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Aug 18, 2016 - 6:59:54 AM
like this

13421 posts since 3/6/2006


Well,I guess you told him, I want you to work on your customer service skills because when you talk like that, your canoe leaks. It's hard to bail and paddle at the same time.
I know what I'm talking about.
I worked with disabled and challenged people in my personal career, and everyone learns different ways.

I have a great metronome.

I learned "Cole Younger" from Peter McLaughlin's CD Cliffs of Vermillion, he's a noted double flat picking champion, so much easier to stay with those guys, I sped it up, raises the vibration.

You have such great credentials, you play so well, when are you going to form your own band? And personally, if I had the legacy and background of roots like you do, there would be Craig Evans down there shooting a documentary about starting at your family's store with a small fiddle shop right there.

You are a journeyman, you don't have to apologize about anything.

My metronome has a useful downbeat feature.

Timing is not for every soul, no one has the right to try to regiment a herd of cats, much less a bunch o banjo players.

I need you to work harder.

Click 2,3,4    Hup, 2,3,4

Im guessing you didnt read some of the comments made in this thread. No one in here is a customer but if someone drops in the shop dropping F bombs and generally trying to convince everyone there that 'we dont need no stinking this or that", then i will plainly tell them theres no need to be that hostile. This is just a thread about metronomes and how they can help a musician learn, and thats all. 

What does craig 'shooting a video' about me have to do with anything in this thread and what am I 'apologizing' for? If you wish to be a good musician, then yes "timing IS for every soul". Anyone who decided a metronome is a waste of time is more than welcome to ignore one and I respect that. But those who do use one dont need to be cursed for using it either. I am glad you have a great metronome and hopefully its helped you with your timing.

May 29, 2017 - 4:50:13 PM



4615 posts since 8/31/2005

I posted the wrong link

Jul 28, 2018 - 10:31:09 PM

23 posts since 3/17/2018

Excellent advice, Mr. Boulding, you definitely made it easier for me to understand why timing and the use of a metronome might be beneficial later. I am still in the rank beginner stage so right now I am just trying to get the mechanics of banjo picking right but timing seems like it is going to be something I will have to put focus on.

Thanks for the thread and advice

Sep 15, 2019 - 10:11:06 AM

325 posts since 9/14/2019

I may have missed it. Any recommendations of a good metronome?

Sep 21, 2019 - 2:06:37 AM

1 posts since 7/7/2012

I have always found the concept of playing rolls quite straight forward, but when playing tunes and fitting in melody notes and maintain the timing and to knowing where I am overall in the tune I find challenging. Some tunes are easier to play and work in the melody notes to fit the roll but others I have found are difficult and my timing soon goes off.
I have found trying to playing along with records works best since I live in an area of the UK that suffers from a bluegrass banjo famine.

Feb 26, 2021 - 1:02:40 PM

432 posts since 2/23/2019

I've been playing for 2 years and have just started really trying to learn the metronome. I feel like I'm learning my songs all over again but man does it feel good to know I'm more in time, playing it the way song writers intended it to be played. Thanks for the detailed write up!

Mar 13, 2022 - 3:37:45 PM

154 posts since 3/14/2020

I wish that that I had this when I started out. It is the most straight forward explanation I have seen. I have struggled with timing, and feel that after a little over a year that I am finally getting a hold of it. At first I struggled with just understanding how timing works. One thing that I have learned is that whomever decided on the terminology to be used in music, clarity was not high on the agenda. Learning to play banjo was my introduction to music. No background at all. But although I figured how timing works, I have had tremendous trouble putting the knowledge to practice. My biggest issue is that I have issues with auditory processing, So, hearing a metronome, no mater how load, when also playing and concentrating on the song that I am playing, is tough. I even bought a Bose bluetooth speaker so that I could get the metronome really load. Still had trouble. My teacher suggested a vibrating metronome. Wow, what a difference. I put in my pocket, and I feel that beat instead of trying to hear it over my playing. And, I can also set it up so the first 1/8 note in the measure is stronger. I have only been using it for a couple of weeks, and my timing is improving drastically.

Mar 18, 2022 - 11:59:41 AM

3 posts since 6/5/2019

Don't forget to 'flip the beat' as they say, letting the metronome clack on the backbeat

Aug 14, 2022 - 7:52:03 PM

56 posts since 3/17/2022

Sweet Jesus... Only in the world of bluegrass banjo do we need a 7 page forum on how to use a metronome.

Apr 30, 2023 - 2:24:15 PM

37 posts since 4/16/2023

I started playing drums in 69, guitar in 70 and keyboard in 72. Since then I have learned, with differing levels of proficiency many other instruments but I am brand new to banjo. I don't own a metronome but I do have a drum machine and I will say that it has been invaluable to me in my 2 1/2 month banjo career. Not for keeping time but for increasing speed. Like many people, the first song I learned was Bile 'em Cabbage Down. I kept trying to play faster but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't. Then I fired up the drum machine. At first, I could not play cleanly any faster than 65 BPM. So in my practice sessions, I increased the speed at 5 BPM intervals. When I could play cleanly and consistently at the new speed, I would increase it by another 5 on my next practice session. I am still not great, but I can play it consistently at 100 BPM now. Yes, I'm sure that's quite slow to most of the really good pickers here but it's amazing to me to think that only a couple weeks ago I thought I would never be able to play it at 80!

Metronomes or a good drum machine are essential to your improvement. Well, to my improvement anyway. As always, YMMV.

Jul 13, 2023 - 10:15:19 AM



23 posts since 7/6/2023

Originally posted by bandzo
I personally like metronome. After I have figured out left and right hand and can "play" the tune at slow speed, I start my Kmetronom ( and start to practice.
My question is: Is it OK to set metronome to 8 1/8 per measure if most of the notes are 1/8 and 1/16?
It sure feels easier to be on time or is this just another bad habit?

Thank you

All hail the metronome! :)

Most electronic metronomes allow you to play a certain number of "clicks per beat". The quarter note (the beat) is louder and the other clicks are a different sound and usually softer.

I have a Boss metronome from the 1970's that has sliders on the front that let you control the individual sounds and volume on a 4 pattern (1 e & a 2 e & a) and a triplet pattern (1 & a 2 & a). 

So yes, it's acceptable, but you should make your beat note stand out as that is what you need to develp the feel for: feeling the beat.

Jul 13, 2023 - 10:50:02 AM



23 posts since 7/6/2023

Originally posted by Brian T
If I got this right, I need to pick 8 notes in 2 beats to get 16ths? I've got a drum machine which seems a little more humane to my old ears. I'm remined of a comment that Ross Nickerson makes near the beginning of his Banjo Encyclopedia:" most of the time, you're the drummer, keeping time." Thanks, John, for a great lesson.

We do not know where we are going.
Nor do most of us care.
For us, it is enough that we are on our way.
Le Matelot

A tape measure can help you visualize music durations, as they are based on the same divisions.

Think of the inch being a whole note.

Divide an inch (our whole note) by 2 and you get 1/2 marks.

Divide 1/2 sections by 2 and you get 1/4 marks.

Each successive section is the previous section divided by 2. 1/4 divided by 2 = 1/8. 1/8 divided by 2 = 1/16.

So, in music notation, if you have 2 notes played for every quarter (1/4) note, that's what? 1/4 divided by 2, so they are eighth (1/8) notes.

If you have 4 notes played for every quarter (1/4) note, that is 1/4 divided by 4, which is 1/16 or sixteenth notes.

So yes, 8 notes for 2 quarter notes makes them sixteenth notes (assuming they are evenly spaced).

I've noticed a lot of banjo tabs are notated as if the song was in 4/4 treating 16th notes as 8th notes (probably to provide a cleaner look) .  I don't like that because it throws your counting off and (to be blunt) it's just wrong.

Songs like Foggy Mountain Breakdown are definitely in 2/4. Listen to the bass or just clap you hands along. You'll find they beats, and there is only 1 for every 4 notes Earl is playing.  1/4 notes divided by 4 = 16th notes.

Jul 13, 2023 - 11:00:06 AM



23 posts since 7/6/2023

Originally posted by 5th string nut
Hi Mart,

If you mean one click for every TWO notes of a roll, then I would say that this is a good place to start until you feel comfortable enough playing with the metronome to try one click for every for notes of a roll. But, if you mean one click for EACH note of a roll, then I would advise against this, for this will teach you to give each note of the roll exactly the same duration instead of allowing you to play your rolls with 'bounce' in a long-short-long-short duration pattern.

Happy Pickin',


Beginners should start by learning to play every note cleanly and on time.

It's one thing to deliberately drag or push a note now and then to create an effect. it's another thing to drag the 3rd note in a forward roll every...single...time you play a forward roll in every single song. 

Jul 13, 2023 - 11:26:45 AM



23 posts since 7/6/2023

Originally posted by dcb

I wonder if Earl use a  metronome  ?? ?

Are you sure the guitar is slowing down or is the banjo speedin up?

I learned to play from listening to recordings and the one that I know changes speed is Earls second Break on SallyGoodin.

 when he goes up the neck.

 Iam not sure who speed up first it might be the fiddle.



Earl told a tale about this (I believe it's in his instruction book). To practice his timing, he and his brother would start playing together in front of a building. They would then walk in opposite directions around the building. When they met on the other side of the building (and could hear each other again) they checked to see if they were still playing together.

Earl may or may not have had a metronome. I don't know (they were common by the 1920's, so he could have owned one). We do know from this story that timing was important enough to Earl that he worked on it.

Jul 13, 2023 - 11:35:58 AM



23 posts since 7/6/2023

Originally posted by Delbert002

At what speed should I change from 2 notes per beat to 4 notes per beat. It seems to be to fast anything over about 120 using two notes.

It's always 4 notes per beat.

What you've done at the slower speeds is set your metronome to play an extra click in between the beats.

If you have a setting on your metronome (and you should if it's electronic) that plays a different click sound on the non-beat clicks you should use it. It would help you keep the beats straight in your head.

As to when you should turn off the non-beat clicks, that's up to you.

Aug 20, 2023 - 4:09:44 PM
Players Union Member



214 posts since 10/22/2017

Thank you so much! Great informative thread. :)

Oct 13, 2023 - 7:08:57 AM

284 posts since 11/2/2007

We're talking 8 note (full) rolls here.
When starting out on rolls set metronome one pick per click.
As you progress set metronome to two picks per click
As you advance set metronome to four picks per click
When you're "there" you'll be at 8 notes per click.

Simple :-) ++=,==(O)

May 14, 2024 - 4:35:17 AM

75 posts since 4/14/2024

I have been practicing now for close to 9 months, working out of Ross Nickersons "Fundamentals of the 5 String Banjo" and picking up other skills etc out of his "Banjo Encyclopedia". I have intentionally not been learning any of the songs but have been focusing on timing drills and all of the right and left hand skills (rolls, L. hand finger exercises using scales etc across the strings, chords and chord changing, slides, hammer-ons, and pull offs.. etc you get the idea) with the idea to eventually be able to play anything I wanted once I had those skills down. Throughout all of this I did my best to count either out loud or in my head all of the variations of quarter and eighth notes etc. but didn't use the metronome itself for the first 5 months thinking that while my timing probably wasn't spot on it wouldn't be too terrible once I did start fine tuning everything I had learned thus far with the metronome...wrong!! For 2 months straight I tried using that damn thing and just couldn't do it! I knew the absolute importance of being able to play in time and after 2 months of that was about ready to throw the thing into a wall or do some bluegrass clogging on top of it. I was about ready to quit the banjo entirely..figuring if I couldn't get good timing I would never be able to play the banjo. Then I found a "hack" and everything started falling into place. Although I could count or tap with the metronome with no problem, when I started doing a timing drill or roll with it the sounds of the various notes would throw me off...just couldn't seem to play notes and listen to the metronome at the same time..same result just using the flashing light. So I muted the strings and bam! I could all of a sudden do it..then after my fingers got the feeling for it after a minute or two I started playing the strings and was actually playing in time! So now, anytime I have a timing problem with whatever I am learning that's what I every time. Sorry this was so long but I have learned so much from this site and wanted to try to give back a little. I hope if there are other beginners out there who are having a problem working with a metronome that this helps

May 27, 2024 - 10:23:23 PM

2 posts since 5/27/2024

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