How to Use a Metronome

Learn how to use a metronome to practice piano with great results!

The metronome is a very useful tool, basically necessary, for all musicians. Here you'll learn how to practice more effectively using a metronome.

How to Use a Metronome

How to use a metronome.

How to Use a Metronome When Learning Rhythms

Apart from helping you keep a steady beat, learning how to use a metronome in many different ways can help improve your playing. 

When you first begin your piano lessons, it can be of help when learning about different note values:

  • Pick a piece that you want to learn and look at the notes values and rests. 
  • Set the metronome at a slow speed, 60-80 is good. The beats can represent quarter notes, so each quarter note gets one beat. 
  • Practice the rhythms in the piece by pointing to each note/rest and count along, or clap the rhythm and count.

Counting Rhythm

As you begin counting rhythm it is a good idea to use “Unit Counting”. This means that you count each note value exactly for what it is worth, and not where it is in the measure.

For example four quarter notes, or crotchets, would be counted;

1 – 1 – 1 – 1 (instead of 1-2-3-4)

and two half notes, or semibreve:

1 – 2  1 - 2 (instead of 1-2 3-4)

Unit counting is great for beginners since you focus only on the length of each note instead of regular counting where you count the beats per measure. So it reinforces learning of note values and helps you sight-read music by keeping your attention ahead in the music.

However, unit-counting only works when playing hands separately, or until you start using different rhythms in each hand.

At that time you need to use "regular" counting, beats per measure, where you follow the time signature and count as many beats as it says per measure.

Speed Control

The most obvious way to use a metronome is to check that the speed of the piece is accurate.

At the top of the score, usually left corner of the sheet music, you might see "Allegretto mm.120" for example.

Allegretto is a moderately fast tempo, and the metronome count helps you to understand how fast exactly.

How to Use a Metronome as a Tempo Stabilizer

The metronome can be used as a tempo stabilizer. This is great when working for example with scales.

You may believe that you play them nice and even, but make sure to test your playing with the metronome, and you will find the places where you slow down or speed up.

How to Use a Metronome to Speed Up a Piece

For pieces that you have learned the notes at a slow tempo and now need to speed up, the metronome is a necessity.

Start with smaller parts of the piece and put the metronome at a comfortable and slow tempo; a tempo where you can play without any mistakes. 

As soon as you play through the part once without mistakes, increase the speed with one click.

Gradually increasing the speed in such small increments is almost impossible to do without a metronome.

In this way you are basically “tricking” yourself into playing faster and faster without stress and – of course – no mistakes.

How to Use the Metronome as a "Testing" Device

Decide upon a goal for each practice session.

  • Like, that you can play your right hand perfectly, 
  • or a section of the piece hands together at a particular tempo, together with the metronome.

This gives you a clearly defined goal to work for which is also measurable since you compare yourself with the metronome.

Since piano playing and practicing is very “qualitative” it can be difficult to know your progress for each practice session.

The metronome can function as a “measuring” stick to compare your progress with.

The most obvious “testing” is to play with the metronome when you think you have really learned a piece.

  • You will notice places in the music where you either slow down or speed up, that you probably had no idea that you did!

Of course, music should usually not be performed with a rhythm perfect as a metronome. You're not supposed to sound like a machine.

  • Musical phrases have “ebb and flow”.
  • Jumps and leaps in the melody are often supposed to take a little extra time, and depending on the style of music you play;
  • rubato might be necessary, 
  • often ritardando and even sometimes 
  • accelerando.

But “testing” with the metronome might help you find places that are not musically justified regarding tempo changes, but instead technically needs some extra practice... (Try to be unbiased)!

Sight Reading Practice

The metronome is also a great tool for practicing piano sight reading.

By using short, easy melodies and setting the tempo very slow, you can train yourself to always look ahead in the score - the metronome's "tick" kind of pushes you to move along!

Recommended Metronomes

Generally, the best metronome is the classic "Wittner" metronome. Since it has an arm that swings, you get a better sense for the beat since you can anticipate the next beat visually. The sound is the classical "Tock" :) , which is nice to the ear.

A more economic alternative is an electronic metronome, just make sure you check the "tick" sound. If you like it, I mean. The sound should be big enough to be heard but not driving you "crazy"' either.

This is a favorite of mine, small but effective. It's made in wood and a very special little metronome with a nice sound.


Other Pages You Might Like

Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.


Get a Free E-book!

Subscribe to our e-zine "The Piano Player", and get occasional updates with tips and tools for beginner piano players. You'll get a free e-book with piano playing tips too!



Piano Quotes

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

Have a favorite quote that inspire your piano playing? Please share it here!