How To Use A Metronome For Drums

Posted by Ben Heckler

If you’ve never used the metronome before, you are absolutely missing out on what a wonderful tool it is.

Even if you have some experience with the metronome there are many things you can do that you probably haven’t even considered which will train yourself to be an impeccable timekeeper.

Using a metronome properly is not only about keeping time when you are playing the drums—it is about strengthening your understanding of the pulse, keeping your groove slick and mean, and most importantly perhaps, keeping your band in time.

There are many great metronomes on the market, the more sophisticated you get at drumming, the more innovative functions you will require from your metronome.

For now, you can just anything robotic that keeps time. If you have GarageBand on your computer you already have one. Or a simple search into google for ‘metronome online’ should get you one.

Why play to a metronome?

When you play or practice the drums without a metronome you may be doing yourself more harm than good. Many well-known drummers suggest that you NEVER practice the drums without a metronome.

Therefore if you are not practicing with a metronome you should be either playing along to music or playing with a band.

So how do you in fact play the drums with a metronome?

Many drummers have a difficult time identifying when they are “off-time”, and have a tough time playing straight to a metronome.

The solution to this is to play SLOWLY. If you find yourself getting lost with the metronome often, that means you are not ready to be playing it at that tempo.

Take a minute just to listen to the metronome. Really internalize the click and predict where it will land with your mind. If you play correctly to a metronome your playing should land right on top of the metronome and the metronome will become a part of the rhythm.

How to play to a metronome

Metronome, Time, Clock, Rate, Music

A metronome is a repetitive click that repeats at a particular tempo. This tempo is measured in BPM—beats per minute.
Different metronomes have various noises, some have a high pitched click, and others sound like a woodblock or even someone counting (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.)
Some metronomes can allow you different time signatures, and even play accents for you.
A basic metronome merely plays clicks without any accents. For most purposes, we can think of these notes as quarter notes, eighth notes, or 16th notes in 4/4 time.

Quarter note pulses

Let’s try to listen to this metronome at quarter note pulses.


Here, the metronome is set at 80 BPM. Notice that the first note of every 4 beats is different. This indicates that the cycle of the measure has repeated.

Let’s take a look at a basic beat. This beat is found in millions of songs (go listen to Billie Jean by Michael Jackson for example).

Exercise 1

Notice how the metronome lands on every quarter note (or every two eighth notes).

Try playing the metronome above, and play the basic beat on top of it.

If this is too difficult—you may need more practice with basic beats. Check out some of our articles:

Top Easy Drumming Songs for Beginners! (with drum tabs)

Beginner Drummer Drills

Best Way To Learn Drums At Home

Otherwise, go back to exercise above and SLOW IT DOWN using the tempo adjuster. Really listen to it. Slow it down so much that it feels ridiculously slow and practice getting your coordination against the metronome.

Then go to the metronome alone, match the tempo and try and play along.

Reading with a metronome

Let’s now practice reading some music with a metronome. For these exercises, we are only going to use ONE DRUM (the snare drum). Or if you don’t have a drum kit, you can use a practice pad.

This may seem like we are taking a step backward, having just learned a beat with full four-way coordination. However, I promise you this is the foundation of learning how to use a metronome.

Exercise 2

Try putting on a metronome and reading and playing these notes on the snare drum. Repeat this exercise four times WITHOUT STOPPING.

snare drum music

If you are completely lost, please visit our article on How Do Drummers Read Music?.

Otherwise, bear with me.

Remember that the quarter note  quarter note equals one click of the metronome.

The notes that are tied together are eighth notes, and two of them fit inside one quarter note.

The last measure is the trickiest, where we have eighth note rests. On those notes, the metronome will play and you will NOT HIT THE DRUM.

Listen to how this is played below.

More practice reading music

Depending on your experience reading music this exercise may be easy or challenging for you.

Let’s try another four-bar pattern that we can read.

Exercise 3

snare drum exercise

Here is an exercise with even more syncopation. A great book to get if you want more of this to practice is called “Syncopation” by Ted Reed.

Try playing this exercise on your own with a metronome. Start the tempo at something slow (BPM = 60) and work your way up to a faster tempo. Repeat the exercise until you can get it perfectly four times in a row.

Here is what the exercise sounds like.


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