Hey UG how's it going; I'm new to guitar though I've been playing since like August so I like to think I'm not a total scrub but I have a couple newbie questions:

Alright so I've read plenty about the importance of using metronomes and I've been trying to incorporate them into exercises and warm-ups, but I have yet to use them for practicing actual songs yet. I was wondering do I need the actual sheet music for playing along with a metronome? I mean how else would I know whether to play directly on the tick or not? I'm sorry if this is a dumb question but it would help to know.

On the same note it would be great if you all could give some tips on using a metronome. Like should I be increasing speed during my practice session or should I just play at one speed and then the next time I practice amp the speed up.

This might sound like a silly question but do you guys(and gals?) have any recommendations for how many songs I should be learning at a time? Like I've learned a handful of different riffs and songs but I can really only play a couple perfectly the others are off a bit; some more than others. When I practice though I usually practice one song for little and then switch to something else for a little and so and then go back to what I was playing originally etc. I kind of realized that I've been playing many of the same songs for probably a few months now and yet I haven't really nailed them down as I thought I would have by now. So is it better if one just does exercises and then concentrates on one song at a time? I sort of feel like I'm in a rut doing what I'm doing.

Also do you think it is better to learn from lessons or by yourself? I can't afford real lessons but I've learned a bunch of stuff from Marty Schwartz and Justin Sandercoe on youtube, is this a better route to go than just toughing it out on my own? Sometimes I have hard time teaching myself songs, though am getting better at it, but I feel like if I just do lessons I'll become reliant on someone showing me everything.

Thank you to anyone who takes the time to help me out.
Last edited by SilentVowels at Mar 8, 2012,
For sight reading, it is a good idea to practice to a metronome. You should increase the speed when you nail the bit you are reading once or twice, and actually read it. Don't stop and go back if you make a mistake, just keep going along with the click otherwise you will learn the piece when you really just want to read it on sight.
Learning riffs and parts of songs happens a lot when you're starting out, there will come a point when you'll think "I really want to learn this song from start to finish" and by the sounds of things, you are almost at that point.
It is always better to have someone more experienced teach and critique your playing whether that be one-to-one lessons (which is obviously easier to critique your playing) or online ones.
For practicing with a metronome, the first thing you need to do is figure out the notes of the riff or exercise that you want to play. To figure out where those notes fall, either tap your foot along to the beat or listen to the song with the metronome and determine it that way. Obviously this is easier at slower speeds, so you may want to use one of many pieces of software to slow down the song, just make sure that you change the tempo of the metronome accordingly.

You should increase your speed during a session. Practice at a speed that's comfortable, and then raise it up by a couple bpm. Then get comfortable at that speed and raise it up again. And so on. If you just practice it at one tempo during one session, the next time you play, you will still probably have to work at it a bit to get it up to your desired tempo.

I think it's best to really concentrate on only one song at a time. But if you get to a part where it's just not coming together and you've been stuck there for a couple weeks, take a break from that song and take a look at something else. Then come back to that song a while down the road and try it again.

There's no substitute for face-to-face lessons with a good teacher, but if you can't afford them, use all the resources disposal. It can be hard to sift through all the crap on the internet and find out what's right and what's wrong, but good places to start are the columns and lessons here on UG, and also www.justinguitar.com.
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Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.