When I was a trombone player, I tried to stay on top of the beat. The trombone is a big instrument and requires a lot of air, making its response time a little slower than a smaller instrument like a trumpet. When I began playing guitar, I carried this "slightly ahead of the beat" mindset with me, which was a mistake. The guitar is much more responsive than a trombone, and by playing on top of the beat, I tended to rush.
With some effort, I've gotten my time under control…for the most part. When playing rhythm guitar, I can keep it nice and steady, but I tend to push the tempo when I'm improvising. My guitar teacher, Dave Frackenpohl, gave me a useful exercise.
|My trusty old Dr. Beat.|
The metronome never lies.
Once you're used to playing with the metronome on every beat, set it to half the speed (in our case, set it at 60). Now think of every click of the metronome as beats 2 and 4, with beats 1 and 3 being silent. Without that steady click on every beat, you have to rely more on your own sense of time.
Finally, and this is the exercise Dave gave me, set the metronome to one quarter speed (in our example, we'll set it at 30). Now think of every click as beat 4, with beats 1 through 3 being silent. This suddenly becomes a much more challenging exercise!
Because I'm most likely to push the tempo while improvising, Dave has me improvising solo lines while setting the metronome to click just on beat 4. This gives me the double benefit of working on time and improvisational ideas at the same time. It only took me a couple days of this for my inner sense of time to settle down. I'm not saying that my time is suddenly perfect, but it has become more solid over the past couple weeks, and it'll only get better as I continue to work on it.