How to use a metronome

A metronome is a practice tool that produces a steady pulse (or beat) to help musicians play rhythms accurately. The pulses are measured in beats-per-minute (BPM). Most metronomes are capable of playing beats from 35 to 250 BPM. Common uses of the metronome are helping you to maintain an established tempo while practicing, and learning difficult passages.

“Time signatures consist of the number of beats in a measure and the value of the beat.”

The first step in metronome use is to understand time signatures. Time signatures are found at the beginning of a musical piece, after the clef and the key signature. Time signatures (also called meter signatures) consist of two numbers. The top number indicates the number of beats in a measure, while the bottom number corresponds to the value of the beat. Most often, you will see 2, 3, 4 or 6 beats per measure. Beats are commonly half notes (the bottom number of the meter signature is “2”) or quarter notes (“4”) (the bottom number of the meter signature is “4”).

Here are a few common examples:

4/4: 4 quarter beats per measure (common time)

3/4: 3 quarter beats per measure

2/2: 2 half notes per measure (cut time)

Less easily understood time signatures are those with dotted quarters as the beat (compound time):

6/8: 2 dotted quarters per measure.

9/8: 3 dotted quarters per measure.

NOTE: even though this time signature reads 6 eighth notes per measure, this time signature usually refers to two beats per measure, where each beat is a dotted quarter, consisting of 3 eighth notes.

In western music (whether pop or jazz or classical or other) you either divide the beat into 2 parts (simple time signatures) or 3 (compound time signatures). The beat thus will either be a quarter, half or eighth note (for simple time signatures) or a dotted quarter or dotted half in compound time signatures. Simple time signatures are straightforward to read: 2/4 (two quarters per measure), 2/2 (two half notes per measure), etc.

“Compound time signatures tell you the division of the beat because we cannot express dotted values with a number”

Compound time signatures (6/8, 9/8, 6/4, etc.) actually tell you the division of the beat because we cannot express dotted values with a number. When the top number is greater than 3 and is divisible by 3 (6, 9, 12), you have to divide that number by 3 to get the actual number of beats per measure. E.g. 6/8: 2 beats per measure (6:3=2), and the beat is valued at a dotted quarter. 6/4: two dotted halves per measure.

If the music is very slow, then the composer may say something like “slow 8ths”. In this case, you would indeed think of the 8th as the beat, but this you will see only at very slow tempi. In general, thinking of the 8th as the beat in compound time (especially at medium and fast tempi) will make the music sound choppy, and again, is simply an erroneous reading of the time signature.

Odd time signatures also exist in music:

5/4: 5 quarters per measure

7/8: 7 eighths per measure

Now that you understand the meter signature, determine the value of the beat and its appropriate tempo for the piece you are learning. For example, your desired tempo might be quarter note=120. (For more information, see the article on tempo markings.) This is quite brisk, and you may not notice it if you sway from it (rush=get faster unintentionally, drag=get slower unintentionally). Having the metronome give you the accurate pulses will help you stay on track.

At other times, most of a piece is easy to play except for a few measures. When faced with a challenging passage, practice the problem area at a slow tempo that allows you to play all the notes without mistakes (at quarter= 78, for example). Then, click the metronome up a few notches and try the passage at the faster tempo. If you can execute the passage 5 times in a row without any mistakes, you can click the metronome up a few notches again. Repeat this process until you reach the target tempo.

Some piano and music skills are easy to learn when you’re starting off. Recognizing notes and finding the correct keys are things we learn the very first time we sit at a piano. Other abilities take more time and a little more work. In particular, familiarizing oneself with correct posture and technique can be challenging, but can easily be achieved with the right guidance and tutorials.

There is one more skill that many beginners will often overlook or not practice enough, and it can really hurt your performance over the long run. Learning how to keep time and pace on the piano is one of the most important skills a musician has to develop, but unfortunately is one that can be especially difficult to master.

If you’re feeling a little concerned it’s okay because there is a simple tool that can make the process unbelievably easy. The solution is called a metronome and it will change the way you play.

Check out this guide here on how to use a metronome for piano practice!

So What Is A Metronome?

Traditionally, a piano metronome is a small device that is designed to keep a beat at a certain timing indefinitely. Originally created in the 19th century, metronomes are used to help musicians play songs with the proper time signature and the right pace. Remember, music is not just about time signatures, but also about how fast or slow we play it. Metronomes come in a few varieties nowadays: analog, electronic, or digital.

How to use a metronomeAnalog metronomes are made of wood and use a small pendulum to keep time.

Electronic metronomes look like tiny radios and can sometimes be used as tuners as well.

How to use a metronomeElectronic Metronomes are also great for tuning your piano!

The last kind of metronome are probably the easiest to find. Today, it’s extraordinarily uncomplicated to find a great metronome app on your phone or tablet and they are incredibly customizable and versatile!

How Does Using a Metronome Help Me?

A metronome does more than simply keep time. By using a metronome for piano practice, you can work on several fundamental skills that will elevate your piano playing.

The first thing a metronome does to improve your musical abilities is help you focus on your rhythm. While it’s important to know all the parts of a song, it is also crucial to know when and how fast or slow to play them. Beginners can tend to focus heavily on the first part without paying attention to the second. A metronome will force you to pay attention to time.

Metronomes are also a great way to slow down a complicated piece in order to better learn it. Because you can change the pace of the beats, you can play a song slower or faster in order to familiarize yourself with it.

Finally, metronomes are a great way to practice tempos outside of your comfort zone. A lot of music today comes in a standard 4/4 signature, so it’s hard to really learn others that might expand your horizons. By freestyling or playing pieces on different, less common signatures, you can improve your technique and skills!

Awesome! How Do I Use A Metronome?

Metronomes can be a little more complex than their simple appearances. Despite being essentially a one-trick pony, using a metronome the wrong way can reinforce some bad habits and make it harder to improve later on. Here’s a tutorial!

    Find your time signature — The first thing to know if you want to practice a piece of music with a metronome is the time signature it’s in. Luckily, most of the sheet music you can find has it included.

How to use a metronomeThis is how you can tell how many beats per measure and what note gets one beat.

  • The top of a signature indicates how many beats are in one single measure, while the bottom is the note value that is one beat. The most common signatures are 4/4–also known as common time–2/4, and ¾, though there are some great signatures such as ⅞ or 7/4 that are used in various styles of music.
  • Set the Tempo — While most songs share a time signature, tempo–which is measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM) –is a different matter. Some music is played at a fast tempo, such as rock or metal, while others might be played at a slower pace.
  • Slowing down the tempo is also a good way to work through complex pieces with lots of quick notes and arrangements. Start off at a slower tempo, such as 70 BPM, and play the song at gradually faster tempos until you feel more comfortable with it.
  • Set the volume — If you have an analog metronome, this is not as applicable, but both digital and electronic models give you the option to change the volume of the clicks. To start, you’re going to want it to be on the louder side to make sure you’re keeping the right time.
  • As you improve on your pacing, you can start lowering the volume in order to rely on it less, leaving it as simply a background guide to have in case you mix up or make a mistake that throws off your timing.
  • Take Baby Steps — This is hard to follow, but essential! Initially, metronomes can cause quite a bit of frustration. Loud noises and rigid playing can make it hard to concentrate. This video below on YouTube recommends that you start slow, practicing for 2 to 3 minutes at a time in order to familiarize yourself with playing alongside a metronome. Work your way from slow tempos and simple signatures to faster and more complex ones. Always make sure to take your time though!
  • Piano Metronome App

    How to use a metronomeIf you’re looking for a high-tech digital solution for a metronome, check out our JoyTunes Metronome App, a great (and free!) piano metronome app. Even better, you’ll always have it with you since it is Apple-Watch compatible!

    Check it out in action:

    Now that you’ve seen how simple and helpful using a metronome can be, don’t waste any more time, get out there and start using a metronome in your piano practice!

    Every guitar player knows that being able to tune your guitar is one of the most important skills to have, besides knowing how to play of course. One way to do this is with the GuitarTuna app. However, did you know that the app comes with a built-in metronome as well?

    Don’t know what a metronome is? Well, today we’re going to teach you just that. Keep reading to learn more about metronomes and how to use one with the GuitarTuna and Yousician apps.

    You can also check out our video lesson to see how to use the built-in metronome in the GuitarTuna app. In the video, we’ll teach you how to use the metronome when learning new songs with Yousician.

    What is a metronome?

    You might have seen a metronome in your local music store or music class in school. The traditional metronome is a device with a pendulum that swings back and forth, producing clicks at regular intervals.

    How to use a metronome

    “Metronome” by jronaldlee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    This type of metronome helps you keep up with the tempo of a song by producing a steady rhythm. Although the old-timey metronome devices look nice, they can be inconvenient to use and carry around with all your other music gear and instruments. Luckily modern technology has made keeping up with the tempo of a song much easier, as you can have a high-quality metronome app right in your pocket.

    What does BPM (Beats Per Minute) mean?

    Before we get any further, let’s make sure we’re speaking the same language. One important term to remember is BPM. This stands for beats per minute.

    With the GuitarTuna app’s metronome, you can set the beats per minute yourself. The higher the BPM is, the faster the tempo will be. For example, set the BPM to 60 and the metronome produces a beat every second.

    The GuitarTuna app’s metronome makes a clicking sound on every beat. However, you might notice that the beats don’t all sound the same—one beat is higher than the rest. This is because the higher beat indicates that the beat in question starts the bar. Sounds confusing? Don’t worry, let’s use an example.

    Say you’ve set your metronome to 60 BPM and the time signature is 4/4. This means that every beat is one-quarter note and the higher clicking sound represents a full measure. Give it a try. Take out your metronome app and try setting the tempo to 60 BPM and time signature to 4/4. Don’t forget to try different tempos and time signatures as well to see how the changes affect the metronome and its rhythm.

    How to use a metronome

    Now that we know what a metronome is and how it works, let’s move on to using a metronome. Practicing with a metronome might not seem like the most exciting way to learn and play your instrument (especially compared to Jimi Hendrix and his flaming guitar), but once you get the hang of using a metronome, you’ll notice just how useful it is.

    Here’s a few tips to bring your playing to a whole new level:

    • When you’re learning a new song, a metronome can be a helpful tool to have because it allows you to gradually build up speed. Start by setting a slow tempo and try playing the song. Once you get the hang of it, increase the tempo and see if you can still keep up. Continue practicing and soon you’ll be playing the song at full speed.
    • The steady tempo of a metronome is highly useful if you feel like your playing is a bit sloppy and you can’t play notes with precision. Again, set up a tempo you’re comfortable playing with and keep increasing the tempo as you get better. Think of this like working out at the gym: as you build up strength you can increase the weights you’re working with. Similarly, when using a metronome, keep repeating the same exercise and bump up the tempo once the current one feels too easy and you can play the piece without mistakes.
    • When practicing with Yousician, you can enable a metronome from the app’s settings. Turn on the metronome in the app’s practice mode and you’ll hear the familiar clicking sound of the metronome in the background. In Yousician’s practice mode, you can also adjust the tempo to slow down songs in case you need to practice at a slower tempo before playing at full speed.
    • A metronome is a highly useful tool also when recording, whether you’re making a demo in your bedroom or working with high-end gear at the recording studio. Whatever it is you’re recording, you’ll want to play as precisely and accurately as possible. By using a metronome, you can keep up with the tempo more easily and record that flawless solo or immaculate drum fill.

    Play with the steady tempo of a metronome

    One of the best things about using a metronome is you can use it with pretty much any instrument, including your voice. So, now that you know how to use a metronome, pick up your instrument and start practicing your favorite songs.

    How to use a metronome

    If you’re looking for a good metronome to start with, check out GuitarTuna. It also comes with a variety of different tools, such as a tuner for a wide selection of stringed instruments, a chord library and more.

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    How to Use a Metronome

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    At first, most musicians despise the metronome. That’s normal because this mechanical device makes it impossible to ignore flaws in your playing. At the same time, this is precisely why you should learn how to use a metronome.

    In this article, I will address a few common arguments against practicing with the metronome. Also, I’ll give some practice tips which will help you learn to see how the metronome makes practicing easier and more relaxing, once you get over the initial hurdles. Finally, I will give some advice on how to find the best metronome for piano practice.

    Argument 1: The metronome only has one purpose.

    The metronome has many purposes. It can help you solve a variety of problems, and is useful in a variety of circumstances.

    For example, it can be used to:

    • Help prevent you from speeding up.
    • Help prevent you from slowing down.
    • Keep you grounded in the present.
    • Make it easier for you to forget about your mistakes and keep going.
    • Clarify what specific tempo you are playing at.
    • Help you practice.

    Thus, I am tempted to say that if you don’t use a metronome regularly in your practicing You’re Doing it Wrong, but I’m sure that would be unfair. The purpose of a metronome is to help you keep one foot in the “real world.” So, don’t ignore how much benefit you can get from it!

    Practice tips:

    If you aren’t accustomed to practicing with a metronome, or if you only pull it out once in a while, try practicing with it more frequently. Have it running the whole time, while you practice for 20 minutes (set a timer). Notice what it does for you. What does it make easier? What does it make harder?

    Argument 2: The metronome is only for beginners who can’t keep time.

    No one has a problem “keeping time.”

    The same beginners who struggle mightily to count to the number 4 in a piano lesson have no problems performing complex dance moves with their friends or singing along to their favorite songs on the radio. Additionally, they have no problems walking, talking, playing video games, or any of the other thousands of tasks that call for highly trained and coordinated senses of rhythm and timing.

    The reason they seem to lose all of this in a piano lesson is only that they are distracted. That is, they are trying to do many things at once (play the right notes, read the symbols on the page, please the teacher, prevent themselves from screaming in frustration) and they are caring very much whether they are doing them well. Yes, that messes up your sense of time. So, the purpose of the metronome is to bring you back into the present.

    Finally, it is not only beginners who get distracted. However, maybe you’ve learned to hide it. That is, you’ve learned to play reasonably in tempo, despite your distractions, your anxieties, your fears, and your insecurities. However, are you paying any price for that?

    Practice tips:

    If you find that you have a problem keeping time, experiment with letting go of this. Instead of trying harder to play in tempo, rely on the metronome guide you. Trust it to keep the tempo, and focus your energy on playing comfortably. Let it be your teacher.

    Argument 3: The metronome is too stressful.

    If you think the metronome is stressful, you are probably taking it way too seriously. In reality, the metronome can be a calming, soothing force.

    Practice tips:

    Don’t try to follow the metronome. That is where the stress comes from. Instead, let it click in the background. Sometimes you’re with it, sometimes you’re not. Does it matter? Is it going to yell at you if you deviate from its tempo?

    If you feel rushed by the metronome, can you let it go?

    Argument 4: The metronome leads to mechanical playing.

    On the contrary, I believe that it can be an incredibly useful tool for developing musicality. That’s because the purpose of the metronome is not to learn musicality per se, but rather to learn control and poise. Once you have control, you can express the music however you see fit.

    It is musicians who cannot play with a metronome, and instead base all of their movements on escaping their internal anxieties, who end up playing inflexibly and mechanically.

    Practice tips:

    Use the metronome to help you get to a point where you can play mechanically. Once you are at this point, notice what freedom this gives you in being able to play expressively.

    Don’t rely only on your feelings while practicing to tell you whether this is working. Instead, record yourself. Does your “expressive” playing sound expressive? Does your “mechanical” playing sound mechanical? Use your ears to guide you, not just your thoughts about how you “should” be practicing.

    Argument 5: I don’t have a metronome.

    If you don’t have a metronome, you should get one. Luckily, this isn’t a hard problem to solve. There are many types, at all different price points, including free apps for your phone.

    You don’t need anything fancy, but here are some factors you should consider when shopping around:

    February 4, 2013, 3:55 PM · Instrument, bow, stand, music, pencil–that’s all you need when you sit down (or stand) to practice, right? Wrong. One of the most essential and useful tools for the wise, efficient practicer is this marvelous, magical machine: the metronome. The timekeeper. That thing that clicks.

    As a string bassist who grew up classically trained, I was used to bending the tempo, slowing with ritardandos, stopping for fermatas and railroad tracks, slightly altering the tempo based on the lyricism of the piece, and sometimes completely throwing the beat out the window to play a cadenza.

    When I went to music school in college, I was introduced to jazz, and I realized I was on a completely different playing field, playing a completely different ballgame. As a player used to hashing up melodic solos, playing jazz forced me back to the bassist’s primary role: keeping the beat. I remember my teacher telling me that a bassist who can’t keep time is useless. A musician might have perfect pitch and stellar chops, but without a sense of rhythm . . . well. Good luck.

    Another time I was preparing for a blind audition and was given a tip to keep in mind. When you can’t see the adjudicators listening from behind a screen, you won’t see their faces, but you also won’t see their pencil lightly tapping on their knee checking the consistency of your tempo. Hopefully all panel judges aren’t that cruel, but my paranoia of that “one” judge made me reconsider my relationship with my metronome.

    We needed to become best friends.

    USING YOUR METRONOME

    If you don’t have a metronome, now is the time to keep time. My personal favorites are metronomes with a dial (rather than digital metronomes) such as the Wittner MT60 Quartz. But anything that keeps steady time will do.

    Here are a few things your metronome can help you do to become a better musician:

    1. Understand tempo markings. I like metronomes with a dial that show you the numerical ranges for common tempo markings like largo, andante, moderato, presto, etc. The metronome can help you get the feel for the overall tempo of a passage or piece.
    2. Set the tempo. Sometimes composers and conductors mark the music with a specific numerical tempo marking in addition to a general tempo marking (like “largo”). Identify the appropriate tempo for your piece of music. This doesn’t mean you’ll start practicing at that tempo. It’s just what you’re aiming for. (See number 5.)
    3. Warm up. When you pull out your instrument, start with long, slow tones to warm up the rosin on your bow and smooth out your tone. Typically you’ll start with scales. Warming up with a metronome is like getting your musical heartbeat pumping again. Wake up the rhythm in your body! Ole!
    4. Practice scales and arpeggios with different rhythmic patterns. After playing scales with whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes, change it up a bit, moving up the scale in triplets (one triplet per bow) or groups of sixteenths. Then practice arpeggios at a slow tempo, gradually turning up the speed.
    5. Perfect difficult passages. For all music, whether you’re playing scales, arpeggios, orchestral excerpts, or solos, START SLOW. Only increase the speed on your metronome once a passage or lick is free of error. You can apply this principle to even a single measure, a group of notes, or even a single shift between two notes. Zone in on exactly what you’re tripping over and then conquer it with your metronome.
    6. Subdivide. Your metronome beat doesn’t have to just be for a quarter note. Set it four times faster to click on the sixteenths, or three times faster for triplets. This will help you decipher tricky rhythmic passages, steady your dotted rhythms, and keep a steady beat overall.
    7. Learn vibrato. A great way to get your hand and fingers comfortable with the physical motion of vibrato is the slowly roll your wrist, forearm, and/or fingers in time with a slow beat. This will develop a vibrato that vibrates consistently rather that shaking uncontrollably.
    8. Sight read. After regularly using your metronome, you should get a good feel for basic tempo markings. Remembering that “60” means 1 beat per second, if you can get the feel for the timing of seconds, this can be your baseline reference. When you get a piece of music to sightread, always identify the expected tempo before taking off.
    9. Prepare your accompanist. Whether you’re playing with a pianist, a duet partner, a small ensemble, or an orchestra, you can set the tempo specifically to what you’re comfortable with. It’s the worst when your accompanist rushes ahead of you at a pace that makes you stumble over your tricky passages. Even five extra beats per minute could throw you off if it’s faster than you’ve prepared. It’s also torture when you accompanist drags behind you. Give them an exact number so you can play in rhythmic harmony.
    10. Conduct. If you conduct music, all of these principles apply to your ability to lead musicians in time. Just like I was saying how a bass player who can’t keep time is useless, a conductor who can’t keep time is even MORE useless! Conductors have to be the rock when it comes to keeping the beat. If you tend to rush or slow down, spend more time with your metronome.

    Now, off you go to the practice room. Have a great TIME!

    You know what they say – timing is everything. And not just in comedy, either. Whether you’re a music student struggling through tricky practice pieces, a conductor on stage, or a professional performer, you have to be able to keep time.

    Some people have an incredible innate sense of timing, but for the rest of us, there are certain natural tendencies. When a piece of music or even the mood of a performance is exciting, we tend to speed up. If you listen to most count-ins, they’re almost always slower than where the tempo goes later along in the song. The best way to keep on track is a metronome.

    But what is a metronome? Let’s find out…

    What is Tempo, Anyway?

    How to use a metronome

    Tempo is simply the Italian word for time. Back in the day, Italy was the epicenter of new musical techniques and innovations, and their names stuck. So we still use Italian words to describe tempo in all sorts of ways.

    The tempo of a piece of music isn’t the time it takes to play that song. It’s actually the speed it should be played at. Tempos are normally written in just a relative way. Here are some examples of tempo you’ve probably seen written on pieces of music:

    Adagio – slow and formal

    Andante – at walking speed

    Allegro – quick and bright

    Vivace –fast and lively

    Presto – very fast

    If you’ve had a lot of formal training, you’ve probably picked up a general feel for these different tempos. The problem is that your feeling and someone else’s won’t match perfectly. Andante is at walking speed, but we don’t all walk at the same speed, right? So it helps to have a standard.

    BPM

    These days, clocks are in everything. Just about every digital device tosses in a clock to add an extra feature. Well lucky us, because we can always count time accurately!

    BPM stands for Beats Per Minute and can be measured and programmed. This is a huge help if you’re a DJ or producer trying to mix tracks. You can speed up or slow down a track-to-beat match, which means get the beats in both tracks to the same BPM level.

    BPM can give a certain feel not only to a single piece of music but whole genres. Some styles of music have pretty much defining BPMs and sound pretty strange or feel weird when they are sped up or slowed down. Here are some examples of BPM for popular music genres:

    How to use a metronome

    Hip Hop: 85-95 BPM

    House: 115-130 BPM

    Rock: 110-140 BPM

    Dubstep: 135-145 BPM

    Drum & Bass: 160-180 BPM

    While these are by no means set in stone, they’re pretty well accepted. Instrumentation, key, and tempo all help to define most musical styles.

    Do you know your own BPM? The average resting heart rate for healthy humans is somewhere between 60 to 100 beats per minute. Roughly R&B. When people exercise, their heart rates get closer to 120-160 BPM. More like dancing to rock or dubstep. Maybe there’s some connection here.

    A Metronome Sets BPM

    Back to the question: What is a metronome? Well, it’s a machine that sets a tempo in BPM for you to follow as you practice or play through a piece.

    In case your Ancient Greek is rusty, this comes from métron, which means ‘measure’ and némo, which means ‘I lead.’ So this machine is leading you through some perfectly measured beats. Isn’t Greek cool?

    The metronome has a murky history…

    Some people claim it was invented as early as the 9th Century in Andalusia. Others claim that Galileo invented it by using a pendulum swinging back and forth that you could watch to keep track of tempo.

    We do know that by the early 1800s, the mechanical pendulum metronome was already on the market. It was sort of like a wind-up clock. All you did was wind it up for power and set a tempo. The pendulum on it would swing back and forth, making a click each time.

    Different Types of Metronomes

    How to use a metronome

    You can still buy fully mechanical metronomes, such as the classic Accurate Mechanical Metronome. They’re kind of cool in a retro sort of way. They’re reliable and don’t need batteries, but you do have to wind them.

    Electronic metronomes, such as the excellent Seiko SQ50-V Quartz Metronome, use a battery or AC power and have built-in quartz crystal technology that’s used in most clocks today. These metronomes are usually small and portable, and because they’re electronic, they can include other features as well.

    If you want a flashing light or a beep instead of a click, no problem. Maybe you want your metronome to have a built-in tuner. Sure. You just have to keep these metronomes powered up and ready for use.

    Metronome apps are making a lot of headway…

    They work in just the same way as electronic metronomes but run off your phone or other device’s battery and brainpower. There are a lot of free metronome apps that work well. At the same time, they eat your battery power and may be interrupted by calls and text alerts. They still have some bugs to work out.

    Interested in Learning More About Music and Instruments?

    What is a Metronome? – Final Thoughts

    Playing along to a metronome takes some getting used to. It’s going to seem very strict and inflexible at first. But give it time (pun intended), and you should find it gives you a whole new appreciation for tempo.

    They’re great for training…

    If you’re having a lot of trouble with a certain piece or section, try playing at a much slower tempo. Set your metronome about 20-30 BPM slower than the piece should be played, and try again. This will help you focus more on your notes and where the beats fall.

    Sure, using a metronome isn’t for everyone. While lots of performers play with a click track in their in-ear monitors, others detest them. It comes down to style and feel. If you want things to be free, emotional, and fluid, you can just shrug your shoulders and say, “Metronome? What’s a metronome?”

    If you want your music tight and “in the pocket,” however, that metronome might just end up being your best friend.

    That relentless click can help develop you into a more well-rounded musician.

    Click … click … click … click …

    There are differing schools of thought as to whether you should use a metronome while practicing guitar.

    Some might think it’s an unnecessary addition to their routine. Some might think it takes some of the fun out of a relaxing and oftentimes spontaneous activity, stifling creation. Some might just be intimidated by the watchful sound of a metronome’s telling ticks.

    The reality, however, is that a metronome can be a valuable addition to your practice setup.

    Timing and rhythm are both very important factors in playing guitar. You’ll need those to be a well-rounded guitarist.

    A player who can master every scale, chord inversion and arpeggio is great, but not being able to stay in the “pocket” is a serious detriment to your development. It’s important to be able to freely express yourself on your instrument—and learning patterns and chords is super important to start—but many instances call for the guitarist to lock in step with the tempo.

    That’s where a metronome can help. It can help establish the time of a piece of music and ensure that you’re organizing the pulse of the rhythm in your head and your hands.

    A metronome is also beneficial in building speed. It’s a classic tortoise-and-hare situation. If you set out to play like Yngwie Malmsteen immediately after getting a good handle on the basics, there likely will be a crash and burn near on the horizon.

    Using a metronome at a slow speed while learning new songs—once you’ve got the basic notes down—and then gradually building up to the appropriate tempo will allow you to grasp the exact technique and movements needed to master it. The goal is to get comfortable at the ground level and then bring yourself up to tempo when you’re ready. This will keep you from catching bad habits.

    It will also aid you in sniffing out the trouble spots that you need to address. Say you’re playing a song and notice a mistake. Did a finger slip? Does the motion feel awkward? Using a metronome will make it easier to pick up where you left off and not force you to start from the absolute beginning to really focus on what went wrong. It’s just more efficient.

    Eventually, you’ll develop an internal metronome … whether it’s a tapping foot or a beating heart or just an internal clock. A lot of guitar playing has to do with muscle memory, and you don’t want to become dependent on a metronome to develop solid technique.

    But incorporating a metronome into your practice at times will shape a more balanced musician.

    Click … click … click … click …

    How to use a metronome

    How To Use A Metronome

    What’s that ticking noise?

    This might be the question your non-musical friends and family members ask when they hear the incessant clicking from your practice space. Knowing how to use a metronome is important, simple and very useful.

    This device, nowadays purchasable as a phone app, is a musician’s most trusted tool for inner rhythm development, technique practice and more. It provides us with a consistent and never wrong (unlike foot tapping) “click” which represents the beat in any tempo or rhythm you may need.

    It helps us physically hear something we would otherwise only feel; the beat.

    How does it work?

    The metronome works by providing a beat anywhere from 30bpm to about 252bpm, where the lower the number the slower the click. BPM stands for “beats per minute” and it has to do with time signatures.

    For example in 4/4 time, there are 4 beats per measure and each beat is a quarter note. If you need to brush up on basic music theory check out this awesome little website. So, if I was playing Mary Had a Little Lamb in 4/4 time I could set my metronome at a comfortable 86bpm and play a quarter note on each click. If I wanted to play it faster, I would turn it up to say 120bpm and follow the same method.

    The metronome’s job is to keep you steady in whatever you play to avoid speeding up or dragging the tempo.

    But I don’t know what tempo to pick!

    While some sheet music clearly states a metronome marking at the top, most fundamental exercises simply say “Slowly” or “Steady.” This is to promote self-reflection and mindful practice as opposed to playing through fundamentals for the sake of getting them out of the way. If you see the word “slowly,” play the exercise as slowly as you need to to focus your tone, notice the flow and feel the feedback from the instrument.

    However, sometimes it’s good to play fundamentals with a metronome, especially if you are having a hard time playing slowly, steadily and if you feel like your inner rhythm is out of wack. Here are some go-to tempo markings, but keep in mind they’re just suggestions.

    Long tones: 60bpm

    Flexibilities: 60-86bpm

    Tonguing/Articulation: 60-94bpm

    Can I use it to play something other than fundamentals?

    Yes, and please do. Use your metronome to practice anything and everything! It’s great for mastering pesky passages with quick moving notes and complicated fingering patterns. My favorite practice technique is “chaining”.

    Have you ever played a piece of music that has this one part with a bunch of notes going really fast and you just can’t get it right? Yeah me too, and I’m going to tell you how I fixed it. Chaining comes from the idea of an actual metal chain, which is made of single links put together. Once the links are welded in place it is impossible to pull the chain apart. In practice, we can do the same thing. Take the measure that is causing you trouble, turn on your metronome to something slow like 60, and play the first two notes. Play those two notes three times. If, and only if, you got it right all three times, add another note. See how it works? Once you complete the measure or section you can speed it up slowly.

    Another way to chain is to do the same thing but with the metronome at full tempo, an approach I recommend for intermediate and advanced players.

    Get more tips on this page: “ Practice Techniques ”

    Get started

    There is a lot more you can do with metronome apps nowadays, but that is a topic for another time. I will leave you with some suggestions on my favorite metronomes.

    First, the simple, free and easily accessible Google metronome. Just do a google search for “metronome” and boom…it’s right there!

    The second is the awesome app “Tonal Energy”, available on android and apple devices. It is a metronome, tuner, recorder, tone generator and coffee maker. The last one is a lie…but it’s basically that great.

    And finally, I would love to recommend a metronome that never failed to be loud enough, the Korg KDM-2, but it’s hard to come by these days. Instead, look for any hefty Korg metronome with a visible speaker and you should have enough volume to annoy the neighbors.

    For more recommendations check out this dedicated page: “Tuners and Metronomes. ”

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