I've been self-learning to play drums over the last month and my metronome has been the most useful tool in helping me learn to play things that feel difficult to me. I managed to learn how to play consistently evenly spaced triplets by listening to how the metronome landed in relation to the triplets and making sure the 2nd beat lands evenly spaced between 2nd and 3rd beats (much better than the sloppy mess of rushing then dragging I used to do).

With the metronome, I've gotten pretty good at understanding how to fine-tune my speed if I start dragging or rushing. But I find it difficult to not drag or rush within 10 measures. I also find I can't keep a steady beat if I remove the metronome. Counting helps, but sometimes my foot pulls my counting with it (or I'm adjusting my counting without noticing to match my foot). I notice when I do lose the beat, I am tense or there's some kind of moment where I feel unsure of the beat (even though I pick it up again very quickly)

Currently I'm focusing on

  • Counting, playing a single note (e.g. kick), and keeping the metronome on at the same time
  • Keeping my counting in line with the metronome even if my foot goes off
  • Matching my foot with the counting, not the other way around
  • Using a consistent counting pattern (e.g. if I match the first count beat the measure number and cycle back to 1 after 4 measures, then I never count to 5 or cycle back after 3 measures)

Is this a good strategy? Is there something else I should keep in mind?

I've looked at some similar questions

  • Can't feel meter when playing - Describes practicing in a similar way to what I'm already doing, but for a slightly different problem (OP could not feel the start of measures)
  • What are important techniques to improve solid timing on drums - Answers here talk about establishing a personal playing style. I'm not concerned with my personal playing style, I'm concerned with learning how to play consistently
  • Keeping in time - Describes how practicing counting will eventually make things click, and how practicing trouble spots with the metronome can help make them easier.

I'm more interested in learning how to not momentarily lose the beat, and whether the strategy I've outlined will help me achieve that with enough practice.

  • 1
    How's it going a year later? Apr 15, 2021 at 12:59
  • 2
    I noticed with practice I got better at sort of resting in the beat. It's a different sensation than trying to hold the beat in place. It's somewhat like balancing on one foot: when you get super neurotic about whether you're balanced and keep on trying to adjust, you end up falling over. However when you rest still once you've found the balance point and do nothing then you end up staying there. I think this is one of the big problems I run into both in music and out of music. I worry a lot about whether I'm doing something exactly right and end up tripping myself up.
    – jet457
    Apr 15, 2021 at 16:12
  • I've also moved from drums to piano now that I have access to one at home, but the same principles apply there too.
    – jet457
    Apr 15, 2021 at 16:17

2 Answers 2


I am not a drummer, but I think losing the beat is something every musician comes across at one point or another.

What helped me in this situation is to not only count the full beats, but counting the subdivisions too.

When I only count like 1 2 3 4 there is so much space between the beats and thats where I stumble out of the rythm.

But if I count the subdivisions like 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. The space becomes smaller. And if I go for 1 e and a 2 e and a 3 e and a 4 e and a its even better.

I think this is because when you start to gain speed on beat one your next reference point would be beat 2 where you will already be so much off the beat, that you can feel it which will make you feel unsure.

But if you count the subdivisions, your next reference point would be much earlier. At this point you will be not so much off the beat like wihtout subdivisions, which will allow you to adjust the rythm before you get totally off. This will happen unconsciously.

I dont know if the following makes sense, but another thing that helped me was not to think about the rythm as a static click which goes from 1 to 2 and so on like a clock, but more like a wave which is waving from 1 and goes up to the e the and and the a to the 2 and than falling down again through e, and, a until it reaches its minimum at 2 and so on. With this image in my head, trying to feel the beat felt much more naturally and less mechanic to me.

  • 1
    For your last paragraph, try mentally picturing a pendulum. Although the speed it travels at, at any given length, varies from 0 to max as it swings!
    – Tim
    May 20, 2020 at 8:54

Your context determines the advice - this is why it is important to work with a person (i.e. a teacher). Had you been playing for 10 years instead of 1 month, the advice would be completely different. (this is just a bit of philosophising :)

Since you are fairly early in your drumming "career", I would recommend something that you have yourself identified. Notice that you say that your foot kicks you out of time? You would benefit from organizing your practice into several sections. I.e. warmup, technique, rhythm, tunes, just having fun. Work through some regular and structured material (i.e. Stick Control) so that you go through all the combinations. This all seems like woodoo magic in the beginning but patient regular (and slow) practice brings many benefits over time.

What I want to say is that, in addition to working on Time, you will need to work on Technique. Practically, it is possible to do it at the same time, but I would recommend that initially you focus on ONE thing only. If you are doing technique, just focus on your limb movement (hands/feet) and don't worry about time. And vice versa. Over time (pun intended), you will be able to focus on time only if you can execute the technique effortlessly. For example, my left foot was making me drag the tempo while playing jazz, simply because I did not have enough control over it.

When you are (finally) practicing time, there are several techniques you can do. Basically, you should always have control over time, even if your technique is lacking, or your fill is shorter/longer, etc. You always need to be aware of the time. That's why metronome helps - it's like another musician you're playing with. But you still need to develop this internal sense of time. Playing with others will help you lock in with another and therefore with the metronome or your own internal clock.

Some do counting, or simply hearing the metronome clicks internally. Some do singing or just hearing the melody internally. Some play with music, it provides context. Then it is possible to play around and listen how different intervals sound within the musical context (i.e. playing triplets, 16-th notes, fills, etc.).

Having a metronome or another time source helps to build the internal clock. It will, at a minimum, serve as an indicator for what you need to work on.

There are various possibilities for using the metronome. I.e. it does not need to beep on the quarter note but can be "placed" on any of the 16-th (or triplet) notes within the quarter note. For example you could have the metronome beep on the last 16-th note within a quarter note. You should also increase the time between the beeps. Have the metronome beep on every second quarter note (1 and 3, or 2 and 4), then once per bar, once per 4 bars, etc. Try hitting the quarter notes on tempo 40 or less. As has been suggested, you can hear the subdivisions internally (i.e. hearing the 16- or 32-notes while playing only quarter notes in tempo 30).

The possibilities are almost limitless. Finally, here's something that really blew my mind. The way to "accept" the metronome, in a sense, and not fight it. It is a video series by Robert, the creator of the Bounce Metronome.

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