I don't know if you have ever taken a private lesson, but if so, you may have had the same reaction as me when hearing "click" "click" "click" "click" over and over and over again from the metronome sitting atop your piano, next to your guitar amp, or blaring through the headphones, bursting your eardrums as you sat behind the drums. I hated it! But, over the course of 15 years, something changed. Somewhere in my musical journey, I started to like the sound. It started to become a necessity to make a piece feel good and sound great. The moment I was able to cross the line from "not being able to play to a metronome," to, "I can keep time," changed the way I looked at music. Not only that, it changed the way people looked at me as a musician.
One thing I constantly thank my private music teachers for is sticking through my consent complaining and frustration as I battled through the mastering of the metronome. Here's why: in today's professional industry, you will be looked over by bands and worthy musicians if you cannot play to a metronome. It's like a college degree for most corporate companies; if you don't have the piece of paper that says you passed with a bachelors degree, you're screwed. But, here's the difference: in most corporate settings, your creativity, field experience, and networking connections may help in the case of the absence of a four year degree. In the music industry, if you cannot keep time, the rest of your ability might as well be looked at as a four year old with a Fischer-Price. Not to seem harsh, but that's the truth. If you yourself cannot play to a metronome and want to be a professional, start now. Play everyday, to a metronome, slowly. Mix it up, use dotted notes, change time signatures, and most of all, don't give up. I remember the day it clicked for me (no pun intended.. maybe) and it changed the game for my music career early in high school.
For those of you seeking musicians for your band, the same rule should be applied for your auditions. If you've got a solid feel, good sound and a great chemistry, don't ruin it by adding someone who cannot keep time. Imagine adding a drummer who's tight in the pocket or one who speeds up and slows down ruining the feel of the song. A tight bassist who can keep rhythm with the drummer's kick, or one that just slaps strings when they want. Or imagine how great those guitar solos could be if you had a pro soloing to an on-time piece. If the pros look for those that are A-Team players that can keep time and melt your face off, you should too.
Lastly, don't underestimate the power of the metronome during live performances. Put the drummer on a metronome and watch your band become the tightest band in town. Shoot for professionalism and others will look at you as if you're a professional.
Do you have any horror stories or success stories of bandmates with and/or without a metronome? Share your thoughts, comments and stories below!