Keeping Time: Metronome Practice

Being able to keep steady time is one of the most important aspects of becoming a good bass player.

I know that a lot of musicians, especially when they’re just starting out like to outsource this duty to someone else.

I’ve witnessed situations in a band where a drummer would be the one everyone looks at as a sole person in charge of keeping time, even though every musician should do their part.

The drummer always gets all the blame for everything that goes wrong anyway.

The truth is, every musician needs to be able to keep good time, especially bass players.

In this lesson, I’ll share with you several exercises that you can do with just your bass and metronome or drum machine.

These exercises will help you develop good time keeping skills on bass.

Before we get started, make sure you grab a handy FREE PDF and Backing Track package that you can download on your computer and use for practice: click here to get it.

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What is keeping time?

Keeping time means that you can keep a steady beat on bass and play notes at the exact time those notes should be played. Not being late, not rushing – right on the beat.

You know, being at the right place at the right time kind of thing.

To be able to do this, you need to be aware of how time works in music and how you can play in time for starters.

You also need to know how (long) to play different note durations on bass, what beats are etc.

Basics of rhythm and time won’t be discussed in detail in this lesson and I assume you know all that stuff.

If you don’t and you’re just starting out, and need help with learning those concepts from scratch, I suggest you check out my Bass Guitar 101 course – click to learn more about it here.

Metronome Practice

Okay, all these exercises will be done with the help of a metronome.

If you don’t have a physical one, you can find it online (just search for “online metronome”) or download an app for your phone.

A metronome is a device that produces a beep sound at regular time intervals that you can set on your own. It works in beats per minute, and you can set this value to make it beep slower or faster.

For the sake of these exercises, I want you to set your metronome to the following settings:

Time signature: 4/4
Tempo: 70 BPM

Once you’ve set your metronome, proceed to the first exercise.

Exercise 1

In this exercise, you’ll start with note G on the E string, play it on the beat 1.

Next, you need to play note D on the A string, exactly on the beat 3.

In this exercise you’re skipping beats 2 and 4, don’t play anything there.

By the way, in all of these exercises, you should play short, staccato notes as that way you’ll easily expose any lack of confidence when playing in time.

Exercise 2

Start this one by playing note G on beat 1.

You need to count in your head (tap for foot, it helps!) beats 2 and 3, as you need to skip playing there.

Finish the line by playing note D on beat 4.

Exercise 3

In this exercise, you start with note G on beat 1.

Then you rest during beat 2, and play note D on beat 3 and beat 4.

Exercise 4

In this exercise, we’re pushing things up a notch by adding eighth notes into the mix.

Start by playing note G on beat 1.

Next, you need to skip beat 2 and beat 3.

Play note C exactly on the beat 4 (this is part with eighth notes!), followed by another eighth note, this time going note D.

What you’re doing on Beat 4 is instead of playing 1 quarter note, splitting the beat in two equal eight notes which fill the space of 1 quarter note.

Exercise 5

More eight notes in this exercise.

Play two eighth notes (note G) on beat 1.

Skip beats 2 and 3, don’t forget to count in your head and tap your foot).

Play two eight notes (note D) on beat 4.

Handy Resources For Download

To help you follow the material I’ve covered in this lesson, I’ve created a handy free package that includes PDF that summarizes everything in this lesson PLUS you get practice backing track so that you can play it on your computer or living room audio system and improvise over.


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Hope you’ll find these exercises helpful for developing a sense of time and time keeping.

You’ll notice I’ve included rests in all of the exercises, that’s a neat trick that’ll force you to count beats as you play.

Also, you can create a free account at the Bass Road Academy to get instant access to these bass goodies for FREE:

  • Access to Free Bass Lessons Library
  • Access to Drum Backing Tracks Library
  • Lesson resources downloads: Worksheets / Tabs / Backing Tracks

When you create an account for FREE, you’ll get access to the neat Drum Backing Tracks library which you can use for practicing time-keeping grooves such as the ones covered in this lesson.

Suggested Bass Courses


Bass Guitar 101

START HERE: This is a course for absolute beginners. Learn notes on bass, develop essential technique and rhythm skills & perform bass lines.

If you’re serious about bass and would enjoy step-by-step online bass lessons and courses, then I strongly suggest checking out how Bass Road Academy online bass courses can help you get results.

Want to get better at playing bass and make steady progress?

Level up your bass skills with online bass courses and lesson series at Bass Road Academy. 

Learn why behind the bass lines you play, have a strategy when improvising and make progress faster.