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.

I may receive a commission if you purchase something mentioned in this post. See more details here.

How to Use a Metronome

Learning Rhythms

More than helping you keep a steady beat, learning how to use a metronome can help improve your understanding of rhythms.

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 what number of beat 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.

How to Use a Metronome:
Speed Control

The most obvious way how 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 this may be.

How to Use a Metronome:
Tempo Stabilizer

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

You may think 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:
Speeding 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 great tool.

  • 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 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 allowed!

How to Use the Metronome:
"Testing" Device

Decide upon a goal for each practice session. For example:

  • 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)!

How to Use a Metronome:
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!

Best Metronome for Piano Practice

Generally, the best metronome for piano practice is the classy "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. This one is in wood, but there are also less expensive plastic ones.

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 over the piano but not driving you "crazy"' either.

An electronic metronome is sturdy, not easy to break and great if you need to carry it with you a lot.

Since I travel a lot, this is a favorite of mine, small but effective.

This one's made in wood (but you can also find it in plastic) 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.