Is one of these two methods more fitting as an exercise to improve the overall sense of rhythm : Playing along a recording of a piece, or playing the piece just with a metronome ? What are the pros & cons of each method ?

By recording I also include recording through a software like GuitarPro or Sibelius, which allow to change the tempo at will, like a metronome.

Context : I'm a guitar player trying to improve my global sense of rhythm, not just practice a song to play it correctly. I've always preferred playing along with a recording—it is easier than the metronome to me.

  • Best way to improve your sense of rhythm and tempo is to take up dancing. There are so many kinds. Contra, English, salsa, bachata, ballroom, country western, jazz, lyrical, ballet, hip hop, tap, etc. Check out what's happening at the community centers and senior citizen centers. (You don't need to be a senior citizen to attend their classes and get-togethers.) You can also dance at home by yourself. Jan 31, 2020 at 3:05
  • @aparente001 Interesting suggestion, even though it's kinda of the scope of the question, I gladly take it :)
    – 021
    Jan 31, 2020 at 9:01
  • What do you mean by "overall sense of rhythm"? This seems rather vague. Can you be more specific? Jan 31, 2020 at 12:43
  • @BrianTHOMAS I guess the ability to feel the rhythm when playing alone or with someone or something. Ability to feel it and incorporate it in one's playing to make it rhythmically more accurate.
    – 021
    Jan 31, 2020 at 13:26
  • @BrianTHOMAS added the words "global" and "overall" to express that this skill is not linked to just one piece. It's not just playing one piece correctly rhythm-wise, but a sort sense that slowly carry on to anything else you play. Maybe there's a better choice of words to express this; I'm not a native english speaker.
    – 021
    Jan 31, 2020 at 13:35

4 Answers 4


IMHO i think both will be helpful to learn sense of rhythm. But there are differences of course.

Good thing about metronome is you can change it, double or half the speed of it. So you have more options there.

Also it's easier to hear you playing , if you don't have the whole recording sounding in the background. And you can hear a metronome with headphones and still be able to hear yourself playing. I believe doing this might make the beat more inherent in you.

Good thing about playing along with the recording is you are actually hearing the song! That may give you a more musical sense than only hearing the beep of the metronome. Also if you play later with real musicians it'll be more familiar to you because you are used to practice while hearing the rest of the band.

Whatever you prefer is alright. Both will serve you.


Since you only ask about metronome or recordings -

they both have their place, along with other options...

A metronome is useful, if not (very) boring. It can easily be changed tempo-wise, half, double, and everything in between. Also extremely useful to use in more advanced ways - set up and take each click as the & between the beats, for example. It will be relentless, and never vary whatever tempo you choose.

Recordings, if made with a click track, like most these days, will also be relentless, and will doubtless ingrain more than just tempo - number of bars for verse/chorus/etc.

Earlier recordings (50s, 60s, 70s) often vary in tempo - rather like a lot of live music does - not drastically, but the speeding up and slowing down reflect the mood of the piece at that moment, so not metronomic. It also means you have to play the approriate chords/riffs, so need to know the particular songs.

Playing with others is an option not mentioned, so I'll mention it! It's good and bad. You'll get more musical experience this way - good and bad! Playing with poor time keepers is an experience to be had. Trying to keep time either with them or against them will help you appreciate what timing is. Playing with excellent time keepers is also an experience, and certainly keep you on your toes.

For guitar there are many backing tracks available - 'music minus one' comes to mind, which one can play along to and they will inevitably be spot on time wise.


Riding on and syncing to a pulse and rhythmic feel or ”groove” produced by others is of course an important skill. But you can’t rely on that only, you have to be able to produce the pulse and provide it to others reliably. Playing to records only is not a good practicing method, because you may develop habits of listening to specific subtle sound cues, and then you’re lost in a real situation when the cues are missing or when something unexpected happens. You want to listen and adapt, and if needed, be the reliable master clock youself.

Recording can be very important, namely recording your own playing, because you need to hear how much your timing sucks ! ;)

Playing with a metronome is essential, and to make yourself produce the rhythm pulse instead of hanging on to it can be practiced with a metronome click that’s not on the ”one” or not on beats at all. For example, make the metronome click on downbeats or only on the TWO of each bar. That way you'll have to play the ONE loud and clear on top of silence, and you'll get the feedback on rushing or dragging a bit later. You have to be able to play strong rhythm with good time, no dragging or rushing, no tempo drifting. This is a basic skill.


Musicians primarily fail with these two because they don’t match the extent of their skills with the complexity of composition they chose to play. this will cause the sensation that performing accepts good rhythm is extremely hard.

The truth is, each bit may feel complex initially but becomes easier with practice. Let’s check out some useful tips for a way you'll improve your rhythm and timing when playing music.

Where to start? It’s important to start out practice with appropriate compositions. the simplest melodies for practicing are usually within one octave, during a signature you’re conversant in. Also, it's best if there aren't any sixteenth or thirty-second notes (a.k.a. semi-quavers or semi-demi-quavers), therefore the pattern isn't too complicated at the right tempo. Here are a few easy to know examples for you to undertake to play along with:

Whether you're an experienced musician or amateur your rhythm practice should start with a careful study of the piece, slowly playing each note. If there's some complex poetic rhythm ahead, don’t attempt to play it the superbly the primary time you encounter it. Leave it then attempt to practice it in isolation. the primary time you play it you would like to form sure you hit the proper notes; leave the timing and rhythm as secondary priorities. That way you'll have your full attention ready for understanding the rhythm once you return thereto.

Techniques for Improving Your Rhythm and Timing We’re getting to check out four techniques you'll start using today to enhance your sense of rhythm and timing once you play music. attempt to incorporate one or more into your regular practice immediately then add the others over time.

and Musicians practice with metronomes to enhance their timing, especially the power to stay to a daily tempo. Metronome practice helps internalize a transparent sense of timing and tempo. Composers and conductors often use a metronome as a typical tempo reference—and may play, sing, or conduct to the metronome. The metronome is employed by composers to derive beats per minute if they need to point that during a composition. Conductors use a metronome to notice their preferred tempo in each section.

When interpreting emotion and other qualities in music, performers seldom play exactly on every beat; expressive, flexible rubato could also be used sometimes. Typically, every beat of a musically expressive performance doesn't align exactly with each click of a metronome. This has led some musicians to criticize the use of a metronome because metronome time is different from time. Some go as far on suggesting that musicians shouldn't use metronomes in the least, and have leveled criticism at metronome markings also.

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