Being able to keep time is an essential skill in order to play with others, or multi-track your own creations.

The traditional tool for practicing by yourself was a Metronome, which gave a consistent click.

Click at 60bpm
Click at 90bpm

Modern metronomes can emphasize the 1st beat of a measure

4/4 Chirp at 60bpm
4/4 Chirp at 90bpm
3/4 Chirp at 60bpm
3/4 Chirp at 90bpm

But that chirping, while easy to hear, can get annoying. Instead look for one with more pleasing sounds.

4/4 Click at 60bpm
4/4 Click at 90bpm
3/4 Click at 60bpm
3/4 Click at 90bpm

Now days, we have a lot of more interesting options such as drum machines.

4/4 Drums at 90bpm

Or you can make a rhythm loop

4/4 Chords at 100bpm

Next we’re going to add recording as a practice aid, so check out our Practice Aids page in the Guitar Gear section.

Start slowly, maybe 40 or 60 beats per minute, and increase your speed slowly up to full speed of 90 or 120 beats per minute, depending upon the exercise or song. Try to strike each note exactly on the beat. When you do this precisely, you may not be able to hear the beat of your time keeping device.

What separates great players from the rest is that great players practice as slowly as they need to in order to be able to play perfectly. Then and only then will they increase the speed a little bit at a time, insisting on perfection at each speed. At some point, muscle memory takes over and it becomes automatic. However, if you practice so fast that you make mistakes, you’re going to get muscle memory working against you, which ends up taking longer because you will have to unlearn your mistakes, and that can be difficult.

Be persistent, yet patient. It will come. Knowing when to take a break and when to press on takes experience as well. If you find yourself making more mistakes than you were 5 minutes ago, take a break and come back in 10 minutes or an hour.

Join the discussion and share your tips.

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