How To Use The Metronome: Reframing How You Think About It

How To Use The Metronome: Reframing How You Think About It


You think you know how to use the metronome? Well, if you to be boring or even scary, you might be doing it wrong! Let’s reframe this awesome tool and make it enjoyable; as it should be! Ultimately, using a metronome to practice with is a skill that will help you loads on your journey to become a great drummer. Want more tips? Check out my drum lessons!


Let’s start with a brief historical context.


The metronome as we know it was invented in 1814 / 1816, and musicians have been using it ever since. In fact, one of the earliest recorded instances of its use was by Beethoven in 1817. Now, fast forward to 1940 when the metronome was first used in a recording; the soundtrack to Walt Disney’s Fantasia. However, thanks for the World War 2, the click track did not surface again until the 1980’s when MIDI sequencing and quantising became popular.


Fantasia is a wonderful film! Definitely check it out.


Traditionally, bands rely on us drummers to keep time and make the music feel good. That said, by the 1980’s advances in recording technology and the evolution of certain genres required drummers be able to perform to a click.


drumming independence

Recording in the studio.


And whilst it isn’t always required in the studio or live, it’s a must! You have to know how to use a metronome to develop solid time!




Your Personal Cowbell Pal

Agreed, harsh digital click sounds on the metronome can be quite robotic and uninspiring. However, some metronomes have the option to change the sound of the click to a cowbell! And with that, we can change our focus to make the click groove and feel good! 

Listen to legendary session bassist Carol Kaye talk about how to use the metronome in this way at the 10min mark HERE. Lastly, Frozen Ape’s Tempo and their more advanced Tempo Advance apps let you change the click sound to a cowbell. Worth checking out both here!


Clinging To The Clave

Another great way to approach practice with a metronome more musically is to use a clave to keep you in time. But hold on, what’s a clave? It’s a repeating rhythmic pattern at the centre of a song or groove. Consequently, the idea is to internalise the clave as a melody, and help it inform whatever you’re playing on top of it with its inherently rhythmic and musical theme.

Drew Milloy’s the Clave app, with its simple interface and good choice of claves is a brilliant tool in your toolbox!


The Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra


The Gap Click

Another way to reframe the way you think about how to use the metronome is by turning it into a game.

Benny Greb’s brilliantly simple Gap Click is an excellent way to develop your internal clock in a fun way. It works by letting you specify how many bars you’d like to hear with a click and how many without. Furthermore, it allows you to choose more intricate subdivisions to strengthen your time.

Here’s Benny talking about it.

It’s a great app, which I use regularly, and it won’t break the bank; it’s a great investment to help develop yourself.


More notes vs. less notes

Similar to working with a gap click, another interesting take on using a metronome is what subdivision you set it to play. Think that the smaller the subdivision (i.e. semi-quavers / sixteenth notes), the more reference points, the more you work on your stroke accuracy. Conversely, the less notes you use, the game becomes more about your steadiness.



Whilst not strictly a the same, the following ideas are great alternatives to a click if you’re still unsure about how to use the metronome!


Playing to music

Using the music that you enjoy or want to play means you’re playing along to that particular drummer’s feel. This is a fantastic way to develop your time feel. You’ll understand, particularly if you’re learning songs from different genres and bands, all with their own time feels… The more you hone in on every stroke, the clearer the differences in feel will become.

A great app called Moises lets you upload tracks to it, then cleverly separates the song into individual instruments (e.g. drums, guitars, bass, vocals, keys, other). You can then mute, or lower the volume of, your preferred components to either isolate your instrument to listen to it more clearly, or turn down your instrument for you to play along to the track unencumbered.


Backing tracks

In my experience, backing tracks tend to be recorded very metronomically (unless you’re playing to a band’s song where the drums have been removed). This is great as, in a way, you’re listening to a “musical metronome”, forcing you to play solidly. This channel is one I use regularly, as it’s got tons of great tracks.


Use / create your own loops

Loops are a great way to practice musically and metronomically. iPad / iPhone apps like GarageBand enable you to very easily and quickly create a quick loop based on a rhythm / melody for you to jam an idea to.

Here’s one I made a few months ago, and here’s the quick lesson to along with it.



E-Kit Metronome Functionalities

Brands like Roland and Yamaha’s electric drums offer fantastic functionalities for you to develop your time. Yamaha, who’s been ahead of the curve for years in this respect, offers the following training settings:

  • Measure Break: the metronome inserts breaks into the click track each time it loops around; your job is to continue to play through the silence until you hear the click again.
  • Groove Check: This training exercise measures how far behind or ahead of the beat your hits are. As you play to the click, Groove Check shows your hits in relation to a perfectly in-time quarter note. If your timing is rushing and you’re ahead of the beat, the hit marks will move to the left. If your timing is dragging and you’re behind the beat, the hit marks will move to the right.


The Yamaha DTX10 eDrums are Yamaha’s flagship electronic drum kit


  • Tempo Up/Down: Use the Tempo Up/Down exercise to see how fast you can play and still maintain accurate timing. As you play along, the metronome will automatically increase the tempo if your timing is good, but will decrease the tempo if you need more practice playing in time.
  • Change Up: In Change Up, your goal is to maintain accurate timing as you play along with up to seven different practice rhythms (subdivisions) that change every two measures. You can increase or decrease the tempo as you go along.

Read more about that here.


Thank you for reading! I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Please consider subscribing to my newsletter, as well as follow me on social media:




Nick 🙂



As drummers one of the skills we look to develop is drumming independence. By this of course we mean, broadly-speaking, the ability to play multiple rhythms at once, or also being able to play notes between beats to spice up grooves and fills.

To me, this is one of the important tools in our toolbox because having good drumming independence lets us focus on playing rather than worrying about how to play it. In other words, we can be present in the moment and make music, and as a drum teacher this is important for me work on with students.

In this drum lesson, I’d like to give you some useful tips I share with my students regularly. These will be primarily around independence between the hands and feet. In addition to this, you’ll find a free PDF with some exercises for you to have a go at below.



Try to think of your body in two halves: waist up (i.e. arms / hands) and waist down (i.e. feet).

One way to think about it could be your hands acting as the “lead” whilst the feet be the “rhythm section”.

Hey, thanks for reading so far… If you’re in the London and want face-to-face or online drum lessons in London, get in touch.



A rhythmic ostinato is defined as a repeating rhythmic pattern. So, we once you get your head around the idea of “splitting” your body, try to identify any ostinatos to latch on to. This is helpful as once you’re able to play these patterns in “autopilot”, playing rhythms / stickings / patterns on top of the ostinato becomes a lot easier!



Following on from developing ostinatos for independence, thinking melodically about patterns (be it with the feet, hands or both) can make our life a lot easier. This is because we’re thinking about music rather than combinations of Rs and Ls.

How can we tease melodies out of patterns? It’s not hard to do so. Simply “mute” one of the, for instance, hands playing a pattern, and note the “melody” that the unmuted had creates. Let’s take the Single Paradiddle for example; see the examples below

drum lessons drumming independence

Single Paradiddle R melody (muting L)


drum lessons drumming independence

Single Paradiddle L melody (muting R)


Here’s groove example based on ostinatos I’ve developed…



… And the music I wrote inspired by the groove:



Ultimately, the less you think in terms of Rs and Ls and more about “melodies”, the more musical you’ll be. Consequently, the benefits when it comes to learning other licks will have a huge pay off. Come for drum classes for more tips!



In the free downloadable PDF, you’ll find different 16th note ostinatos for you to try different sticking combinations. My suggestion, when it comes to orchestrating the hand stickings, would be to start easy first. Play the stickings on the snare to begin with, then try exploring moving your R hand around the drums. Once comfortable with that, then move the L hand around, etc.

Spend time on each ostinato with each sticking (don’t just play each sticking once). Also, use a metronome to help you keep time, and if you want to challenge yourself further to strengthen your internal clock, use a Gap Click.





If you liked this drum lesson, check out my book “Concepts”. It contains lots of excellent ideas to help you improve your drumming!



As I mentioned, drumming independence is a great skill to develop as it lets us focus on just making music. Moreover, it can also be a great way to discover cool grooves and fills that can become the basis for cool new song ideas with your band, or for your own compositions.

Have a go at exercises, go slow to begin with and be patient. Enjoy!



In this post we take a look at some tips to help you develop your Paradiddle chops using the “outward” Paradiddle inversion (RRLR LLRL).



Every sticking has melodies hidden inside them. These are useful because they help us think of “dry sticking patterns” as actual musical phrases.

Paradiddles are no different. We can isolate these melodies by increasing or decreasing the volume / dynamic level of each hand as we play the sticking pattern. In this example, taking the RRLR LLRL Paradiddle inversion’s R melody, we would accent all the right hand notes and play the left hand notes as ghost notes.


nick schlesinger paradiddle drum lesson RRLR LLRL

“Outward” Paradiddle inversion’s right hand melody highlighted by accents




Here the idea is that as you practice a sticking, work to internalise the melody until it’s second nature. As such, we want to be able to feel it, making it part of our vocabulary. 

Next step is to try and sing the melody as we play. Even if we’re not playing a groove / fill with that melody, aim to sing it as it will change how your groove feels, and will inform your groove and fills.

With this in mind, once comfortable with the melody, try and orchestrate grooves and fills with it. Consequently, for linear grooves and fills, try replacing R notes with bass drums, for example. Experiment with multiple combinations between R and bass drum.



Note that the rhythm of the track mirrors the R melody. So, as you play along to the track, don’t stop singing it! This will help solidify your phrasing and make your playing feel more musical.



Lastly, if you’re interested, here’s a little 1 minute song I wrote where I based the intro groove idea on this RRLR LLRL Paradiddle inversion. Indeed, watch it below, or follow this link to watch it on YouTube! Don’t forget to subscribe.




Download the free PDF below which has some groove examples as well as some linear fill ideas which are based on this Paradiddle’s right hand melody.





If you want to learn more about the Heel Toe or some one-to-one lessons to help you troubleshoot or nail it, check out my drum lessons and get in touch! You can also check out my drum tuition book Concepts to help you create your own awesome grooves and fills!


drum book

Check out my book Concepts to help you come up with cool new grooves and fills with really simple ideas!


Thanks and enjoy! 🙂


Should I play drums barefoot or with shoes?

Should I play drums barefoot or with shoes?

In this blog post we explore whether to play drums barefoot vs play wearing shoes; the debate rages on!



Why don’t we start off by getting you to answer the questions below?


Question: Would you wear


Jeans to the bath or shower?


Thick winter gloves to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant?


A traditional Mexican sombrero to run a marathon (London Marathon aside, of course)?


Sleep in a sleeping bag under your duvet under regular circumstances?



You’ve probably guessed which way I prefer to play, but read ahead as I think there are good considerations to explore.



By some sheer coincidence, I’ve recently been teaching a lot of my students the Heel Toe technique to play fast doubles on the bass drum. Indeed, as I demonstrate it to them, they usually notice that I play barefoot (or with socks). To which, surely, enough I get the “why do you play drums barefoot?” question.


Below I wanted to summarise my views on this subject as I think there’s value in discussion. Consequently, remember that there’s no right or wrong, only what works for, and feels good to, you! Of course, it’s worth giving both ways a genuine good go, as it will help you make an informed choice. Similarly, learning to be comfortable playing both ways (barefoot and with shoes) can only make you a better player.



I’ve gone through the whole journey to arrive at my conclusion that playing drums barefoot was the way for me. Previously, I used to swear by playing drums with shoes on. Paradoxically, I was always looking for the lightest and least intrusive shoes I could find. 


Classic slip-on Vans, Converse Chuck Taylors, Vivobarefoot shoes, etc, I tried them all! Subsequently, they were all great options until they weren’t any longer! At which point it was time to ditch the shoes altogether.


Vivobarefoot are a great company who make great shoes!


This new unencumbered feel of the pedal was, for me, a breath of fresh air. In contrast, the difference was night and day… Like I had been knitting wearing ski gloves! Getting fully acquainted with the new feel wasn’t immediate, it took a little bit for it to feel second nature.



Here’s a summary of the some of the benefits of each I can think of, as objectively as I can.




True and accurate feel and feedback from the pedal

Added weight and mass to the foot can help with speed and control

Natural foot movement on the pedal(s) unrestricted by the shoe’s mass and sole

Sole of the shoe provides grip on the pedalboard

If you’re not wearing your “drum shoes” and have to play, just take your shoes off and go

Practical when playing outdoors and its cold to keep your feet warm

You don’t have to spend extra money getting “shoes for drumming”


Can expose stinky feet, or embarrassing socks (but come on, there’s no such thing as embarrassing socks, or is there?)




Having a think about what we’ve covered so far, the drive to find the most comfortable drumming shoes is a journey that most drummers go on. Accordingly, the idea of accurate feedback from the pedal and unrestricted movement were key in switching to play drums barefoot… Indeed, you can’t get any lighter than no shoe at all, right? As silly as the questions at the beginning of this post were, they reflect my need to go as natural as possible.


However, there are other drummers who go another way. Jojo Mayer, who plays with shoes on, modifies his shoes to have a leather sole in order for his foot to move freely on the pedal. Similarly, if you ever noticed the design of his signature pedal, it is completely smooth in order to facilitate alleviate unwanted grip.


Furthermore, in the mid-nineties, Vic Firth and Dave Weckl collaborated in developing the completely crazy Vic Firth Kickers Drum Shoes. Let me invite you to bask in this 1995 advert’s intense cringe glory. Personal tastes aside, the idea of this shoe was a good one, yet whilst it was aiming for something lightweight, it was still donning a sticky sole. Not sure when these might have been discontinued.


vic firth dave weckl kickers nick schlesinger drums blog

Stylish you say? Get a load of these beauties.


My point here is that we’re searching for the most comfortable solution, which seems to be the least intrusive and lightest one. Be it retrofitting your favourite shoes with a leather sole, or going to great lengths to develop, mass produce and market a light, breathable drumming shoe. Why not just go barefoot (or wear a a pair of socks)?!



To sum up, there are no rights or wrongs in how you choose to play; you have to try both ways and make your own mind up. Personally, I think it’s worth a try if you’ve been curious to do so. However, whatever you do, avoid those Vic Firth Kickers Drum Shoes.



If you want to learn more about the Heel Toe or some one-to-one lessons to help you troubleshoot or nail it, check out my drum lessons and get in touch! You can also check out my drum tuition book Concepts to help you create your own awesome grooves and fills!


drum book

Check out my book Concepts to help you come up with cool new grooves and fills with really simple ideas!


Thanks and enjoy! 🙂





If you’re struggling with how to read sheet music, don’t be intimidated! We can use really simple tricks to help us figure these things out, particularly when it comes to reading rhythm.


Below is a quick guide to help you with how to read sheet music from a rhythm perspective! This lesson will be perfect if you’re a drummer looking to improve your basic reading skills!


I strongly believe in the connection between language and music, and thus rhythm. How? Simply put, languages use rhythmic patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables that we use without really noticing. So, when we pay attention to these rhythms, we can use them to our advantage!



Let’s start by using a steady pulse, as this will give context to all the notes we’ll read and play. I’d suggest you download a metronome app if you don’t have one already. Personally, I really like Tempo by frozen ape which you can get on iOS or Android.


how to read sheet music

A metronome helps us accurately determine the value of each note



The goal of the game is to start each insect below at the same time as every click from the metronome. We’ll start slowly, setting our tempo to 60 BPM (Beats Per Minute).

how to read sheet music

Learning to read music is a game!


In order to get it right, ensure that each syllable we say (out loud) is evenly subdivided. We’ll be associating each word, in this case an insect, to a symbol. Be sure say it out loud, clap it, and play it in time!



As I mentioned above, we can practice these rhythms by clapping, saying them out loud, playing them using your practice pad, cushion or even pillowcase practice pad.



Let’s start with the following three basic rhythms and assign them an insect.


how to read sheet music

Using insects to help us remember rhythms is a great learning aid!


Quarter notes, or crochets

If we split a bar of music into 4 quarters, we can fit 4 quarter notes in it. We’ll start with this premise, and say we can fit 4 single syllable insects inside it. So our quarter note insect is the Ant!

how to read sheet music


Eighth notes, or quavers

With these we can fit two syllables inside one word (beat). So we’ll call these Spider.

how to read sheet music


Sixteenth notes, or semiquavers

As sixteenth notes are 4 notes inside one beat, let’s fit 4 syllables inside one word and call them Caterpillar.

How to read sheet music


Once we have the basic rhythms above, how to read sheet music starts seeming less daunting! Again, we’re focusing primarily on rhythm, but this is half the battle!


The following PDF contains some exercises for you to try out. Note that sometimes you’ll see the following symbol.


how to read music


This simply means a quarter (crotchet) rest which is the same duration as a quarter note, but we don’t play a sound.


Have a go at it, and see if you can get through all of them! It’s tons of fun, and you’ll definitely get better at how to read sheet music by going through all of ‘em.


Download it here



The next step is to actually start mixing these basic rhythms around in order to start creating new, more complex rhythms. Here are three fun, common ones we hear in music all the time, orchestrated (i.e. how they’re played) in obvious, or subtle ways.

how to read sheet music

Handy diagram to help better understand things


Grasshopper: one word, one long syllable followed by two short ones

how to read sheet music


Centipede: one word, three short syllables

how to read sheet music


Dragonfly: one word, one short syllable followed by a long one, then a short one

how to read sheet music

So, for this I’ve written a few exercises for you to have a go at to help you how to read sheet music. I’ve opted to keep them fairly simple as the idea is to develop your reading little by little rather than throw you into the deep end from the get-go!


Download the second part here



There are, of course, more variations as well as rests to learn about! However I think these are great ones to get to grips with if you’re a beginner, or are looking for tips to get better at how to read sheet music. So, yeah, make it your own and fly with it!


Don’t forget to check out my drum lessons!


Also, check out my drum book for tons of creative ideas to help you freshen up your playing too!



5 Things You Must Know About Online Drum Lessons

5 Things You Must Know About Online Drum Lessons

Again, there we go with the “new normal” buzzword… But it’s unavoidable! Unfortunately, a few of my students have had COVID-19 and whilst, thankfully, they’ve come out the other side without any apparent long-term adversities, online drum lessons will continue for the foreseeable future.

So, let’s get straight into it… Here are my thoughts and experience of teaching drums online, as well as the general online drum lesson environment throughout the pandemic so far. Whether you’re a student or teacher, I hope you find these considerations useful!


Normalisation of the teaching online environment

This is a great development for education in general; there’s really no excuse in doing face-to-face lessons and risk becoming infected, or infecting someone else. Willingly offering and giving face-to-face lessons, particularly in a small space and without the necessary protective gear whilst the infection rate has been high, is irresponsible.

online drum lessons

Learning drums online does not replace face-to-face lessons, but it’s a great alternative


Great drummer does not equal great teacher

With most other sources of income for musicians gone, drummers are turning to teaching to make ends meet. Whilst I understand it’s important to try and find work somehow, a good drummer does not make a good teacher. If teaching is not something you’re passionate about, students won’t benefit from it, and you won’t enjoy it… Nobody wins.

Yes, teaching means income but it’s not something to do for a quick buck. Conversely, you might find that you’ve really liked teaching, and want to pursue it further! As for me, I’ve been care passionately about education, and have been teaching for many years to students of different ages, levels and students with S.E.N (learn about my drum lessons here), so I count myself lucky in that respect.


Online drum lessons = global market

One of the best things about online drum lessons is that we’re not restricted by borders or distance. If you have an internet connection, we’re half way there, really! Language, speaking of borders, is probably the biggest restricting factor these days.

This is a really important consideration, because our communication skills are really put to the test when teaching effectively. Similarly, globalisation has homogenised certain global cultural aspects. However, it’s important to be aware of that not all cultures are the same. 

Personally, I’ve been lucky to have been raised in an international environment. Having lived in Europe, South America, the Middle East, I grew up going to International schools. I’ve also extensively travelled internationally for work so I have good experience in this. Whilst all that stuff helps, the biggest takeaway from it is to keep an open mind!

online drum lessons

As students we can learn from anyone in the world, and as teachers we can teach students wherever they may be


Minimal equipment

Similarly, we don’t actually need super fancy equipment in order to give online drum lessons… To me, the quality of the teacher far outweighs the quality of the gear we use to teach. Of course, having multiple cameras, and audio interface to run the audio through helps, a full kit setup most certainly helps, but it isn’t 100% necessary.

Of course, a good camera angle and decent audio are important to demonstrate things, this goes without saying. That said, apps like EpocCam let you turn your smartphone into a webcam, enabling you to have a multi-camera setup with minimal investment! You can also find really cheap but sturdy tripods, as well as phone holders on Amazon too. 

Similarly, if you’re stuck teaching at home with no drumset, no problem… There are tons of things which can be taught on the pad.


My approach to online drum lessons

Here I’d like to share my approach to online drum lessons. As previously mentioned, if you’re a student or a teacher, I hope these are helpful things for you to think about.

I’ve noticed that my approach to teaching online is mostly similar to how I approach face-to-face lessons. However, there are some factors that, depending on the student, I’m far more flexible with. Here are brief thoughts on some of these. For instance:



Depending on the student’s age, ability, focus, attention span and goals, I’ve adapted my teaching priorities. My approach to engagement has heightened. The lack of a face-to-face, in-person interaction means that I have to make sure that the student is engaged throughout.

For beginners, this may mean learning grooves and songs taking even more of a central role. As such, specific technical stuff I might address over several lessons and less in-depth unless it’s the focus of the lesson. 

Like I said, it’s different for every student, but something I’ve noticed. Adapting my style to the environment has been important!


Set the tone… Be positive

More than ever, we have to understand that, with kids in particular and from a mental health perspective in general, making the lesson enjoyable and a positive experience that partly lets the student forget about everything else, is important.


Taking breaks

With adults and, particularly children, taking break gives the student a chance to digest all the information and makes the lesson a bit lighter and more fun.

online drum lessons

Taking short breaks during online lessons helps focus the mind and can aid long-term memory


Lesson structure

Depending on the student and their age, being more conscious of how long I’m spending on each topic I have planned is important. Some students prefer to stay on one particular task for longer, where as other students like more variety.


Recording facilities

Using apps / software like Skype and Zoom, you can record lessons (with permission from the students) which can then be downloaded and used for their reference.


Creating neat PDFs in real time

Using software like the brilliant, and free, MuseScore, I’m able to produce neat transcriptions and exercises for students pretty much in real time!


Thanks for reading!

If you’re interested in taking online drum lessons, check out my drum lessons and get in touch!

You can also check out some FREE video lessons with downloadable PDFs on my blog, like this one about a great Half-time Paradiddle Fill.

And, have a look at and follow me on Instagram where I post fun educational stuff every week!

Thanks for reading!

Nick x