How to Sharpen Your Time-Keeping Skills on Guitar

Developing a solid sense of time is essential for all musicians

Developing a solid sense of time is essential for all musicians—and that’s especially true for those who play with others. There are many different ways to work on your internal clock, and in this installment of an ongoing series on practice, we’ll look at a few different approaches to help you play in time—and cleanly. You’ll want to have a metronome handy, whether the old-school mechanical type, electronic, or smartphone app.

In a mini lesson excerpted from Rhythm and Strumming Basics: Working with a Metronome, instructor Josh Workman shows you how to get your picking hand synchronized with the metronome in a pair of simple single-note exercises.


It can be more challenging to change chords in time with a metronome, so after you’ve practiced on single notes, try working with some basic shapes. After you’ve mastered this lesson, try shifting between other chords of your choosing, making sure to lock in with the metronome at a range of different tempos.

A common mistake that guitarists make in the woodshed is to practice new pieces at tempos faster than they are able to handle. As Paul Mehling points out in a lesson that originally ran in the January 2019 issue, it’s always best to find the tempo at which you can cleanly play a piece—your ZMI (zone of maximum improvement)—before gradually bringing it up to tempo until you can play it perfectly.

Whatever you’re practicing, always remembering that by mastering something slowly, you’ll learn to play it better—and more quickly and efficiently.

Click here for more tips on effective practice.

Acoustic Guitar Editors
Acoustic Guitar Editors

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