highlights weak spots in a piece you have learned, in a way that I just can’t expose if I play freely. I think I have it learned, but then with a metronome on the sections I need to think a little harder on are exposed and it can all crumble down. Using a metronome on a well learned piece provides a consistent exposure of those weak points allowing me to refine learning those transitions. For me it’s a critical step towards really having learned a piece.

That said, I just play for fun and some learning and I don’t do it often. And a lot of the pieces to be learned here lend themselves very well to a rubato style, and so – at least to my own ears – it’s sounds good and is enjoyable without doing that extra step. But every time I do though I really value the extra learning it provides.

I believe, if you ever intend to be playing with others, incorporating this into your practise would be a necessary requirement!

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I don’t use it while learning, but when I know a tune and want to work with that I use iReal Pro instead, cuz the bass is also playing the form and I HEAR that, and my brain can ignore simple clicking ,

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Ahh thats very interesting Lori - love that - and ì would prefer the same if I am into keys or any melodic instrument. That s a very good idea. I would sometimes use a bass loop too depending on the progression - otherwise anything from the rhythm bank - that fits the tune… I haven’t used iReal Pro - would love to check it out. :slight_smile: Thanks for your ideas. Really appreciate!

Love all that you said here Brett. Thanks very much. I would agree that the tempo changes - as per when I listen to jazz tunes (I haven’t explored a lot/fully but to those that Ive listened to)

“Using a metronome on a well learned piece provides a consistent exposure of those weak points allowing me to refine learning those transitions.”

i like what you said above too - and it is a constant thing when you are polishing or learning a piece until you realise everything is just flowing and you don’t have to think anymore -

very well said… I really appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

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Hey Kristeta :wave:

Good question and some great answers here!

I’ll add a couple points:

It can depend on the style we are playing

When playing solo jazz piano we have the liberty to play ‘freely’ which means that we can pull and push on the timing, phrasing, and placement of the melody and chord changes.

On the other hand, if we are playing the Chicago Blues, or Boogie Woogie styles for example, the music relies on a solid left hand groove so for these styles I would recommend always practicing with a metronome or backing track (more on this below).

Whilst it can be nice to drift in and out of time when playing solo jazz ballads, jazz is not all ‘floaty ballad’ performances. Much of jazz and blues music is grounded in the rhythm and the feel. Exactly as @brett outlines; when playing with other musicians having a solid sense of time is essential.

In summary, practicing with a metronome will certainly enhance your performance skills both as a solo performer and when playing with others.

Tuomo created a tutorial outlining exercises to develop a stronger sense of time, check out that lesson here:

It could be nice to incorporate some of those exercises into your practice routine and you will find that your sense of time improves and this will carry across to all aspects of your playing and performance.

To quickly mention some alternatives to the metronome:

There are some metronome alternatives we can use when practicing in-tempo performance:

The iRealPro App

@LoriNelson mentioned using the iRealPro app which gives a little more interest than a click when practicing jazz standards.

By default the iRealPro App includes a bass channel in backing track and this can ‘free up our left hand’ to play rootless harmony as outlined in our course on rootless voicings. If you are playing a medium/uptempo jazz tune and practicing improvisation then the iRealPro App can be a great companion to get into the groove.

We have a forum thread on the iRealPro app here:

The DrumGenius App

Another alternative which I enjoy using is the DrumGenius App which has much more authentic sounding drum backing tracks, learn more about it here:

When you download the app you can download 3 of the backing tracks for free, and then if you wish to download more you can upgrade to the paid version.

To work on my own sense of time, I enjoy playing the Chicago Blues style with “Shuffle 1” which is in the “Jazz & Blues Shuffle” category:

Because there is no bass in DrumGenius backing tracks, we can play the bass lines outlined in Steve’s Chicago Blues Course:

I’d recommend spending some of your practice time on this style to develop and strong internal sense of time, groove, and swing feel.

Copy the bass lines, comping, and licks that Steve demonstrates in his course and focus on getting ‘locked in’ with the DrumGenius backing track and keeping the groove as you circle around the 12 bar blues form.

Perhaps just do 5 or 10 minutes per day on this and you will quickly get a better appreciation for swing feel which you can then apply to all areas of playing.

Hope this helps and enjoy! Playing the Chicago Blues style with the DrumGenius backing track is both fun and rewarding. :sunglasses:

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For me when I struggle with left hand Groove, or complicated right hand melody which I know I don’t play in time and I need to improve. I simply count loudly 1&2&3 etc… or if there are 16 notes in the tune so I would count loud 1E&2E& (like beginner drummers do) I found out that this technique works best for me anyway :slight_smile:

Oh and when there are 8 note triplets or quarter notes triplets I just count loud with ta ta ta (3 ta’s is one beat).

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Wow… Thanks so much! Hayden - for all these you’ve provided and for the detailed response. Very excited to practice today :smile: will definitely look into those!

I’ve only used soundbrenner the last 3 years for drumming during practice so will be thrilled to know about the drumgenius app :slight_smile: to use for my jazz piano practices … Many thanks again!

hey… Thanks for your thoughts Ariel. Great! That’s actually good that you also find yourself naturally counting when practising :slight_smile: I do the same sometimes when there are more complex or syncopated rhythms and does help me a lot too :smiley: Happy practising!

…so to follow again on this thread I had an interesting observation… I went to the jazz jam Thursday night and played 500 miles high by Chick Corea… a horn, bass and drums were my hosts on that …,… at home earlier in the day I realized I needed some metronome time with the tune… as I felt quite comfy with my left hand rootless voicings and the little solo I had worked up (thru transcribing better ideas than my own). So right off the bat with the metronome giving me decent drum-like sounds, I could see I had issues, so I just played repeatedly with that till I was actually IN the beat…, Of course at the jam with nerves up and not as relaxed I was able to observe that AGAIN, I could feel myself “rushing” onto that beat.
Because I knew what it felt and sounded like when time was good!!
So I reined myself in right then… when I listened to the video, I really began to appreciate the value of that metronome… once I get my chords and melody down, I WILL be using the metronome!! :joy:

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Great update Lori ! :slight_smile: Wow, nice piece! by Chick Corea

Lol though am getting a bit more comfortable with it now, i still find myself sometimes in constant battle with it - maybe times when I am tired or not perfectly focused…

I agree that sometimes, due to either excitement, exhaustion etc - our nerves aren’t always functioning the same or as relaxed - reason why … i know all will agree - also taking care of our health (keeping ourselves hydrated etc, right sleep) and all others are factors that contribute to great and perfect progress :smile:

like yourself, I do find it very useful too especially when I record myself and listen and watch afterwards - whether audio or video …

I still am slowly exploring the site and I really want to be able to watch some Piano groovers’ vids of piano playing - hope I get to check on those today :slight_smile: Take care. Keep us posted!

So I’ve been thinking of your post while practising the beginner arrangement of Over The Rainbow which, for some reason (maybe i"m not so familiar with EbMaj or they’re just unfamiliar chord progressions) I’ve really been struggling with in the first part. I can play it, but not at a consistent time, and it just wasn’t improving.

Threw the metronome on, found the pace I could actually get through it and it was much much slower than I thought, especially with two minims at the start. But there was really only 2 transitions sticking (a 1-4-5, and a 2-7 with some sus4 9s and 13s). So i spent 30 minutes just doing those a few different ways with a metronome on and picking better fingering and now I’ve got that first part nailed.

I really should be more mindful of when getting stuck to practise the bits that aren’t working and not “enjoy” the bits that are so much. I’m going to try metronome more while learning now because it seems to have saved some time.

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Nice Brett! Congrats on that :grinning: Happy for yah!
I would do the same if I was wanting to have consistency in my playing …

then when we get more familiarised with the music and not needing to use metronome anymore for a certain song we were learning … would give such a great feeling -

i like your last paragraph too - I also sometimes tend to play more - the ones that I know already and am comfortable with :smile: then thats when I would have to push myself to really learn and give more practice time to the parts where I need improving… and more consistency…

Over the rainbow is one of my fave tunes too! Please keep us posted on your progress -

Hope I get to learning that too next time

  • Am still working on Emily and My Funny Valentine … which I’m sure will take a while hahah

The instructors we have here are amazing! I love the demo videos and audios as well :heart:

Take care and happy playing!

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