Many young drummers are terrified of this word. However, the metronome is such a powerful tool for the beginning/advanced musician. Use of a metronome during practice is vital to drummers for many reasons. I always like to say that the metronome is “brutally honest.” It tells you when you are messing up, i.e. dragging/rushing/not even close. It lays a certain foundation for the beginner to work with and understand playing in time.
Another reason using a metronome is so valuable is it allows players at a higher level to begin “playing with time.” What I mean by this is that you can begin to experiment with playing on top or behind the beat and seeing how it feels related to a strictly enforced tempo. With drummers, it allows you to work with placing different limbs on top of and behind the beat. An example of this would be placing the hi hat in the center of the beat, ride cymbal on top, bass/snare drum slightly behind. There are all kinds of different combinations that create different pockets. On top of this, being able to lay down a solid groove without a metronome demonstrates a higher level of performance. At times, I like to test myself and place the metronome on the “light only” mode and play with it for a minute or so, look away for any given amount of time, and look back to see if I am still on with the click. This is a good exercise to see if you like to rush/drag when you are given a tempo. Being able to play solid time comes with much work with a metronome, so don’t overlook this tremendous tool.
Here are a couple examples;
Zigaboo Modeliste plays behind the beat quite a bit in this Meters tune
Bernie Dresel definitely plays on top of the beat here