Weird Metronome

by Joe Walker, 24 Nov 2010, in Resources

I discovered Weird Metronome the other day. Its creators claim that it's "the smallest, most versatile metronome software available." After using it for a few days, I almost agree. It's certainly the smallest metronome software I've ever used, and it has some cool little features I couldn't get out of other tools.

I've been using YMetronome for years. It's hard to find, but some Googling will turn it up somewhere. It's been crapping out on me, more of a Windows problem than a YMetronome problem, so I started looking for a replacement. I figured I'd been using YMetronome for close to 10 years, and its developers haven't been updating it, so there must be something better out there by now. After a quick search, some browsing of screenshots and reviews, and software trials, I was surprised that the winner, Weird Metronome, has been around for forever as well.

Weird Metronome

There is one feature unique to each of these programs that I love. Unfortunate that I can't find both features in the same tool yet. Maybe I'll do it myself one day. The YMetronome feature I loved was automatically changing the tempo. If I wanted to practice a lick for 10 minutes, gradually building from 60bpm to 90bpm, I could do that easily within the program, never taking my hands off the guitar. Impossible in Weird Metronome.

On the flip side, I could never get YMetronome to play uneven groups of beats. It had menus for different time signatures and loops, but I wanted to work on different levels of swing eighth notes. Specifically, I wanted to hear and practice a swing feel that divided the beat into 3:2 instead of 2:1 (the latter is a strict triplet swing), and I couldn't do that. Enter Weird Metronome. It's easy as pie. The "Custom" metronome option allows you to specify an arbitrary sequence of different MIDI sounds. So solving my problem simply requires a click, two beats of silence, a click, one beat of silence, and I've got my 3:2 swing feel. This must be the source of the "Weird" in its name, cause you can create some crazy little loops.

Dueling Metronomes

by Joe Walker, 28 Jan 2008, in Practice

Came up with another metronome trick, building off the tempo regression I mentioned the other day. I find that depending on the exercise I'm running, sometimes I want to gradually increase the tempo, and sometimes I want to decrease it. YMetronome lets me do either one, hands-free.

But what if I want to do both? Playing a lick over a range of tempos seems to help with learning it better and playing it faster. I'd like to go back and forth between say 50bpm and 70bpm without so much clickety clack to change the settings whenever I change direction.

Found the solution. YMetronome can run multiple instances. I set up one to ascend from 50bpm and the other to descend from 70bpm. Then I just stop one and start the other to change direction.

I thought of a good analogy for building speed. Imagine you're The Hulk, and your job is to run through walls. Before you're able to run through a wall, you need to lift some weights to get stronger. If you try before you're strong enough, you'll never make it through, and you might hurt yourself. But you won't get through without trying either. Running through a wall is a combined effort between building a necessary foundation of strength and testing your limits.

Same goes for plunking. You need to put in meticulous work at slow tempos to get faster, but you'll never get there if you don't occasionally try to play faster than you think you can. That's why I'm setting up my metronomes like this, so I can go back and forth between the weight room and running into the wall.

Metronome Regression

by Joe Walker, 26 Jan 2008, in Practice

I'm really focusing on building my speed now that I want to learn this Dream Theater song. That means many hours of boring exercises with a metronome. I already have a kink in my back.

All the advice I hear on building speed is the same: "Use a metronome. Start slow. Gradually increase the tempo." But I'm taking a slightly different approach.

My metronome is a computer program called YMetronome. It lets me change the tempo automatically, so I don't have to stop playing. I could have it increase by 1bpm every minute, for example. I've chosen to have it decrease the tempo as I practice a lick. That way, instead of pushing myself into playing faster than I can handle, it gets easier, and I can focus on maintaining the best form I can the entire time.

The particular lick I'm working on for this song consists of 4 beats of 16th note triplets. The original tempo is 112bpm. My playing breaks down at about 80bpm. I have a long way to go. My method is to start at a high tempo that I can still handle and decrease by 1bpm every 10 seconds. I keep playing until it's too slow to keep the beat, around 25bpm. Today I did this starting at 75bpm.

I pinned a chart on my wall with every whole number from 75 to 112, my target tempo. Along with all the mindless speed drills, I'll run the lick like this once or twice per day and cross them off as I go. If all goes well, I should be up to speed within a month.