One of the biggest problems I’ve seen in my years of playing in a live band is the ability to keep a solid, steady tempo. If your band is speeding up and slowing down all the time, it’s darn near impossible to keep a danceable groove going. It’s primarily the responsibility of the drummer, bass player and rhythm guitarist to keep the tempo but everyone benefits when the entire band can hold a solid tempo.
The best way I’ve found to practice keeping a solid tempo is using a metronome. The obvious way to practice is to set the metronome to a tempo that you want to work on and then practice along with it. This is a very basic way to use the metronome but it’s not the best way I’ve found to use it for improving your ability to hold a tempo.
The best way I’ve found to improve your tempo is to set the metronome to click only on the first beat of each measure. That way it’s up to you to hold down the tempo for the rest of the beats. This is something that you can work up to by first practicing with the metronome clicking on every beat. Then set the metronome to click on every other beat and practice with that setting until you’re good at it. Finally set the metronome to click only on beat 1 of every measure and practice holding the tempo along with the metronome.
For example if you are working with a tempo of 100 Beats Per Minute then start out with the metronome set to 100 bpm. Then, set the metronome to 50 bpm while continuing to play at 100 bpm. Finally, if your metronome will go this slow, set it to 25 bpm and keep your tempo at 100 bpm. As you’ll see, it takes some concentration to keep your tempo even when the metronome is only clicking on beat 1 of every measure.
Having a good, even tempo is critical for making top level music. By using this practice method with a metronome you will gain the ability to hold a much more even tempo when you play. So get that metronome out, and get practicing!