Posted by: tammyspianostudio | October 27, 2010

My metronome is…

one of my favorite practice tools.  I love its features, the fact that it has two different click sounds, a volume control, and that I can set up my “duet partner” anytime….which made me wonder… Why do pianists need a metronome and how do we decide which one to buy?  Most of us want to be able to make music one day with other musicians.  And even if we want to be a solo pianist our entire lives, we still need the help of knowing how to teach our friends or future children how to play, how to accompany a singer in church, how to play for a choir in school or church, or how to play as a member of a group…even if we think we may never ever do that.

One of the most fundamental requirements needed to do all those things is that we have to be able to play at the same speed (tempo), or “in time” as, with, and for everyone else.  As we improve in our piano skills, we begin to notice tiny discrepancies in our playing which prevents the group from staying in time together.  That’s where our friend, the metronome, comes in.  One of my students reports that he “gets nervous” when he practices with the metronome at home.  He has the best support system with everyone telling him that his practice sounds great, that they love to hear him practicing, but this student still feels nervous.  Think of the metronome as your personal duet partner ~ it is one of the best ways to improve your timing ~ and when you use it frequently that nervousness will begin to disappear and you will become a more confident and more rhythmic pianist who will also become a better listener to your own playing.  (If you have a digital keyboard with a metronome built into it, you should become an expert on how to use it.  If you’re unsure, there must be a YouTube or HowTo tutorial for it.)

How do we decide what metronome to buy?  All of them keep a steady beat.  The functions and features are what you have to decide upon.  Metronomes are either mechanical, digital, or even an APP on an iPhone/iTouch.   The following list of features are important.  they will make the difference between a metronome you will love and use all the time for years to come, or one that drives you bananas and sits in the piano bench never to be used for its intended purpose.

  • Audio ~ Do you want your metronome to click, tick, or beep?  A beeping sound interferes with many pianists because the pitch of the metronome beep does not agree with the pitch of the piece they are playing.  A drummer, for example, would enjoy a metronome with a beep because he can distinguish the beep from all the hits/clicks/snaps/taps he is making.  A pianist, on the other hand, would enjoy a metronome with a click or tick much more because it is the opposite sound of what they are creating on the piano.  (Some clicking metronomes come with two different clicks ~ one high, one low ~ depending what type of music you’re playing.)  Also, can you hear the metronome when you are playing forte?  The iPhone/iTouch metronome APPs can be too quiet for forte playing (try using with headphones).  Is the volume adjustable?  (Sometimes you just don’t need it as loud as it will go.)  Try to listen to a metronome before you buy.
  • Visuals ~ What does the metronome looks like and what does the beat look like? Does an LED light blink for each beat or does a pendulum swing?
  • Tempo Change ~ How easy is it to change between different tempi or BPM (beats per minute)?  iPhone/iTouch APPs are extremely sensitive and it  can be difficult to touch the screen the get the correct tempo.
  • Size ~ Does the metronome fit where you need it to on the piano?  Is it portable enough to take it along to lessons or future rehearsals?
  • Features & Functions ~ Does the metronome have everything on it that you would like in a metronome?  Do you prefer a rolling wheel to access the BPM or an up/down arrow?   Large dials allow you to quickly spin to the right speed.
  • Power ~ How is the metronome powered?  Are you able to replace or recharge the source easily?

Pros and cons of common metronomes:

Every pianist needs a metronome.  The metronomes above are a small representation of what is available, but it does give you a general overview of the kinds of metronome available.  I hope you will be very happy with your metronome for the next 20 years.

I would love to give credit to for all these resources, but my information is gathered from many sources over many years.  If you are part-author here, I would love to honor your research.


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