Fans expect a lot more these days from live music.
A metronome is as important as a drum key & sticks to a drummer. It will help you develop your sense of timing. I practice to one almost every day. And I use a Groove Guide to watch my tempo then (explained below)
I am a decent drummer, but I have to admit I sometimes tend to push beats a bit when playing heavy & excited, especially live. Not too much, and I keep fairly steady while doing it - musicians often don't notice, but it's bad enough that I want to correct it. [CLICK HERE for tips on improving your timing] I started using a metronome at rehearsals & gigs, and it was a big help. First, it helped make sure I started songs at the correct tempo. I would also check it at different times during the song. I've gotten fairly good at following the blinking l.e.d. But when I get a hair off, the trick is to keep my snare hitting at the same spot between the l.e.d. blinking, or if I sped up or down, try to wait until I come around onto the blinking l.e.d. again, and shift back to that tempo smoothly- hopefully without anyone noticing. But it's a pain to do it this way, and can distract from my 'grooving' when I have tempo issues. Plus, it doesn't allow any variation that naturally may occur live - like a slight speed up when rocking out, or dragging on a part for drama. But generally I want to be dead on tempo. At my best I get many compliments on my time, but at my worst I speed up too much. BUT - I HAVE DISCOVERED A BETTER WAY TO KEEP TIME, AND TO DEVELOP YOUR TIMING.... It's called the GROOVE GUIDE.
GUIDE is like a reverse metronome. It tells you the bpm you're
calculating the time between 2 hits.
I practice using it, with & without a metronome. With metronome, it shows me when i hit slightly ahead or behind the proper beat - even when I am so close the hit sounded like it was right on the metronome. Say you are playing at 56 bpi - if the groove guide displays anything other than 56 when playing that hit was off. I also use it without a metronome, just to see how it feels to play something & try to keep it steady, and see what sections or riffs my natural feel is to speed up or slow down.
My Groove Guide (the Pro 600 model) cost $160 with shipping [that was about 5 few years ago - they are cheaper now!!]. I have had to replace the a/c adapter, and my guide had scratches from heavy use on the road, but it still works perfectly.
I also want to let everyone know about the great
experience I had with Drumperfect, the makers of the Groove Guide.
After using my Groove Guide for about 10 months at weekly rehearsal,
a half dozen gigs & a
recording session, the trigger had started to fail due to a frayed wire. I figured I'll get
a new one. I called Drumperfect
to buy a new one ($42 + shipping) and when I told them my story, first
they offered to fix my trigger for just
the price of shipping. I decided I should also have a backup trigger,
so they sold me one for
$201/2 off! I didn't ask for a discount. I was ready to pay in full. I didn't tell
him how I've been telling every drummer I know about how great the Groove
Guide is, or that I recommend it on my
drum site.... And both triggers are still working fine after years of use. [I think they now use triggers from another company]