When I'm playing late night gigs, I find that my drumming is generally a lot slower. The timing is consistent throughout the songs, but I just start them slower.

When I'm playing early gigs or had a nap before hand, I'm always spot on.

I guess that when I'm tired, my brain is slower...

Have tried red bull before a gig but that doesn't help.

Does anyone have any techniques to ensure you're always hitting the right bpm?

I don't want to be pulling out a metronome at the start of every song.

  • You don't need complicated methods of avoiding using a metronome. You need a metronome.
    – Laurence
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 9:53

10 Answers 10


Try using a watch. That's what a lot of orchestra conductors do.

It's fairly easy to train yourself to find a beat by just looking at a watch for a couple seconds.

Since a watch will give you 60bpm, subdivide the tick to get 30bpm increments or subdivide twice to get 15bpm increments.

Once you get the hang of it, you don't need a metronome.


A metronome for count-in is best but you can also use a device on your drumkit that will tell you what your current tempo is. It's called a Beat Bug. enter image description here


If your timing is consistent once you start, have you tried asking a more-awake band member to count you in? (I don't mean audibly or obviously, of course.)


Practice finding tempos and checking yourself with a metronome. Presumably, when you start, you'll be good at this when well-rested and bad at this when tired. Practice it when tired until you're good at it then, too. Ta-da!

  • 1
    This answer reminds me of a trombonist I was talking to recently; he says that he often practises after "a few beers", so that he plays well after a "few" on gigs…! Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 23:41

Does anyone have any techniques to ensure you're always hitting the right bpm?

Yes, a click track.

  • Presumably this counts as a metronome? Commented May 20, 2011 at 4:21
  • 3
    @Ben If he wants "techniques to ensure you're always hitting the right bpm" but doesn't want a click track (i.e. the industry standard technique for doing exactly that), I don't know what else to say. Commented May 20, 2011 at 8:02
  • @ReinHenrichs Although I agree that Click tracks are the best way to keep time, I think the focus here is on fine tuning the technique and fitness of the body to maintain the ability to keep time when tired. you can listen to a click track all day long but if you are too tired to keep up its pointless. Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 8:52

Do you have an alarm clock that goes "Beep ... beep ... beep" every morning? Think about it right now. Think of that annoying Beep ... beep ... beep. Beat time with it. Now check your tempo. I bet it's exactly MM = 60. (That's what my clock does.)

If the tempo you want happens to be 60 or 120 or 180, just think of that clock.


That's great question and it happens to everyone. A few things I do is try to conserve energy early on (I know it's tough, because it's so fun to rock out). Also, I notice that playing a bit lighter, dynamically, if possible, can be easier physically when you are already tired. Many of the answers above are very good things to try as well. In short, it's a combination of many things that can help you overcome this problem.


Take your pulse before you start each piece. The body's awareness of time is closely tied to the metronomic beating of the heart. Biologists have found through experiment that those among us who are best at gauging time intervals (e.g. counting seconds accurately) are the ones who are best at perceiving their own heartbeat (i.e. they can feel it without taking their pulse by hand). They also found that giving people external feedback (a machine that bleeps in time with the pulse) helps them to improve at gauging time intervals accurately.

This connection between the heart rate and our perception of time is why we tend to play a little faster when we're nervous, and why you're playing slower when you're tired and conserving energy. Giving yourself that external feedback, making your body aware of where its internal metronome is set, will make it a lot easier for you to judge the tempo.

You don't need to count or time your pulse rate, or even to think about it, just put your fingers in the right position to feel your pulse (whichever position is easiest for you), and be aware of it while you're working out the tempo for the next song. Make sure to do it when you practice, and when you perform fresh, not just when you perform tired, so you have a 'baseline'.


IMO this is purely based on mental determination and physical fitness technique has little to do with your tiredness, although bad technique can wear your wrists more experiment with German grip, French grip, and American grip and see which one feels the best. You may not notice it but your cardio vascular fitness plays a big part in your drumming performance and endurance. Try breathing techniques and keeping your body well rested eat right before gigs it can help you stay alert and focus on your timing. Also make sure you have adjusted your seat to best accommodate your posture and the position and angle of your knees to reduce wear on them.


Metronome mobile phone app in a headphone in your ear?

Not sure if on topic, check these guys out - they recorded a video in 2 different gondolas, musicians synced via metronome, voices synced with the musicians

you can see the headphones the musicians share in the video, it's a metronome and it sounds very good ^_^

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