I play guitar and I'm wanting to play songs by ear. I have been told by my teacher that the metronome is the best way to learn correct timing when playing a song.

I have also heard people say they learn songs by ear and just play along to the recording; slowed tempo or not. I have Audacity which slows down tempo, which I think is beneficial to figuring out the song by ear and also actually learning the songs timing. I can slow down the tempo and build the speed up with the metronome or Audacity. Which way would I be better off or both?

2 Answers 2


You're definitely on the right track. Modifying the tempo of whatever you're working on is crucial to developing your skills as a guitar player. Playing with a click (the metronome) is very important in developing what I call your "inner metronome". If you can't play on beat, then when you play with a band or have to perform by yourself your tempo will be all over the place and everything will be a mess.

When you're slowing down the song in Audacity make sure it's not too slow otherwise you lose the feel of the song. As a rule, you want to play as fast as you can, but as perfectly as you can. If that's 60BPM, fine. If that's 160BPM, fine. Gradually build up the tempo. I can't tell you what increment to increase the tempo by, that has to be decided on a situation-by-situation basis. Personally, I would start learning the song without Audacity and even without a metronome. The metronome forces you to be locked into one particular tempo. If you're not too familiar with all of the chords of the song then the metronome will mess you up. Once you feel you can keep a steady beat that's when you should start using the metronome. How fast should you go with the metronome or audacity? You should go maybe 10% faster than what the actual speed of the song is so that when you actually need to play at tempo it's easy. Anyways, there are so many ways to go about this and I'm sure others will have other methods and opinions on this. The key thing is that you make progress.


It's subjective. Some people just seem to have inbuilt good timing, others, who've played for years, don't seem to notice a skipped beat, an added beat, slowing down, etc. And for those, a metronome probably won't help. I've tried drum machines with them, and they didn't help either.Generally they're folks that play by themselves for long periods.

It depends a lot on what you're doing with a song. If you're working through the chord sequence, strumming along, then the tempo of a track should be enough to keep you going.If the changes are too quick, then by all means slow it down, but it's probably only one bit that's tricky. Just go over that part slowly.

If it's a solo, and you're trying to read tab,(I know you said by ear), it'll have to be slow, but just do it at your own speed till it's good enough.With solos, try to understand the sets of notes, and align them to notes you've learned in scales, etc. Patterns will appear, and they will help the flow of your playing.And for Gawd's sake, don't rely too heavily on tab, especially that with no proper dots for timing ! A good way is to loop a phrase and keep listening and playing along to it - try to loop it to exact bars, though.

I've mixed views on metronomes, and click tracks. It's so much better playing along to a drummer (especially a good'un), or a drum track. A metronome to me is quite un-musical.Use a backing track when possible.Ask your teacher to elaborate on why a metronome is the 'best way to learn correct timing...' For some, a tapping foot is the best. You'll know you've got it sorted when you play along with others, and no-one moans !

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