Whether you like it or not, we all have a “master clock”. The brain controls this clock which is responsible for your body’s circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycles). In the same way, as a drummer, you are responsible for being the “master clock” in your band. Whether you like it or not, if you can’t keep time, the band is better off without you!
How to Become a Better Drummer
Nothing is more frustrating than a song that starts off way too slow, and then speeds up way too fast as the song builds into the chorus. Drummers, it is our job to control this. The best drummers in the industry are those who know the pocket, feel the groove and keep good time. It’s all about the clockwork!
To become a better drummer you need to begin to develop your internal clock. The best way to do this is to use a metronome. The metronome (or “click”) is your friend, not your worst enemy.
If you’re already thinking “I’ve never needed a click” – unless you’re Vinnie Colaiuta, you’re wrong! I can’t stress it enough. If there’s only one area where you can be rock solid, let it be this one. Even the music legends will pick a time keeper over a phat filler!
Essentially, you will be a better drummer if you begin to practice with a metronome.
Choosing A Metronome
There are many great metronomes on the market. The most important feature that you should look for in a metronome is “tap tempo” (more on this in a below). If you’re just starting out, I suggest that you buy an entry level metronome before you drop the bigger dollars on a heavy duty one.
Let me break them up into three categories:
- iPhone Metronome Apps (very affordable – $1-$10)
- Standard Metronomes ($20-$50)
- All-in-One Metronomes ($80-$200)
iPhone Metronome Apps:
[good for personal practice but not reliable enough for studio work or live playing with other loops and tracks]
Tempo – by Frozen Ape ($1.99)
With tap tempo and a built-in setlist feature, you don’t need any other. Go out and get this app if you have an iPhone ($1.99)
The Korg MA30 is a proven offering from their innovative line of metronomes! The MA30 has features like volume control and sophisticated rhythms such as triplets and quadruplets with inner beats omitted. Its easy-to-see display includes a cool liquid crystal pendulum.
It’s portable, reliable, and fun to use — the DB-30 helps musicians take their music to higher levels by offering a set of features that defies its diminutive size. Much more than just a simple timekeeper, this pocket-sized metronome can lay down a variety of rhythm patterns and time feels to practice along with, and it has a few timekeeping tricks up its sleeve as well.
The first timekeeper designed specifically for the band’s timekeeper, TAMA’s Rhythm Watch had everything a drummer needed to make sure the time was right—live and in the studio. The original Rhythm Watch featured enough volume to play with real drums, a large, easy-to-read display, a dial for quick tempo adjustments, separate volumes for quarter notes, eighths and triplets…the list went on and on. The second generation RW105 features a backlit display, 30 different memory settings, and up to nine different beat divisions. The only thing we didn’t change was the simplicity.
The Note Mixing function allows you to instantly create a variety of beats by adjusting the levels of five different note values; front-panel sliders, buttons, and a large rotary dial provide instant, hands-on access to edit parameters. Select four different click sounds, including a human voice-counting sound that will help you know your place in the bar. The DB-90 is also equipped with realistic PCM drum patterns. Expand your rhythmic horizons with Rhythm Coach. This innovative follow-along feature has four training modes to help build your accuracy, speed, and endurance. With the DB-90′s onboard microphone, you can use the Rhythm Coach functions with acoustic drums, or plug a Roland V-Pad into the Trigger input, play along, and measure your progress.Many UsesDrummers can connect to the DB-90 via Roland V-Pads, or use the DB-90′s internal microphone to capture the sound of their acoustic snare and incorporate it into the practice routine.
Again, if you’re going to want to start using this at your next band practice, the important must-have feature is “tap-tempo”. I like to make sure that every song in the set list has a tempo marking set next to it (do this at practice, according to how the worship leader wants the song played, and not necessarily the marked tempo on the chart).
Since we are building a community of drummers that seeks to challenge one another to grow, here’s your first challenge. Buy a Metronome! Go as simple as the Tempo iPhone app, or go big with the Boss DB-90. Either way, get one!
[Since you asked, I'm saving up to buy the DB90. With me it's "go big, or go home!"]
Once you have it, start practicing with it at home first as it may take a few weeks to get used to it.
To keep accountable, let us know in the comments which one you bought/have and how the practice is going.