Most musicians realise that using a metronome during music practice is a good idea. It’s great preparation for playing with others and also gives you a solid way to measure your improvement.
What is often missing is an appreciation of the many ways that a metronome can help you. Below is a list of 20 ways in which you can use a metronome during your practice.
1. Count Out Loud
Say the beats of your music out loud. 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2 . . . . make sure to speak exactly in time with the metronome. If you feel confident with this move on to saying the off beats. 1 and 2 and 3 and . . . . .Saying the rhythm or pulse will really help internalise it.
2. A notch a day
This is how most people use their metronome. Set a speed. Play. Move the speed a bit faster. The trouble here is that most people move the speed to quickly and try to play fast before they are ready. For more on this see creeping metronome
Practice clapping the beats of the bar, again be exact. Land exactly the same time as the metronome. When you’re comfortable with the pulse move onto clapping the rhythm of your music.
4. Find the speed of a piece
Set the metronome to the speed indicated on the music. That tells you how fast it goes – simple!
5. Find the speed of a marking
Even if your music doesn’t have a specific metronome or bpm marking you can use the other terms to find out the speed:
- Largo – 40-56 bpm
- Larghetto – 58-63 bpm
- Adagio – 66-72 bpm
- Andante – 76-104 bpm
- Moderato – 108-120 bpm
- Allegro – 126-160 bpm
- Presto – 168-200 bpm
- Prestissimo – 208+ bpm
Instead of setting your metronome to 1 click per beat try setting it to 2 clicks for every beat. Some models even have a special sub-division function. This can be really useful when working out tricky rhythms or even when the music is very slow.
7. Rhythmic Accuracy
When playing, really listen to where you place your notes. Make sure they are really exactly on the beat. A little before or after is not right. They need to be just so.
8. Test your own pulse
Turn the metronome on to get a pulse. Either sing, tap or play that pulse. Turn the metronome off and continue to tap the pulse for a minute or so. Now turn the metronome back on. Did you keep a steady pulse? Chances are you got faster or slower.
9. Feel the rhythm
You’ll improve your rhythmic ability more quickly if you can feel it with your whole body. Try tapping, clapping, sing and anything else you can think of along to your metronome. You can also put them together. Stamp on the first beat. Clap on the third and sing on the second and fourth.
The biggest mistake made when using a metronome is to go to fast. Its easier to hear how precise your rhythm is when you go slowly. Go even more slowly to really hear all the details. Also when getting faster with your metronome be sure not to get too fast too quickly. If you find yourself stumbling over a rhythm or notes then go back a notch to check you really know it.
11. Compound time
Your metronome can also be useful when playing in 3 or 6 or 9. You can set the metronome to the main pulse of your music and then count the other beats to yourself. For example a piece in 6/8 time could be counted 1 ee ah 2 ee ah, giving you all six beats. Advanced metronomes such as this one have the ability to do these complex subdivisions for you.
12. By sight
More modern metronomes have the ability to display a flashing light instead of a noise – very useful if you’re in a rehearsal with other people. It’s also a good way to practice – keeping in time with the light. It’s a bit more tricky as these is no sound to key you in.
13. Off beat
Set your metronome to the speed of beats 1 and 3. Your job is to play on beats 2 and 4. You need to slot exactly in between the click of the metronome. You can use more complex rhythms and divisions to make this exercise fiendishly complicated.
if you’ve played with a metronome you’ll know it’s quite difficult to hear over the sound of your own playing – that’s good. It really focuses your listening.
15. Concert Preparation
When preparing for a concert set the metronome a few clicks faster than you intend to perform. Make sure you can play your music at that faster speed. What tends to happen in performance is that you get tense and excited which often results in a faster speed. Having practised at a faster speed you’ll be in good shape to deal with this.
Leave big gaps between beats. If it will do it set your metronome to play one beat at the beginning of the bar. It’s then up to you to stay in time for the rest of the bar. Can you arrive at the right time on the next bar?
17. Check a recording’s speed
Turn on your recording, adjust the dial of the metronome until you find the seed of the song. You’ve now got a permanent record of how fast (or slow) that piece is.
18. Complex rhythms
Find the shortest note in the phrase you are trying to learn. Set the metronome to represent this note. Break all the other note lengths down into multiples of this. Use the metronome to count out the lengths of each note.
For example, if your shortest note is a semi-quaver, set your metronome to that. Let’s say you then have a dotted crochet. That is equal to 6 semi-quavers therefore you need to wait for 6 clicks on your metronome.
Breaking rhythm down in this way is a great way to get a feel for the relation of note lengths to one another.
19. Metronome Games
Working with a metronome doesn’t have to be dull. Try making a game of it.
Each time you play correctly you score a point. Each time you move the metronome up a notch you score two points. However, to make it a challenging game, each time you make a mistake you deduct 3 points!!
See how long before you can get to 10 points. If that is easy try 20 points or even 50
There are countless variations or games that you could make up with your metronome.
20. Turn it off
There are some really useful ways to use your metronome above. However you should remember that the metronome is just a means to an end – making music.
Use it? Yes. But don’t become a slave to it.
Wondering which metronome is right for you? Which type of metronome should I choose gives you the answer.
Got any more metronome tips? Please share them in the comments below.