Rock ‘n’ Jazz Clinic

Groove Construction

Part 12: 16th-Note Metronome Training

by Jost Nickel
In this lesson we’ll work on perceiving a metronome on various 16th-note partials. These exercises will improve your ability to hear different rhythms before you start playing them, and they’ll certainly improve your timing.

I recommend using any 8th- or 16th-note groove throughout this lesson to lock in with the metronome’s shifted position. Here’s an example of a suggested groove.

Now turn on a quarter-note click at 60 bpm, and get used to the tempo by playing the groove along with the metronome.

Now play the same groove while trying to hear the click as offbeat 8th notes. If you’re having trouble perceiving the click in this position, play a few bars of Exercise 2 until you’ve gotten used to the tempo. Stop the click, but keep playing. Then start the click on an 8th-note offbeat while still playing.

Next, try hearing the click on every fourth 16th-note partial, or the “ah” of each beat.

Now we’ll try to hear the click on the “e” of each beat, or the second 16th-note partial.

Spend time practicing Exercises 2–5 individually, and then try to play them all in a row. With your metronome set at 60 bpm, play Exercise 2 until it’s comfortable. Then stop playing while leaving the click on, and proceed to Exercise 3. Before you start playing the groove, shift your perception of the click to 8th-note offbeats. Then move on to Exercises 4 and 5 using the same method. Once all four interpretations of the click are comfortable, raise the tempo. This concept gets more difficult at faster tempos.

In the accompanying video for this lesson, which you can watch at, I play the previous exercises in a single demonstration. Before each example, I take time to shift my perception of the click.

Next we’ll try to hear the click in groups of three 16th notes. Make sure you’re comfortable with three-note, 16th-based groupings in 4/4 before continuing. I suggest setting the metronome to 70 bpm when working through the following exercise.

For a more advanced exercise, try hearing the click on every fifth 16th-note partial. Again, make sure you’re comfortable with playing in groups of five 16th notes first. I suggest setting the metronome to 50 bpm, but use any tempo that helps you perceive the click in groups of five 16th-note partials.

Take your time with these exercises, as they can take weeks or months to master. By working on one exercise at a time, you’ll eventually learn to hear the click in different 16th-note positions. Each time you practice, try to take a few minutes to work on one of these examples—this ear-training routine will definitely improve your timing. For more practice ideas, check out my book Jost Nickel’s Groove Book.

Jost Nickel is a top session and touring drummer in Germany, as well as an international clinician endorsing Sonor, Meinl, Aquarian, Vic Firth, and Beyerdynamic.